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Saturday, September 28, 2013

A White Wind Blew


 








 


Review of A White Wind Blew by James Markert

Overview from www.bn.com:

When the body fails, you've got two choices.
Send a doctor in, or send a prayer up.
And if neither works?
You'll find Dr. Wolfgang Pike at his piano.

Music has always been Wolfgang's refuge. It's betraying him now, as he struggles to compose a requiem for his late wife, but surely the right ending will come to him. Certainly it'll come more quickly than a cure for his patients up at Waverly Hills, the tuberculosis hospital, where nearly a body an hour leaves in a coffin. Wolfgang can't seem to save anyone these days, least of all himself.
Sometimes we just need to know we're not the only ones in the fight. A former concert pianist checks in, triggering something deep inside Wolfgang, and spreading from patient to patient. Soon Wolfgang finds himself in the center of an orchestra that won't give up, with music that won't stop. A White Wind Blew delivers a sweeping crescendo of hope in a time of despair, raising compelling questions about faith and confession, music and medicine,and the undying force of love.

My Review:

This is a sad but beautiful story. Mostly sad though. Our main character, Wolfgang Pike, is both doctor and future priest but that was years ago. He has yet to finish his seminary training and is only about half-way through. His training was interrupted by a marriage that ended in the tragic death of his wife. When she died, Wolfgang vows to resume his studies, thinking that he can never love again.

In the meantime he becomes a doctor and gets a job at Waverly Hills, a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. It is the 1920's  and the preferred treatment seems to consist most of sun therapy, that is the patient is basically told to sunbathe in hopes that it will reduce the effects of the disease.

A few patients do seem to get better and they eventually make "the Walk" that shows that they are strong enough to leave the place. Those patients still have an uphill battle when they go out in the world among the healthy. But some of them come back to help others.

Wolfgang tells himself and the priests at the seminary that he is only staying at Waverly because he is needed there. TB has made a resurgence in the area and he wants to help but three years go by. Three years and he is showing no signs of leaving. And he seems to be falling in love again though he doesn't want to admit it to anyone, let alone himself.

And there is the music. Wolfgang loves it, was raised on it. He will play to any patient at the hospital that asks it of him. And it seems to be working. Many of them are getting better.

When he finds some musicians and singers among the patients, he decides to start an "orchestra." I put that in quotation marks because he only has three real instruments playing in this "orchestra."
Some don't like Wolfgang's orchestra but in particular they don't like the fact that he has invited some patients from the "colored" sanatorium down the hill to join with the whites. Some amateur clansmen will do anything to stop him, even killing those involved if necessary. They also don't like the fact that Wolfgang is Catholic.

And now for the negatives. There are a few sexual scenes as well as some language but I didn't find it that it overpowered the plot. I think the story might be a bit too sad for some but it wasn't nearly as depressing as some of the books I reviewed in the past. At least there is a positive overall tone at the end so I didn't find it to be too much of a downer.

So in summary, I guess, I liked though it might now be one of my favorites. Still I think I feel comfortable in recommending it to a friend or anyone else looking for some thought-provoking historical fiction.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Kingmaking













 

Review of The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick:

Overview from www.bn.com: Who was THE MAN Who became THE LEGEND We know as KING ARTHUR?
 
"You are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where Vortigern sits…You ought to be King."
 
Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.
 
This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar's heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.

This is the unexpected story of the making of a king — the legend who united all of Britain.

My Review:

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick looked promising to me as I downloaded it, one of Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday offerings that I just couldn’t pass up. In the end though, it was a disappointment.

In fact, it disappointed me many time. I thought about turning off the book many times but then the characters would do some small thing that would make me think that maybe they will redeem themselves but in the end, they didn’t.

That is not to say that I disliked all the characters. In fact, I like the character of Gwenhyfar a lot. She was strong and brave and seemed to always try her best even though her feelings often confused her. Also, she seemed to learn from her mistakes.

Unlike another main character: Arthur. This story is based on the now famous character of King Arthur. In this story though, he is not yet king. He starts off as some tag-along boy who Uther keeps with him on his quests to regain his lands in England.

But the quest goes badly and Uther is killed battle. All seems lost until Gwenhwyfar’s father Cunedda reveals the secret of Arthur’s parentage—he is Uther’s son. It was kept secret from all but three or four people to keep him safe from Vortigern, his father’s mortal enemy.

Arthur seemed to start out as somewhat likeable. He was the silly misfit who was trying to make his way in the world; to make something of himself despite what thought were his humble origins.

Then he becomes a man and everything seems to change. He loves Gwenhyfar sure, but he doesn’t tell her and maybe that is for the best for it seems that there is one thing that he loves even more than her, much more than her: his crown. He admits throughout the story that he will do anything for and proves it with his actions.

First, he joins up with his father’s enemy Vortigern in an uneasy alliance but admits he will break it when it suits him. Then he marries Winifred, Vortigern’s half-Saex daughter to obtain her dowry and although he at first declares that she will be his wife in name only he impregnates her with a child.
He worries that she will have a boy and take him to her Saex family to use as a pawn against him. He takes her away to “Less Britain” so that she can’t use his son against him but she has a girl who dies shortly after the birth. All the while he tells anyone who listens that he doesn’t love his wife and wants to divorce her.

But then later in the book he gives into his wife and impregnates her again. He just doesn’t seem to learn his lesson. All throughout the story he is guided by his impulses—both sexual as well for war. They seem to be running the show, not him. This made him a less than sympathetic character for me.

If it weren’t for Gwenhwyfar, I wouldn’t have kept reading. I kept wondering what she saw in him though. Her story was worth reading, her courage admirable though I think she could have done without him.

Contains: war violence, sexuality, some language