Friday Morning Bookclub

August 7, 2013

2 Weeks and 2 Batteries Later…I Finished Listening To The White Queen By Philippa Gregory

whiteThe White Queen is the story of Elizabeth Woodville of the House of Lancaster. 27-year-old Elizabeth and her two young sons were back living with her parents after her husband Sir John Grey was killed in battle.  She had lost all her properties to her dead husband’s family and was determined to meet the Yorkist King Edward IV and ask for his help in reclaiming what once belonged to her. With her two sons in tow, Elizabeth waited by the side of the road for the king and his men to ride by. The 22-year-old  king could not help but notice the young girl. and this was the beginning of a beautiful yet tragic love story.

He is looking at me and I at him, and it is so quiet that I can hear a thrush in the branches of the oak above me. How he sings. My god, it sings like a ripple of glory, like joy made into sound.

King Henry and Elizabeth started their life together with a secret wedding ceremony. Even Elizabeth’s own father could know nothing of their marriage. Not only had the king married without the permission of Lord Warwick, he had married a commoner. There were many people who were not going to be happy with his choice of a wife. Eventually the world would know and he would take her to court, he assured her. When Elizabeth’s brother found out about the secret marriage he called her a whore. He was convinced that it was not real and that once again, this handsome king had taken advantage of a beautiful woman. and this time the woman was his own sister. Elizabeth loved the king and knew that he loved her also. One day he would come for her and eventually that day came.

Elizabeth became the Queen of England and with the help of her mother, she did whatever was necessary to secure her position as well as the position of her family members. She could trust no one, especially the kings own brothers. Brother against brother. Cousin against cousin.

Although The White Queen is based on historical facts, it has more fiction in it than Gregory’s previous books.  Because it dates further back in time than the others there were many gaps which she had to fill in and times when Gregory had to choose from different versions of the story. There are also several different theories as to what really happened to King Henry and Queen Elizabeth’s two sons, Prince Richard and Prince Edward.

The White Queen is the first book in the Cousins’ War Series. Although it is historical fiction, it reads like a mystery.  I had no idea what was going to happen next. I broke my own rule when I picked up this playaway at the library and I am glad that I did. I try to avoid audio books over 12 hours long, but when I saw this one I couldn’t resist.  I always enjoy Philippa Gregory’s books. In fact The Other Boleyn Girl is still one of my all time favorites. The narrator of The White Queen was wonderful and I loved listening to her beautiful voice. It seemed to fit Elizabeth perfectly. Although the book was a little long and dragged a bit at times, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading The White Princess to see what happens to The White Queen’s daughter.

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I saw that The White Queen was made into a television series and better yet… it starts in just 3 days! August 10th….. Mark your calendars!

Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, is widowed when her husband is killed in battle. Aided and abetted by the raw ambition and witchcraft skills of her mother Jacquetta, Elizabeth seduces and marries, in secret, reigning king Edward IV, of the family of the white rose, the House of York. As long as there are other claimants to Edward’s throne, the profound rivalries between the two families will never be laid to rest. Violent conflict, shocking betrayal and murder dominate Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward and devoted mother of their children. In The White Queen Philippa Gregory brilliantly evokes the life of a common woman who ascends to royalty by virtue of her beauty, a woman who rises to the demands of her position and fights tenaciously for the survival of her family,

Read more at:
Source: Philippa Gregory

Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, is widowed when her husband is killed in battle. Aided and abetted by the raw ambition and witchcraft skills of her mother Jacquetta, Elizabeth seduces and marries, in secret, reigning king Edward IV, of the family of the white rose, the House of York. As long as there are other claimants to Edward’s throne, the profound rivalries between the two families will never be laid to rest. Violent conflict, shocking betrayal and murder dominate Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward and devoted mother of their children. In The White Queen Philippa Gregory brilliantly evokes the life of a common woman who ascends to royalty by virtue of her beauty, a woman who rises to the demands of her position and fights tenaciously for the survival of her family,Read more at:
Source: Philippa Gregory

July 2, 2013

The Painted Kiss By Elizabeth Hickey

2013-05-25 09.28.57As soon as my husband and I decided to go to Vienna, I knew that I had to go to the Belvedere Palace Albertina Art Museum to see Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting,The Kiss. I read The Painted Kiss years ago, and looked forward to seeing some of Klimt’s paintings in person. Before we even walked in the door of the museum, we saw this truck. Everyone thought I was crazy taking a picture of a truck, but I could not resist. Just wait until you see what else I took a picture of!

2013-05-25 10.39.11Yes, this is the door to the ladies rest room. On it hangs a picture of another Klimt painting.  This one is a portrait of Johanna Staude. I wonder how she would feel about her place on the bathroom door! (I refrained from checking out the door of the mens room.) The Klimt exhibition was wonderful and The Kiss was magnificent.


The Painted Kiss is based on the life of Gustav Klimt, a controversial painter known for his erotic paintings of women, and his relationship with Emilie Floge. Emilie, who started as Klimt’s art student, became so much more. His model, his mistress and his life long friend. Like The Girl With The Pearl Earring, The Painted Kiss is about the artist, his relationships and his paintings. After seeing these beautiful women come to life in Klimt’s paintings, I look forward to reading The Painted Kiss a second time. If you are interested in art and like historical fiction you will enjoy The Painted Kiss.

The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey – Reviews Goodreads

Gustav Klimt – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

June 29, 2013

City Of Women By David Gillham

Filed under: City of Women,Historical Fiction — susanbright @ 10:52 am

cityCity of Women may take place in 1943 Berlin, but it is not your typical WWII Holocaust book. There are no concentration camp horror stories in this book. City of Women focuses on the German women left behind in Berlin, their German husbands off fighting on the front lines.

Sigrid and Kaspar Schroder lived in a small apartment which they shared with Kaspar’s mother. Each morning Sigrid would ride the bus to the patent office where she worked as a stenographer. After work, whenever possible she would avoid going straight home to the unpleasantness of her mother in law and escape to the movie theatre. It was at the movie theatre that she met Egon, a Jewish man who was to become her lover. It was in the theatre mezzanine that they shared their first kiss. It was also at the movie theatre that Sigrid became involved with Ericha, a young girl who was working for the underground, an organization helping Jews to escape to safety. We watch as Sigrid begins to see clearly for the first time what is happening around her and struggles as to what to do about it.

City of Women gives you a very different perspective on this horrific time in our history. There is no black and white. Not all Germans are evil. Not all Jews are innocent. It gives you a better understanding of why people did the things they did. Why some people became heroes and others traitors. It makes you question what you would do if put in the impossible position too many found themselves in.

I listened to the audio book, narrated by Suzanne Bertish and found it to be a thoroughly thought-provoking 4 omelet book!

City of Women by David R. Gillham – Reviews Goodreads

November 29, 2012

And Only One Lifeboat Went Back To Pick Up The People Left Drowning In The Water! The Dressmaker By Kate Alcott

Tess Collins wanted out. Out of a life of servitude. She was tired of doing laundry, making beds and waiting on people.  She was a seamstress, not a maid and she was ready to prove it! There was a huge ship sailing for New York and Tess was determined to be on it. Surely she could get a job on the ship and once in New York she would start a new life.

Unfortunately Tess was too late and there were no more jobs on the ship, but Tess would not accept defeat and fate was on her side when the famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon’s personal maid failed to show up. Tess was hired to accompany the  Duff Gordon’s on the voyage. This was a dream come true. Yes, she was still just a maid, but she would be working with Lady Duff Gordon!

Madame Gordon as she insisted on being called was not an easy person to please but Tess would do anything to make this work. When she was not waiting on Madame, Tess was free to explore the Titanic and was amazed to see how the rich and famous lived. She loved the beautiful clothing and the delicate china. She even managed to attract the attention of Jack Bremerton, a wealthy Chicago business man as well as Jim Bonney, a young sailor, both whom would plan an important part in her future.

Unfortunately, on the fourth night of the voyage tragedy struck. The unimaginable had happened. The amazing ship had hit an iceberg and chaos erupted.  Lady Duff Gordon, and her husband Cosmo escaped on life boat #1 with Tess’ sailor friend Jim Bonney, and Tess escaped on  lifeboat #6 with Margaret Brown. And all of this happens in the first 50 pages of the book.

Once in New York, Tess was taken under Madame’s wing. Finally she could have everything she ever dreamed of, but at what cost? Why was Lady Duff Gordon’s lifeboat more than half empty and what part did Jim Bonney play in the decision to launch with so few people aboard?  Why was Tess’s lifeboat the only one that even bothered to try to pick up the survivors?

The Dressmaker is a thoroughly entertaining story and is beautifully read by Susan Duerden. The book focuses on what happened after the sinking of the Titanic. According to the author’s notes,  the testimonies were taken directly from the transcripts of the U.S. Senate hearings.  Although Tess Collins was a fictional character many of the other characters were not. Lady Duff Gordon and her husband really did escape on a life boat with only 12 people on it, when it could have held up to 50 people. Margaret Brown (The Unsinkable Molly Brown), is considered a hero for insisting that her lifeboat return to pick up survivors. Although it was an easy read and could have gone into more detail, I still managed to learn quite a bit about the sinking of the Titanic and the hearings that followed which resulted in legislation requiring sufficient lifeboats on today’s ships. Of course, I may be one of the few that never saw the movie The Titanic! The Dressmaker: A Novel (9780385535588): Kate

June 15, 2012

The Red Queen By Phillipa Gregory

The Red Queen was a page turner up to the very last page, or in this case the very last battle. This is the story of Margaret Beaufort, the Grandmother of Henry VIII. By the age of 5, Margaret believed that she was a “special child in the sight of God.” Margaret was obsessed with the stories she had heard about Joan of Arc and felt that like Joan she was born for greatness. By the age of 10, she knew that she wanted to be a nun and proud that she had saints’ knees.

“Saints’ knees, praise God, I have saints’ knees. I have prayed so much, and on such hard floors, that the skin of my knees is becoming hard, like the callous on the fingers of an English long bowman.”

At the age of twelve Margaret was married off to Edmund Tudor, a man twice her age. Edmund paid little attention to his young bride and wanted Margaret for only one thing, he needed an heir.  Eventually Margaret gave birth to a son, but unfortunately Edmund did not live to see the birth of his child. Although Margaret was told by her brother-in-law Jasper to name the boy Edmund, after his father, Margaret had another name in mind. She named her son Henry, a name fit for a king and was determined to do whatever was necessary to put Henry on the throne as the rightful Lancaster heir.

Margaret was not a likeable character. She was a plotter. In fact she was the ultimate manipulator. She was quick to justify her actions, no matter who was hurt or even killed in the process as in her mind it was “God’s will”.

Once again Phillipa Gregory has managed to bring history to life in the most entertaining way. The Red Queen follows Margaret as she navigates through life in an attempt to see her son crowned as the King of England. Although I have read several of Gregory’s books (the Other Boleyn Girl being one of my favorites), this is the first time I listened to one. It was like listening to a show on Masterpiece Theatre. I found The Red Queen thoroughly entertaining, but have to admit that I had to do a bit of rewinding from time to time as the story covered quite a bit of time and there were a lot of names to keep straight. This is one disadvantage of audio books and one of the reasons I tend to listen to easy, uncomplicated books!  The Red Queen is book two in the Cousin’s War Series. Book one, The White Queen, centers on Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV. If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy the many books by Phillipa Gregory.

April 7, 2011

The Louvre and Girl With A Pearl Earring

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Literary Tidbits — susanbright @ 2:02 pm

Today I went to the Louvre and one of the things I was anxious to see (other than The Mona Lisa) were the paintings by Johannes Vermeer,after all  Girl With a Pearl Earring was a book club favorite. Although the two Vermeer paintings I saw were not amongst those mentioned in the book Girl With a Pearl Earring, it was a thrill to see them in person. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I knew about Vermeer and his camera obscura  just from reading Tracy Chevalier’s book.  I couldn’t help but remember how Vermeer posed Griet or arranged the props on the table as he prepared to paint.Vermeer’s painting The Lacemaker was just beautiful!

Girl With a Pearl Earring is a wonderful read! Check it out!

March 10, 2011

Alice I Have Been

Filed under: Alice I Have Been,Book Recomendations,Historical Fiction — Esther @ 2:49 pm

“Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll has been a favorite of mine since early childhood.  I was eager, therefore, to read Melanie Benjamin’s novel, “Alice I Have Been”, which was the “story of the real Alice”.  A fascinating book, it certainly left me looking at “Alice in Wonderland” in a whole new light!  Alice was actually a young girl named Alice Liddell.  She was one of the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College at Oxford.  Lewis Carroll was the pen name for Charles Dodgeson, a rather nerdy, socially inept math teacher at the college.  Mr. Dodgeson had a rather unusual interest in little girls.  An amateur photographer, he would often take the girls on outings and photograph them in different settings.  Such was the case with Alice and her sisters.  On one such outing, he regaled the girls with the story of a little girl named Alice who followed a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and had amazing adventures.  Alice Liddell later pleaded with him to write the story down, and thus, “Alice in Wonderland” was born.  In truth, the life of Alice Liddell was not so simple.  Charles Dodgeson’s interest in her led to some innappropriate behavior, which caused a wedge to come between Alice and her mother.  As Alice grew into adulthood, and then, into old age, she was always haunted by the fact that she was “that Alice”.  For lovers of historical fiction, this is a pleasant read about characters that we have grown up with.  I enjoyed it.

November 17, 2010

The True Memoirs of Little K

I was so excited to see that had chosen “The True Memoirs of Little K” by Adrienne Sharp as one of the 10 books for fall, 2010, that they were excited about!

Why was I excited?  Adrienne Sharp was my very best friend when I was growing up.  I was so looking forward to reading this new novel.  I knew from Adrienne that she had spent over two years researching this piece of historical fiction, but nothing could have prepared me for the extent to which she brought history alive on its pages!

“The True Memoirs of Little K” is the story of Mathilde Kschessinska, a prima ballerina who was the mistress of Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia.  (You may recognize his name from the great love story, “Nicholas and Alexandra”).  This sweeping saga is narrated by Kschessinska, or Little K, which is what the tsar, or Niki, as she referred to him, called her.  Kschessinska, at the age of 99, prepares to write her memoirs.  As she reminisces, the grandeur of the Romanov Empire and the turmoil of the Revolution unfolds before us.  From the stages of the Russian Ballet, to the grandeur of St. Petersburg, to the courts of the Russian royalty, the reader is given a history lesson that is disguised as a love story.  The novel introduces us to the fascinating characters of Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra, to that mysterious monk, Rasputin.  We meet Lenin as a young revolutionary, Karensky, Trotsky, even the young Anna Pavlova.

Not only is this a fascinating story, totally engrossing, that keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next, but the language with which it is written is absolutely beautiful.  I think that we’ll be hearing a lot about this book in the coming months.  If you like historical fiction, you will LOVE “The True Memoirs of Little K”.  Read it and let us know what you think!

October 7, 2010

My Name Is Mary Sutter: The Real Dorothea Dix

Filed under: Historical Fiction,My Name Is Mary Sutter — susanbright @ 11:55 am

As in this month’s book, Dorothea Dix served as the Union’s Superintendent of female nurses during the Civil War. Dix was born in 1802 in Hampden, Maine. She was self-educated, became a teacher, and even opened her own school for girls.  Dix was involved in working to improve the treatment of mentally ill patients for more than 20 years, and was  instrumental in opening the first public mental hospital.  At the age of 59, on the onset of the war, she volunteered to work for the Union. Dix was appointed in June 1961 and was in charge of the Union army nurses throughout the war.  “Dragon Dix” was known to  accept only plain women over the age of 30  and required that the 3,000+ nurses wore simple black or brown skirts, and no jewelry.  After the war she returned to working to help the mentally ill.  Dorothea Dix was included in the Great American Stamp Collection and  in 1993 her picture appeared on a 1 cent stamp.

October 6, 2010

My Name Is Mary Sutter- Interesting Facts About The First Female Doctor

Filed under: Historical Fiction,My Name Is Mary Sutter — susanbright @ 4:15 pm

In this month’s book, Mary Sutter is a midwife who dreams of being a doctor at a time when it was ALMOST impossible to get into medical school. Mary travels to D.C. hoping to find someone willing to teach her about medicine. The country is in the midst of The Civil War and Mary finds herself working in ill equipted hospitals not only changing linens but also taking care of the injured soldiers including aiding with amputations.

In reality, the first woman to graduate from medical school was Elizabeth Blackwell. Elizabeth was born in England in 1821 long before the factitious  Mary Sutter. She came to the United States with her family and became a teacher.  In 1847, after teaching in schools in Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, Elizabeth began applying to medical schools. She was interested in meeting the needs of women who she felt would be more comfortable seeing a female doctor. After being turned down numerous times, Elizabeth applied to the Geneva Medical College in New York. When the Administration asked the students input as to whether she should be accepted, they assumed it was a joke and said yes! Elizabeth graduated first in her class from Geneva Medical College in 1849. After graduating she provided free outpatient care to women and children and in 1857 opened the New York Infirmary For Women and Children.  Elizabeth and her sister organized the Women’s Central Association of Relief, which helped with selecting as well as training nurses during the Civil War.

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