Solid Middle Ages Tale Told With Modern Storytelling Structures. This is a tale where the Middle Ages comes alive in a manner very consistent with how it is portrayed in fictional tales of the era such as The Canterbury Tales (and yes, Canterbury itself features in this tale) and The Decameron. As a potential series starter, it really could go the direction of either of those historical books, though the setup for a Decameron type series is less clear here (but I could still see the ultimate direction being to do a modern version of each of the ten tales therein). There is not one thing inauthentic to the period that I was aware of, though it is possible an actual Middle Ages historian may claim that X didn’t happen until some period later or some such. Still, with Beth Morrison herself being an actual Middle Ages historian… it becomes quite clear just how authentic the siblings tried to make this book. And yet even with the Middle Ages trappings re: customs and available weaponry, the actual story here, of a soldier intent on vengeance who suddenly becomes the protector of a woman and her secrets, could well be told in *any* time period and ultimately reads with a 21st century flair for storytelling even while telling a Middle Ages tale. Truly excellently done, and very much recommended.
This book presents an interesting case when looking at it alongside Aimie K Runyan’s Girls On the Line, as both tell a story of a woman falling in love in the middle of World War I – Line from the perspective of an American socialite who chooses to go to the battle lines in France, and Garden from the perspective of a British socialite who feels she must remain in her own country, yet still has a burning desire to do something to help the cause. The fact that both authors can tell such dramatically different stories using the exact same time period and very similar beginnings is a true testament to the power of story telling, and both are to be commended for their strong work.
This book in particular is very reminiscent of Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy or Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell in that all three books have the same general feel to them and all three books tell the tale of a woman whose parents aren’t quite noble but wish to be seen in those circles who leaves home to find her own way in life and encounters both love and difficulty in the process. While those books both clock in at over 1000 pages (at least the versions I read in the same summer, 20 years ago later this year), this one is a far quicker read at roughly 300 pages that retains the best elements of its longer “cousins”. Literally my only real complaint about this book is fairly nitpicky – the titular garden doesn’t come in until roughly 2/3 of the story is told, and is never once referred to by the name in the title within the story.
A truly excellent book in its own right, it really is one to read regardless of your feelings of those other stories. If you’re a fan of these other stories, you’re going to want to go pick this one up immediately. Very highly recommended, very much looking forward to seeing what is next from this author.
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release of the Week: The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen”