What I’m Reading Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Just one finished book to talk about this week: Beheld, by TaraShea Nesbit. I picked this one up because I have another of this author’s books on my TBR (The Wives of Los Alamos) that I am looking forward to. Beheld also focuses on two wives in the early years of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. The book takes it’s starting point from an actual historical event, the murder trial of one of the newly arrived colonists over a land dispute. From that point, however, the story is told in flashbacks (and a final short set of chapters set about a decade after the trial) and of events of the day of the murder by Alice Bradford (the Governor’s wife) and Eleanor Billington (the accused’s wife). This book was uneven for me. I found the history part of the story interesting, but I didn’t need to have multiple chapters ending in “If only I knew what this day would bring…” from multiple narrative points. I felt like the writing was a bit clunky and I honestly had a hard time feeling like I understood what the narrators were going through. I also wondered why the book mentions only in passing the odd circumstances around Gov. Bradford’s first wife (who “fell” off the Mayflower as it was at anchor in the harbor once they had arrived), and that a fairly cut and dried murder trial (Billington apparently admitted he shot John Newcomen) was instead the focus. I felt like the unsolved story behind the drowning would have been of more interest – or at least of more interest to me. 3 stars, most of those for the nicely developed history lesson part about the Puritans, their indentured servants and interactives with the native American peoples who lived here, and not so much for what the book was supposed to be about.

Continuing on my current reads, I’m listening to the fantastic audiobook version of T. Kingfisher’s Nettle and Bone and exceptionally happy to be reading this with Nicole over at Bookwyrm Knits. I just started Caste by Isabel Wilkerson which is a tough read, filled with Wilkerson’s amazing writing but a lot of sadness about the state of our country. This one takes a slightly different approach to topics about race and the class system in the US, and if you think we don’t have one of those here, this book will make you rethink that.

10 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Wednesday, February 8, 2023

  1. Totally off subject, but I just started the third book in the Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy and I thank you for your review on the first book in the series every time I listen. (Doing Audible) It’s a GREAT trilogy. I’m going to be sad when it ends. I also just stated America’s First Daughter: A Novel, by Stephanie Dray. I’m not far enough in to say how it will be, but so far it seems pretty good!

  2. Interesting arc from Beheld to Caste. I’m listening to Beheld – just started. Barkskins was due at the library, and though I hadn’t finished, I let it go. It’s an audiobook and the narration was terrible. Lots of stereotyped accents.

      1. Well, I was thinking how Beheld includes indentured servitude which led me to slavery which led me to Caste. In the words of Philomena Cunk, “Puritans in the new world valued hard work, but decided they didn’t like it, and enslaved people to do it for them.” Paraphrasing.

  3. I hate the “if only I knew” style chapter ending! It can be done well every once in a blue moon, but in general it just feels like sloppy/lazy storytelling.

    I’m enjoying Nettle & Bone, too! Though I also feel like I’m reading more slowly than usual because I’ve been stopping to highlight favorite quotes and re-reading the quotes, and just generally enjoying the whole thing. Kingfisher is a great author.

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