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Friday, March 09, 2007

Winter Reading Challenge

The purpose of the Reading Challenge is to expand your reading horizons, as opposed to the TBR Challenge, the purpose of which is to read something already in your to-be-read pile.

The Reading Challenge for winter is to read a book that was the bestseller for its year. You can find a list here.

To participate, post a comment here or on your blog telling what you read, what you thought of it, and whether you'd read something from this category again.

I chose:

**** To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston. Historical fiction.

It was the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1900. In other words, I took the first book on the list. Gotta be organized.

In early 17th-century Virginia, Lady Jocelyn Leigh arrives as part of a shipload of eligible brides disguised as her maid, Patience Worth. She'd taken the opportunity presented when Patience got cold feet to escape a forced marriage to the king's favorite, Lord Carnal.

Captain Ralph Percy wasn't intending to join the throng of men meeting the ship to find a bride, but his friends persuade him he needs a wife, so he goes, but mostly just hangs back, observing.

Until Patience Worth is assaulted by an overeager suitor, and Captain Percy comes to her rescue. They're married by the quirky minister, Jeremy Sparrow, who later becomes their friend and companion in adventure, then they set off for Captain Percy's home.

In her defense, Jocelyn is honest with him. She explains her situation and tells him she married him for protection from Lord Carnal. And in true historical romance tradition (obviously I was remiss in thinking this was a modern plot device!), she declines to sleep with him, and he's too much of a gentleman to push the issue.

Eventually, Lord Carnal shows up, searching for her, and the adventure is on. Captain Percy won't give her up, whether it's because he's fallen in love with her as the book cover says, or whether it's a matter of extreme devotion to duty, which is how I read it--she's his wife, therefore he protects her, period--he faces certain death, if not outright from Lord Carnal, then from the law when he's charged with treason for thwarting the king's wishes.

Nor is Lord Carnal the only danger they face--there's also an Indian uprising to contend with.

To Have and to Hold was for me much more readable than the last old book I read. It was told in first person from Captain Percy's point of view, with amusing chapter headings. Most likely, it's my pitiful education in history which makes me surprised when a book written over 100 years ago isn't dry and completely serious. The adventure is a bit over-the-top, but it's an adventure story, and not any more unbelievable than ones written today.

The writing style is, of course, not modern, and there were even some words I didn't recognize--whether they were common 100 years ago or the result of the book's historical setting, I don't know.

Early 17th-century America is not a setting I'm at all familiar with, so that was interesting as well. I enjoyed the glimpse into that time period. What To Have and to Hold being the bestselling book of 1900 says about America of 1900, I don't know, but it gives me an interesting impression.


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Wow. John Grisham is on a roll!
Wollte mal gucken wie es Dir geht, aber Bücher habe ich mehr als genug und bin sowieso eine Bücherratte ! Schon immer gewesen seitdem ich lesen kann.
Gattina, mein Mann meint dass ich auch mehr als genug Bücher habe. :)

So, Doug, you'll be the next Grisham, yes?
Speaking of Winter Reading Challenge - I notice you had A Breath of Snow and Ashes listed to the right of your sidebar. Are you really thinking of reading it?

I was supposedly be reading this last summer, but I never got the chance. Maybe if you read it than I read it along with you ;) I'm a big fan of Diana Gabaldon :)
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