Review 1804: Beheld

In the Afterword to Beheld, TaraShea Nesbit says she wrote it because she wanted to hear the women’s voices she missed in reading about Plymouth Colony. Certainly, the voices we hear in the novel are mostly those of the women or the dispossessed.

Beheld focuses on some of the stories we never heard about Plymouth, particularly the divide between the Puritans and the other residents—indentured servants, farmers, carpenters, and the other people meant to do the work and who do not share the Puritans’ beliefs.

Alice Bradford is the second wife of the governor, William Bradford. His first wife was her beloved friend Dorothy. But Dorothy died upon her arrival in Plymouth under circumstances Alice doesn’t understand, and shortly after Alice’s own first husband died, William sent for her to be his wife.

John and Eleanor Billington signed contracts to work for seven years as indentured servants in exchange for a parcel of land for each male in their family in the proposed colony in Virginia. But first the Puritans’ boat The Speedwell sprung a leak and the Puritans forced themselves onto The Mayflower. Then the boat went north to Massachusetts instead of Virginia. The Puritans took charge of the colony, not allowing the same rights to other men, not allowing anyone but themselves to trade with the natives, giving themselves the best parcels of land, and finally cheating John out of his son’s parcel.

This is an interesting novel that depicts the Puritans as self-righteous and self-serving. Of course, most of us who have studied this period and place since grade school know this, but perhaps not how much. Miles Standish is shown as greedy and violent. I felt this novel was quite eye-opening.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

The Witches: Salem: 1692

Caleb’s Crossing

Day 644: The Wives of Los Alamos

Cover for The Wives of Los AlamosA little note from me: I noticed that for awhile WordPress applied a feature to my blog that showed related posts at the bottom of the page. Then yesterday I noticed that the feature disappeared at some time. I couldn’t figure out a way to implement it on my blog automatically, but I was amused at its choices sometimes. So, a new feature of my blog is that every time I review a book, I’ll try to find three other reviews that share something in common with it, whether it’s the subject matter, the setting, the author. The reviews are links at the bottom of the page. Let me know how you like it!

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The Wives of Los Alamos takes an unusual approach to historical fiction. It is narrated collectively, in first person plural, by all the wives of the scientists at Los Alamos during World War II. Of course, this approach has its disadvantages, as there are no characters who stand out from one another. Still, it is a fascinating way to point out what these people shared—and did not share.

The novel begins as the wives depart their former lives. They know nothing about where they are going or what their husbands are going to do when they get there. What little they know, they are not allowed to say. The novel tells their story throughout the war and their reactions when they finally learn what their husbands have created.

At times we see these women as selfish and privileged, especially when they become bored with the restrictions and begin gossiping and complaining about the “help.” But other times we realize how difficult their situation is, shipped off to a primitive environment where their housing is not even ready when they arrive, unable to learn what is going on, subject to restricted movements and stringent security even though they know very little.

http://www.netgalley.comThis is an interesting book that touches on topics that emerged during the war and after—like equal pay for equal work, the ethics of creating this powerful weapon, and family relationships and roles.

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