Book Review: Tracy Chevalier Double Hitter

*originally published on 04/10/2016

AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD Written by Tracy Chevalier

2016; 289 Pages (Viking/Penguin)
Genre: historical fiction, literary

(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)

In the mid-1800s James and Sadie Goodenough settle in the swamps of Ohio as that is where their wagon got stuck. As James, his wife and five children start to cultivate the land James looks into buying samplings of apple seeds and this starts his obsession with his various apples trees.  As James tends to his orchard, Sadie is inside the home drinking apple jack to deal with life on the frontier.  She is stewing over her unfulfilled life, and mentally torturing her children in spite and for sport.  James and Sadie are at each throats and nothing seems to make them happy.
Fifteen years later we follow the youngest child, Robert as he tries to get away from his past and family.  He tried to mine for gold in California but finds himself selling seeds for a naturalist.  He seems to have found himself back in the family business.  Can Robert run away from his past and will his future hold something different and happiness for him?
I have read about four books by Tracy Chevalier novels – all historical fiction – and have loved her characters, plots, eras and the way she describes everything.  I have not read Chevalier in a few years but have missed the experience so I grabbed a hold of this opportunity to read and review At the Edge of the Orchard and in a way it was what I expected and a surprise.  As always, once I start reading a Chevalier book I am hooked till it ends.  This time I was surprised that this subject matter was very interesting to me and I kind of want  to know more about farming and growing in the mid-1800s.  I just enjoyed everything about this book, except in my copy of the book the switch between characters’ voices is sometimes not clear…minor matter for me.

y450-293READER, I MARRIED HIM  Edited by Tracy Chevalier

Contributing Writers: Tracy Chevalier, Joanna Briscoe, Susan Hill, Elizabeth McCracken, Nadifa Mohamed, Audrey Niffenegger, Patricia Park, Francine Prose, Namwali Serpell, Elif Shafak, Lionel Shriver, Salley Vickers, Emma Donoghue, Evie Wyld, Helen Dunmore, Esther Freud, Jane Gardam, Linda Grant, Kirsty Gunn, Tessa Hadley, Sarah Hall
2016, 304 Pages (William Morrow)
Genre: classic retelling, short stories, historical fiction

(I received an ARC from the EDELWEISS)
“Reader, I married him” is the most famous lines from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  The story behind this line is briefly discussed in the introduction of this short story anthology, but it is recommended that you read Jane Eyre first. Various writers were given the line “Reader, I Married Him” and asked to write a short story in ode to Jane and the novel. Although, Susan Hill has not read Jane Eyre but her story is fabulous, in my opinion.  At the back of the book there is a small biography of each writer and most have a sentence on what Jane Eyre means to them.
I did read the entire anthology though I did skim a few that did not hold my interest.  The ones I loved were written by Joanna Briscoe, Helen Dunmore, Emma Donoghue, Susan Hill, Francine Prose, Sally Vickers, Audrey Niffenegger and Tracy Chevalier.  The standouts being Niffenegger, Prose, Hill and Dunmore.  All the stories in the anthology were well-written and done with passion, but depending on writing style and interest different readers will be attracted to different stories.  I recommend this book to all fans of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte…but also to those who like these authors or want to try a new author.

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