For the love of Ireland is an amazingly well developed historical novel that charts ten years in the life of Margaret Sullivan.
Margaret writes for the ‘Chicago Tribune’ under a male pseudonym and at first she seems quite content with her arrangement. As a woman, few men would even consider the possibility she could be a journalist. This is a good arrangement for her politically ambitious husband, Alex Sullivan.
When she journeys to Ireland and meets the charismatic rebel Michael Davitt, she instantly builds an attraction to both him and the social cause of freedom for Ireland from the brutal landlordism practiced during the late 1800s.
This sets up Margaret’s adventure as she fights to help the Irish cause through her controlling and abusive husband and her own writing talents. The novel is an educational historical read, a close examination of the treatment of women during this time period, a suspenseful political thriller, and a romance.
Often when an author has this many different threads, the novel comes across as tacked-together and haphazard, but Leslie has created a wonderful blend set to a pace that remains fast and yet still captures details specific to that time period. The characterization of Margaret, Davitt, and other historical figures is handled with great care allowing for a riveting story mixed with factual details.
I actually listened to this novel read by voice actress Susanna Burney. Susanna did a wonderful job of capturing unique voices for all of the characters, accurately handling a multitude of accents, and delivering a quality performance.
I’m amazed to discover this is a debut novel. It reads like a novel written by someone who has been writing bestsellers for years. If the quality of this novel is indicative of Judy Leslie’s future work I’ll be buying and reading [or listening to] everything she writes.
Of all the authors here, Aimee Bender was the most familiar to me. I was glad to hear one author point out that many, many authors in the science fiction and fantasy field have been writing Literary quality fiction for years. It's been common since the New Weird, but sadly very few Literary critics give it any notice.
But it's good to see the established giving greater credit where credit has been long overdue.
The writing process is far more than sitting at a desk and putting words down on paper. It is that, but it's also living a life open to the world around you and filtering experiences through a writer's lens.
If you're looking for a book that will hold your hand and walk you through the process of writing a bestseller, this is not your book. However, if writing is your passion and you want to get a glimpse of what one particular writer's life can be, this is an excellent guide.
Because the book was written early in Natalie's career as a writer, she has gone back over the chapters with some reflection. As a listener to this unabridged version you'll get a bonus review by the author of each chapter where she explores her thoughts and feelings on the subjects now.
Understand there are many portions of this book that will different writers at different stages. For me personally, this book allowed me to let go of the idea that commercial success equals being a successful writer. Journalling to discover something new, writing short fiction for obscure magazines, hammering out bad poetry, these things all contribute to the process.
So does spending time with friends and family, practicing yoga, running in the park, petting my cat, etc.. All of life contributes and Natalie does a great job of illustrating that in this very open, very accessible book.
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