Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

Title: The Trial of Lizzie Borden
Author: Cara Robertson
Read by:  Amanda Carlin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 11 hours and 47 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

Lizzie Borden had an ax.  Gave her mother forth whacks.  When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.  I think we have all heard the famous nursery rhyme, but who is the woman behind it?  Who was Lizzie Borden?  What exactly was the crime?  And why was she let go after her trial?

This audiobook went through the history of the family, the crime, and all of the particulars of the trial.  I had not read about the trial previously.  I was amazed that in that day, the fact that Lizzie was having her period at the time, could be considered as a cause of her killing her father and stepmother as everyone knew that women on their period were libel to go into a crazed rage.  The other point that seemed to make people think Lizzie was the killer was because she had complete control of her emotions and didn’t break down into feminine tears too often.  I saw this for myself when a murder was committed in my home town.  The suspected murderer’s facial expressions and the way he acted was enough to condemn him in the eyes of the locals.  Lizzie had the same problem.  I am good at controlling my emotions as well and may not break down after a sad event until days later by myself.  If I were Lizzie, they would have condemned me for the lack of emotion as well.

As it has been hotly debated for over 100 years, I am still not certain myself if Lizzie was guilty or not.  The audiobook did a wonderful job of presenting all of the facts both ways, but did not give an opinion on her guilt.  Was it someone else?  Why did Lizzie act so peculiar when questioned?  I guess we’ll never know.

I must admit, I did not like the narrator of this audiobook.  Her voice sounded to me almost like a robot voice, I thought at first that Siri was narrating the book.  I realized her voice just had a strange cadence.  I feel bad that it bothered me, but it did.  Luckily the story was intriguing enough to keep me tuned in.

Overall, The Trial of Lizzie Borden is fascinating history.

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

Courting Mr. Lincoln is a true delight to read.  Louis Bayard was the favorite author of my previous Kewaunee Library Book Club.  We read and actively discussed all of his novels.  Reading Courting Mr. Lincoln reminded me why he was a favorite.  I couldn’t put this book down, it was riveting.  Once I started this book, my family had a hard time catching my attention the rest of the weekend.  It went everywhere with me.

Courting Mr. Lincoln is told from two viewpoints, the viewpoint of Mary Todd and the viewpoint of Joshua Speed.  Mary has come to the growing new state capital of Illinois, Springfield, to stay with her sister Elizabeth and look for a husband.  Mary adores politics and searches for someone who will respect her for who she is.  Joshua runs a home goods story in Springfield when a young lawyer happens into his store looking for a room to stay in.  Joshua helps Lincoln to navigate the social scene, including how to dress and talk, to help him move up in politics.  The two become inseparable best friends, but when Lincoln needs to marry to move further up in his career, will their friendship survive?

I love, love, loved that we got a story of Mary Todd as the spunky, smart young woman that Lincoln fell in love with.  So much historical fiction and non-fiction today focuses on her later years when her mental health suffered.  After watching your husband get shot to death while you sat next to him and also have three of your four children die too young, it is bound to cause some mental health problems.  I find it sad there wasn’t more help for her back then.  I love that of all men in this story, Lincoln was the only one who not only appreciated her beauty, but appreciated her mind and wanted to talk politics with her.  I love that his first present to her were his winning ballets. 

I love the way the narrative was framed from Mary and Joshua’s point of view with Lincoln as the enigmatic lead that they both loved.  The love between Speed and Lincoln was chaste and they both went on to marry women, but it seemed that neither man understood their relationship with each other and didn’t really want anyone to interfere with it.    It was intriguing.

The book ends by fast-forwarding to the future where Mary lives with her sister Elizabeth again as the mad woman of Springfield.

Favorite Quotes: 
“Lincoln asked me a question not half an hour ago.  He asked if I was ready to walk in the sun with him.  And I realize now that I should like that very much.  I should like to walk in the sun with him.  If it’s all the same to you.”

Overall, Courting Mr. Lincoln is a superior book that is not to be missed.  I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini (TLC Book Tour)

Did you know that an American raised in Milwaukee and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin was a resistance fighter in Germany during WWII?  I didn’t and I live in Wisconsin!  Mildred Fish meets and falls in love with Arvid Harnack while they attend college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Mildred leaves Wisconsin to journey to Germany as Arvid’s wife and she hopes to continue her education in Berlin.  As she lives in Germany through the 1930’s and during WWII, she sees the country fall under Hitler’s spell.  Will she be able to help the many Germans who do not follow Hitler’s views?

Greta was a friend of Mildred and Arvid’s at the University of Wisconsin.  When she returns to her homeland of Germany, she is dismayed to see the changes that are taking place.  She falls in love with a married man, is involved with the theatre, and helps the resistance as she can. 

Sara is a young Jewish woman in love with a non-Jewish man.  She is a student of Mildred’s and gets to know everyone in the resistance movement.  Will she be able to keep her love alive and will her family be able to stay in Nazi Germany?

Martha Dodd is the daughter of the American ambassador to Germany during the 1930’s.  At first, she is entranced by the Nazi cause, but she soon finds herself disillusioned.

My favorite part of this novel was the author’s note at the end where I found out that almost everyone in this novel is real!  I knew that Martha Dodd was real, but I didn’t realize that Mildred Harnack and Greta Kuckhoff were real women in the resistance movement.  I found their true stories to be fascinating.  I hope that they get a more prominent place in history.

As a resident of Wisconsin, I enjoyed the many shout outs to the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin in general.  Even more so when I realized they were real historic figures.  I grew up in Michigan and I missed learning about Mildred Harnack.

I also liked that the novel showed the changes over time as Hitler took over the country and it fell under his sway.  I was disturbed on how much of this paralleled today’s society where a charismatic leader takes over and people believe everything he has to say, even if it is false.

I will be honest; this book did move slow for me.  I found it all very interesting, but with four main characters and the action taking place over 10 to 15 years, it dragged at time for me.  I think the addition of Martha’s fourth narrative into the book slowed it down a lot.  The resistance seemed to focus more on the friends talking and Arvid moving around papers and information. Mildred did help several Jewish people escape from Germany.  I wanted more detail on that!!  The book had a wide scope and I know it must have been hard to write about true people.  I actually enjoyed the story of Sara the most and she was the one fictional character.  The action picked up the last part of the novel during the war and I enjoyed it. 

Favorite Quotes:
“Some fires burned themselves out only after consuming everything within reach of the flames.”

“Scapegoating Jews – or Communists, Poles, women, immigrants – was the refuge of the lazy, envious, and unimaginative.  It made the world an ugly, hostile place to live in and did nothing to solve any actual problems.”

“Where they burn books, in the end they will also burn people.”

“How could they flee?  How could they abandon Germany to evil men who were determined to destroy everything good about it?”

Overall, Resistance Women is a great look at the real-life story of women who worked within Germany try to over throw the Nazi’s.
Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on the tour check out this link.

About Resistance Women

• Hardcover: 608 pages • Publisher: William Morrow (May 14, 2019)

 From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

 For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.