Pacific Grove, CA | Member Since 2013
Occasionally, I throw in some fiction in my long line of history/biographies. I'm never disappointed. Characters are fully developed in this story of a woman who reached her goal of Harvard professor only to give it up to raise her sister's orphaned children. After they're grown, they are all still bound together by the old Cleveland manse that everyone grew up in, but can't let go of.
Biography is almost a religious experience for me. This one blew me away because John Quincy usually basks in his father's reflected glory. I started keeping track of his achievements and here are a few:
* Bunker Hill witness at age 7
* Multilingual diplomat
* Czar Alexander's favorite
* Secretary of State during War of 1812, Florida Annexation, Monroe Doctrine, and he preserved our border with Canada
* Resisted a political party affiliation
* 1st President to be photographed, to cut his hair short, and to wear his pants long
* Became Abolitionist as he matured, beginning with the Missouri Compromise
* Opposed Texas Annexation because of its slave status
* Lincoln used his words as the basis for the Emancipation Proclamation
* Amistad defense lawyer
* Predicted the Civil War
* Died on the floor of Congress
His "Lighthouses in the sky" interest lead to his endowment of astronomy
Helped protect the funds endowed for the Smithsonian
His massive diary, kept from age 11 on, is used as a first hand source for historians.
As the saying goes, if someone had made up this story, no one would believe it. I've always admired Frank Lloyd Wright, but never knew the story of his love story that broke up 2 families. Divorce happened at the turn of the century, but was still scandalous.
His lady love was an educated woman who married later in life and became a translator for Swedish feminist Ellen Key. The author, Nancy Horan, does justice to Mamah Borthwick by raising her from her previous status as a footnote in history to the muse of an architectural genius.
I saw the Monterey locale and have appreciated the writing of Nora Roberts, even if that makes me cringe a little.
Didn't come up to her usual snuff. The bed scenes were a little too much for my taste. Fabio came to mind.
The Monterey references were a bit too generic for this Monterey native.
The protagonist is an 1870s heiress who takes photographs of elite groups as record of entertainment in "season." She then plays with the results in her darkroom, changing the human faces into animals just for fun. The characters are the kind you miss when it's over.
I'm a sucker for historical fiction that spans generations, so this twisting tale from an ancient fortress of convent in mountainous Spain to its offshoot in the Andes of the Incas fits the bill perfectly. Strong female characters, interaction among Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures and sweetly subtle romance pique interest from start to finish.
My takeaway quotes/
✅They would repair the leaks in their eyes.
✅They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness.
✅...all the ways I might die...
✅ A true war story makes the stump believe.
Like Downton, the protagonist is a Cora who marries into English nobility in the 1890s. Like Downton, there is a parallel story downstairs. Like Downton, there's a clash between the mothers-in-law as well as a clash of cultures between the staid and brash.
When it ended, I was not ready. I had to relisten to the last chapter. Unlike Downton, we do not have the luxury of following the next generation's story. Maybe in a sequel to American Heiress?
This author is smartly witty. The narrator is genius. His Russian accent gets fainter as the story goes along and the protagonist assimilates into the American culture.
Cuban mafia vs Fidel Castro
So much to learn. The last line said the mobsters wanted Havana to be a party that never ended but turned out to be a hangover.
The narrator butchered both the Spanish and the English, but other than that was passable as a storyteller.
I now understand Johnny Carson better, but he's sadly unlikeable.
The narrator, Dick Hill, has a whiny voice I finally got used to.
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