I will find you…

East India

Title: East India
Author: Colin Falconer
Paperback: 317 pages
Publisher: Cool Gus
Published date: July 2014
FTC: Reviewed for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

When I heard that HF Virtual Book Tours was doing Colin Falconer’s latest novel, I knew I had to jump on board. I read his novel on Cleopatra called When We Were Gods back in 2008 and became a Colin Falconer fan. Oddly enough I haven’t read more of his books but I am going to have to. I didn’t know he had so many books under his belt. I loved how he wrote Cleopatra as an amazing political figure. He has other famous women books such as Anastasia and Isabella of France. He even has a Jerusalem series I’m going to have to check out.

Back of the book:

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

My thoughts:

I have to be honest, I am only half way done with the novel. I thought I’d have had more time to read but alas.  That said…this book is addicting! The more I read the more I am getting sucked into the story.

The story starts off as the boat is boarding and leaving Holland. It’s a tad slow build up but necessary as we see all the cast of characters come together for, I’m not joking, an expected eight (EIGHT!) month long voyage. Can you imagine?! What would happen if you threw over 300 men, women and children – sailors, soldiers, a pastor and his family, and a wealthy woman into a not too large boat for eight months. Grudges, jealousy, rape, murder, and shipwreck – and it is all historically based.

I was Googling the time period, the Dutch East India company and the Houtman Rocks of Australia when I came upon the story of the ship Batavia. This shockingly horrific event is what Colin Falconer based the book on. The story of the Batavia, as well as Colin Falconer’s fictional Utrecht is literally like watching a shipwreck – fascinating, horrible, and hard to look away.

I really enjoy the historical aspect of historical fiction but I am looking forward to seeing how Cornelia and Michiel’s story progresses.  Literally at 150 pages into the novel they are just shipwrecked and starting to interact on the island.  So far I am loving the various character’s voices.  Colin Falconer tells the story not only in Cornelia and Michiel’s points of views, but also alternates between the villainous skipper, the mutinous Undermerchant, and the mutable commandeur of the Utrecht. So far I only have two critiques: I’d love a character list and description at the beginning of the book. I sometimes get a bit confused when sailors are mentioned and what jobs they do. The other is that while I think the cover is gorgeous, Cornelia is supposed to be darker olive skinned with dark hair.

The back of the book mentions a critic liking Cornelia and Michiel to Jack and Rose of the Titanic movie.  It is illuminating to know that from the start the reader knows that all will not end well – think of Romeo and Juliet’s story or even Cleopatra. While I am prepared for non-happily ever after, I can’t wait to see how this story ends.

(I will update this review when I am done. Check back!)

 
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“I wanted to cry, but the tears did not come.”

sarah's key

Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Paperback: 295 pages
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Published date: 2007
FTC: Bought at library book sale

Sarah’s Key has been on my radar since it first came out in 2007.  I kept meaning to read it but never got around to it.  Then they made a movie and I knew I’d want to read the book before I saw the film.  Was it good? Yes. Five star good? No. Will I watch the movie and probably get all teary eyed? Yes. Will I keep the book? No.

Back of the book:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting French families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard – their secret hiding place – and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

My thoughts:

It’s hard not to get overwhelmed at the number of fictional books out there centered around the Holocaust during WWII.  I’ve read a number of them so I am always in awe of authors who manage to find something “new” and manage to make it a fascinating, absorbing, and moving story.  Before Sarah’s Key, I had never heard of the French police’s involvement and the absolutely horrendous treatment of children during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Sometimes it’s easier to just blame the Nazi’s but Ms de Rosnay’s ability to remind us that ordinary people in any time period are capable of committing horrendous acts and how such horrible events are already becoming forgotten.  It is unbelievably sad.

On top of the Holocaust and the craziness that was the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, Ms de Rosnay manages to throw in the story of a young boy locked in a cupboard by his ten year old sister because just like it seems unfathomable to us, it was unimaginable to her that she would not be returning to her home. Sarah’s story, while fictional, is one that everyone should read about and remember so history such as hers is never repeated.

I understood why Sarah’s Key was interspersed with Julia Jarmond’s story. I think to have the whole story centered around Sarah would have been almost too hard to read. I liked Julia’s quest to uncover the truth, to find out who Sarah was and what happened to her, to want to tell her that people like Julia will never forget what happened.  But there is much of Julia’s personal story that got in the way and I felt it was almost distracting. I could have done without the drama of her failing marriage or her husband’s infidelity or her being l’américain in Paris. 
Spare some time and check it out!

Happy Reading!