Tuesday, July 29, 2008

etsyblogger Aug 4th carnival - a book review

The Widow's War by Sally Gunning is a believable story set in the early 1760s about a headstrong woman who discovers herself all alone in a small Cape Cod village after her husband dies at sea. The most startling thing you will learn from this book are the sexist attitudes at the time, including few rights given to widows. We find out early that Lyddie Berry is entitled to "life use" of only one-third her husband's real estate, with the title going to her nearest (male) next of kin. That would be Nathan Clark, her overbearing son-in-law.

Even though Lyddie's war revolves around men, she also finds her daughter to be a sore spot in her life. At first Lyddie moves in with Mehitable and Nathan, and three children from Nathan's first marriage. But she ends up returning to her original home, or at least, one-third of it. As the story progresses, the death of Lyddie’s husband begins to torment her, and she sets out to find the truth of how he died. The emotional and physical distress that ensues creates a bond between Lyddie and the reader.

I thought the story flowed very smoothly, from one small chapter to the next. Each chapter concluded with some sort of surprise that entices the reader to keep turning the pages. Gunning offers up many facts, and gives us a chance to work out our own conclusions before she continues with her story. I was glad not to be bombarded with a lot of superfluous characters. We meet Lyddie’s neighbors and family members, and the few allies she has: an Indian man, whose grandfather originally sold the Berry family their parcel of land, and Lyddie's lawyer, Eban Freeman. I think her situation was summed up nicely when Freeman asked her, after she moved in with her daughter:

"You're well, Widow Berry? You're comfortable?"
"I'm well."
Had he noticed she'd only answered half his question.

I believe the story will be of interest to historians and fiction readers alike. Examples of everyday life demonstrate the author researched the customs and traditions of pre-Revolutionary New England. At the end of the book, Gunning includes some historical notes and a tour of Satucket Village. She also gives us a hand drawn map, which I kept with me as I read.

7 comments:

Cozy said...

Sounds like a book I would love. I will have to see if my library has it or can get it when I go next week.

Athena said...

It sounds really fascinating. The funny thing is, when I was trying to choose which carnival topic I'd write about, I was also thinking about a book set before the Revolutionary War ("The Queen of Bedlam" by Robert McCammon). It's a really interesting period.

SpottedCow said...

Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

Mama Z said...

What a great review of the book! It sound really good!

Eileen said...

sounds like an exciting book...i must give this one a read...i do love to read...

Colorfuldayz said...

Great review! Makes me want to read it ... and I so love anything set in New England!!

miesmama said...

Sounds like a great book - I love books where you get a real sense of a place and time. Another for the book list! Thnaks for sharing!!!

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