Well not really a tome, but book doesn’t begin with ‘T’ 🙂
My first ever book review is on a novella written by Cindy Bruchman, a fellow blogger who’s entertaining blog can be followed by clicking through her name.
Cindy’s debut novella is called The Knife with the Ivory Handle.
Set in Cindy’s home state of Illinois in the 1900’s, the story follows the lives of two young orphans ~ Annette, a solitary girl with a talent for healing, and her younger brother Jonathon, an empathetic lad with a passion for painting. The children have been expelled from their orphanage in Brooklyn and are travelling by train to start a new life on a farm owned by a couple looking to adopt. Their interactions with Casper, a wounded, fugitive black man who has killed the son of a Sherrif, resulting in half his tongue being chopped off, and Father Kelly, a rather selfish and immature priest charged with getting the orphans to their new home are the basis for the story, which is underpinned with accurate historical knowledge.
The story moves at a good pace and Cindy has a lyrical way with words that has you envisioning the scenes set before you,
He applied squirts of color on his wooden pallet and swirled forest green and cobalt with white. The stretched muslin disappeared behind thick applications of paint. He felt the sun should shine next to the stormy clouds, so he picked up another clean brush and mixed ocher with mustard. This he applied in circular motions to the upper right of the canvas. The storm clouds wrestled with the sunny brightness. Jonathan shut his eyes and waited for the peculiar magic to happen.
A chilly gust rose up behind him from the creek and it blew on the back of his neck. He shuddered. He turned around and faced the coolness. He imagined himself sliding down the embankment and dunking his face in the flowing water. He concentrated on the ripples that caressed the rocks and it triggered a memory of when Father Kelly recited a poem to him about the beauty of dappled things like speckled fish and spotted cows.
I really enjoyed reading this story, I read a lot of historical fiction and Illinois in the 1900’s is a new era for me. Part of the story involves the Spring Valley Race Riot of 1903 which I hadn’t known about and led me to further reading. The places covered in the novella are all real, and it’s obvious Cindy is passionate about her homeland and it’s history. But it is the characters who really drive this story. Each of the main character’s persona is well rounded, their weaknesses and strengths given equal billing, and as the situations they find themselves in change, we feel how they are affected, how they grow, cheer for them when they prevail, and sympathise with them when they sometimes fail. Secondary characters are not glossed over and are given distinct personalities and depth. There are some surprising turns in the story that I won’t spoil here.
I noticed on another review of the book that someone had pointed out there were errors in the writing that ruined the story, and whilst I did notice a couple of things that could easily have been rectified by a proof reader/editor, for me at least it didn’t spoil the overall great experience of reading this sometimes sad, sometimes uplifting, always immersive story.
This book can be purchased at the following links.