Spring snow is not so unusual in Central New York, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. We’ve even had snow in the merry month of May!! Here’s my nod to April 2021’s beautifully heavy snowfall…that was gone by day’s end.
Rhys Bowenbrings Venice to vibrant life in this dual-timeline, historical fiction novel. Filled with intrigue, secrets, history, love lost and found…and enchanting glimpses of evocative Venice. As I have been fortunate to visit Venice many times, I was swept away by the familiar descriptions of places, food, art…like being there…unlike anywhere else! It was a love letter to this fabulous island.
We follow art teacher, Lettie, to the City of Canals” just prior to WWII …and then, her great niece Caroline, who visits in 2001 (on the heels of 9/11) to scatter her great aunt Lettie’s ashes in her most beloved place. Further, upon her death, Lettie left Caroline with a last request, gifting her three mysterious keys, her sketchbook and a single whispered word, “VENICE.”
The unraveling of this puzzling bequest takes us on a gentle (but page-turning) roller coaster ride through different historical times and the lives of both Lettie and Caroline.
I loved every moment of this book and happily give it a RAVE REVIEW!!
Tracy Chevalier’s story of “The Lady and the Unicorn” is woven around the 6 famous tapestries (now housed in their own space in Paris’s Musee de Moyen Age.) Considered to be the greatest masterpiece of the medieval ages, they portray the seduction of a unicorn by a series of noblewomen.
The senses- sight, hearing, taste and smell are depicted in the first 5 weavings…the 6th depicts desire. Chevalier’s imaginative and inspiring story, (previously unknown,) weaves fact and fiction to help unfold how, why and for whom these tapestries were created…filling in a background that has sadly been lost to history “The Lady and the Unicorn,” takes place in 1490.
There are actually a few known facts about this group of weavings, thought to have been commissioned by a member of the Le Viste family… French nobility. Designed by a Parisian painter, Nicholas des Innocents, there are, pressed within its folds, the desires, loves and frustrations of all those involved in their production. Artists, cartoonists, dyers, weavers, seamstresses and financiers were all part of the series. The novel tells the story of two families…one, a noble family in Paris and the other, the family of weavers in Brussels, Belgium (then, Flanders, where the finest weaving of the time was performed.) Nicholas and the tapestries are the connection between the two families.
The author’s research on the history of tapestries was all-encompassing. Everything was very well documented …from exactly how a tapestry was made to the usual way a Belgian workshop was organized and run. Chevalier creates and shapes a sense of the lives and relationships lived by a handful of not-so simple people in a snapshot of time! The sections of the book most interesting to me were the descriptions of the Belgian family who wove the tapestries…from the design cartoons (enlargements from original paintings) that guided their art, the way they set up and used the looms, the importance of the guilds in setting and enforcing the standards for their craft to the way they lived among the looms and threads used in their work. Every chapter of the book was a perspective of a different character so you felt what each person involved was feeling…knew what they were thinking.
In “The Lady and the Unicorn,” Tracy Chevalier’s gift as a wordsmith tells a beautiful, timeless and intriguing literary tapestry proving that she’s more than just a good writer but also a good weaver of medieval tales with historical significance. LOVED IT!!!
I’ve been working on some challenge pieces of digital art for Digital Whisper (digitalwhisper.blogspot.com)whose theme was a throwback to my childhood…little red wagon…
…and for Flicker’s DIGITALMANIA, (https://flicker.com/groups/digitalmania,) we met artist GREG HANSON (www.galleriagreg.com/collage-quilts.html) who’s an artist specializing in collage and assemblage…challenging and sooo much fun!
Short and sweet…that’s it for this posting. Hope you’re reawakening with the promise of spring and summer ahead. Enjoy the longer days and the warmer sunshine. I know I will!
“WOMAN of GOD” follows the life of Brigid Fitzgerald, a woman who survived a difficult childhood with drug addicted parents, as she becomes a doctor, serving on the front lines of war-torn Sudan. I was immersed in her MASH world where hopelessly understaffed, undersupplied, underfunded clinics fought the evil ravages of man and disease. With many twists and turns, Brigid loses several close family members and friends. A series of trials and locations test her faith at every turn and she struggles to maintain her faith in God every step of the way.
As I met the people in Brigid’s life, her story expanded in every direction and I was swept into a drama that focused a harsh spotlight on today’s events while providing a vision of a possible future. Brigid’s story drew attention to aspects of the world that people often overlook…civil war and what little help victims are receiving, coping with horrible family tragedies… and women in the church.
There’s an inescapable authenticity to Brigid Fitzgerald that propels the story forward…along with very short chapters…(not that you’ll WANT to put the book down! ) James Patterson and Maxine Paetro have given readers a tale of perseverance that’s not their usual fare. It will entertain some and irritate others, but it will give all readers something to think about. A gentle thriller with a contemporary feel, I can only hope that there’s a sequel in the works…there’s so much more to this journey for Brigid and her daughter.
TWO BOOK REVIEWS:THE EVENING and THE MORNING(Ken Follett)andSPY(Danielle Steel)
Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published one of my MOST favorite novels (that blossomed into the KINGSBRIDGE series…) PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Now, a prequel to the Kingsbridge Trilogy, THE EVENING and THE MORNING, shows Kingsbridge’s humble origins and how it grows into the bustling city it would eventually become.
The tome (900+ pages) begins towards the end of England’s “Dark Ages.” Starting in the year 997 CE, it covers the years to 1007 (…actually about 125 years before PILLARS begins.) Kingsbridge doesn’t exist…there are just a few buildings in a run down hamlet, Dreng’s Ferry…far from any of England’s major cities at that time..
The story blends many characters, both sinister and well intentioned, into the developing hamlet of Dreng’s Ferry…the beginnings of Kingsbridge from Follett’s Kingsbridge series. The story takes us through the interweaving of these characters who eventually shape the town and the cathedral that many of us came to know in Follett’s previous books. The characters became familiar…a well-intentioned man of the cloth, a very bright young peasant man with the mind of an engineer, a wellborn lady brought below her station by circumstance, a vicious clergyman obsessed with personal ambition and a brutish thug of an overlord. Each character, brilliantly developed, became part of my family!! Much of the plot revolves around the personal lives of the main players (above)…their loves, losses, dreams, scandals, betrayals, marriages and children.
Anything Ken Follett writes is a masterpiece. His intricate plots, deep characters and his writing voice work together to create beautiful book tapestries. This good vs. evil book, THE EVENING and the MORNING, proved to be a most enjoyable escapist journey via historical fiction.
Danielle Steel’s SPY is a historical fiction novel that combines elements of espionage, romance, drama and mystery. It’s a story of family relationships, loss, standing up and fighting for your beliefs…and commitment. Our heroine is Alexandra Wickham, a young British aristocrat.
To me, this book is divided into two parts. The first half of the novel is about Alex’s service in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) branch of England’s military. She begins her journey in 1939 when she joins the war effort following her two brothers. Starting as a truck driver for the armed forces, her capacity to prevail in the face of adversity catches the attention of MI6. Her fearless nature and flair for languages sees her recruited as a spy, working behind enemy lines on perilous missions.
In the second half of SPY, Danielle Steel traces Alex’s life over three decades of intelligence service during wartime and peacetime…a risky, treacherous existence- indeed, living a double and secret life. We also see her falling in love, becoming a wife, mother and eventually a grandmother.
Most WWII spy novels end with the spy returning to civilian life…something I think would be a very difficult transition. Instead of the ordinary, Steel places Alex in key international locations with her diplomat husband, (while maintaining her secret spy status for MI6,) as the world is rebuilding after the war and into the Cold War…Britain, France, India, Russia, Morocco and the United States…an interesting spin.
Although I got a real feeling for what it was like to be a spy during challenging times, while keeping it all secret from loved ones, I didn’t feel I really got to know the characters well enough. That being said, I did enjoy this quick read and DO RECOMMEND it!
Glorious snow and very cold temperatures have defined February’s days and nights. There’s been quite a bit “inside, admiring the outside” times to read, FaceTime with family and friends as well as time to create digital art. This is a short, catch up post to document some of the art I’ve created in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been inspired by my love for trains and travel…
by my lifelong desire for a sister…
…an example of MAIL ART…
a poke at the use of silhouettes…
…and finally, some pieces aboutthe Roma or Gypsy culture that has always held great fascination for me…
Thanks so much for stopping by. Please visit me again…
Being a native New Yorker, I’ve always been interested in the history of this exciting, dynamic city…New York! I admit I’m a bit obsessed about the city’s Lower East Side in the early 1900’s when it was teeming with immigrants living in tenements…what their lives were like every day. Enter Susan Jane Gilman , making a grand entrance with her debut novel, THE ICE CREAM QUEEN of ORCHARD STREET. With her easy style of writing, relatable characterization and well researched historical information, both author and novel are impressive. Here’s the cover I created for the book…hard to see, but the children are eating ice cream cones!
This is an immigrant story like none before it. Even the living conditions in Manhattan’s Lower East Side are described better than in many novels I’ve read, filled with the foul smells and neverending din of life, with despair and hopelessness. Six year old Malka Treynovsky and her family arrived at Ellis Island in New York in 1913…Jewish immigrants from Russia. They found that America was very different from what they expected. Through heartbreaking events, Malka lost her family and came to live with an immigrant Italian family…the Dinellos. It’s with them that Malka gained a new family, a Christian name (Lillian,) and learned the art of making ice cream…but she never felt like she “belonged.”
The book jumped between past and present, (the present being the early 1980’s,) to tell of Malka’s transformation from part of the Dinello family (where she was called Ninella,) into Lillian Dunkle, the Ice Cream Queen. The book progressed through her marriage to Albert Dunkle, both her husband and her business partner. Lillian was the committed, driving and creative force behind the ice cream empire they built…(Albert’s strength was his mechanical ability.) But, in an era when women and the drive for success in business did not mix, Lillian faced obstacles every step of the way…each one making her stronger.
This rags to riches tale with world history in general and the history of ice cream in particular, brought out the full range of emotions in me. Although Lillian was anything but likeable as she became more successful, she was relatable, multifaceted and deeply human! The author holds nothing back regarding her description of the times and hardships faced by immigrants. Brilliantly painted, we understand the misery of those trying to squeak by, understanding their drive to succeed and thrive. Hardships and challenges were faced by all.
THE ICE CREAM QUEEN of ORCHARD STREET is a love letter to New York City and to the American dream… for all those who worked so hard and pulled themselves up to a better life than they had in the country they left. I don’t hesitate to recommend this book!