Mini Reviews: I Shall Be Near to You, The Rosie Project, The House Girl

by erin lindsay mccabe, graeme simsion, tara conklin
Published by Crown Publishing Group, Simon & Schuster, William Morrow

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I Shall Be Near to You
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Published by Crown, 304 pages
Library

Rosetta finds herself in a pretty common situation at the beginning of the Civil War. Newly married, with her man going off to fight in the war. Tomboy Rosetta finds herself quickly stifled by the task of being a housewife to a man no longer home and chaffing under the bit of her mother-in-law. Instead of tolerating it however, she up does what few women did during the Civil War. She up and cuts off her hair and joins in with her husband’s regiment.

She sees first hand the struggles soldiers went through during the war. Fighting for the Union isn’t all the men thought it would be. They all hope for glory and power; but mostly get sickness, loneliness, and sometimes death. She does things women at that time never dreamed of doing; camping on the ground, firing guns, and pretending to be a man when surrounded by rough and tumble men all around. And she learns that they aren’t only fighting for glory or power, but for the very freedom of a whole race, and perhaps herself.

“But don’t you see? We’re all tied up together in this. It is for the betterment of each of us if this war earns the slaves’ freedom, if the evil of slavery is wiped clean from this country. And then surely no one can say women ought to be property as well and we will have our freedom next.”

Jennie Chalmers said that making slaves free will help women, but I don’t know how she can be right when there’s still most men who can’t see the things a woman does, even when she’s doing them right under his nose.

The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster, 295 pages
Bought

This one was all over the book blogs just a few months ago and I couldn’t resist. At the time I was needing something light hearted and fun. The protagonist has Asperger’s and doesn’t seem to have any idea and he decides it’s time to find himself a wife. So he creates a questionnaire for women to fill out to see if they meet with his stringent criteria. By mistake, Rosie walks in and she has none of the attributes he finds most desirable. So why does she keep popping up in his thoughts? The writing was sharp and witty, the characters charming…well, except one, but he couldn’t help it, he was just written that way, and the whole thing just plain fun.

Just plain fun, y’all.

Favorite bits:

I diagnosed brain overload and set up a spreadsheet to analyze the situation.

I had a great deal of valuable knowledge-about genetics, computers, aikido, karate, hardware, chess, wine, cocktails, dancing, sexual positions, social protocols, and the probability of a fifty-six-game hitting streak occurring in the history of baseball. I knew so much shit and I still couldn’t fix myself.

The House Girl
Tara Conklin
Published by William Morrow, 370 pages
Bought

I could just quote this one and I’m pretty sure I could get my feelings across. Seriously, I have pages of quotes that I noted down. I really enjoyed Conklin’s writing. She lost me a couple times; this another one of those books that change to several different viewpoints, but in the end, it mostly worked for me. I loved the character of Josephine and found her conflicting emotions over her owners to be believable and moving. The ending though, it sort of pretty much basically broke my heart.

Favorite bits (and I’ll try to contain myself):

Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.

It was here that Missus had taught Josephine to read. Books brought up from the library, Cooper, Dumas, Dickens, Poe, the names written in gold, the covered cracked, pages spotted dark with mold but still Josephine touched them only with her hands clean, with reverence, savored eatery word written there, each one a small victory. Letters formed carefully, again and again, the paper burned in the grate afterward, but a few secret pages carried under Josephine’s skirts, up the stairs to her attic room. “Don’t breathe a word to your Mister,” Missus would whisper. “We’d both be in a world of trouble.”

Truth was multilayered, shifting; it was different for everyone, each personal history carved unique from the same weighty block of time and flesh.

If there is one lesson I wish to bestow upon you, one shred of wisdom I have gained from my living, dying days, it is this: let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers.

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