Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kelly's Book 6: The Firemaster's Mistress

Dear Jenny,

This book is classified as "Historical Fiction" and I think this may be my very first book ever in that genre. At least, there have been very, very few.

I picked it up off of the "free book" pile at work -- folks recycle books there (you'd love it), and someone recommended it. I liked the image on the front and the story seemed interesting, so I grabbed it. My expectations were low.

I got distracted reading Bloodroot last week (Loved. It. Thanks so much for sending it to me!), so I'm a bit behind this month and was worried about finishing a 500 page paper book (there's no Kindle version of it! Wha--?!) in less than 3 weeks, but I started it yesterday and am already 120 pages in. Two things: 1. It's a quick read. 2. It's engrossing.

I'm loving it so far, but I do worry about filling my mind with historical mis-information. As you know, my knowledge of history is weak. I read a book like this and am likely to get my head all filled with this "history" that's not quite right. However, there is a reading guide at the end to talk about the real history surrounding the events in the book and the author started the book with list of the real historical figures vs. the fictional characters, so... maybe it's a good way for me to get some history?

The only niggling problem I have so far with the book itself is that the sometimes frustrating plot device of "misunderstanding" may be heavily employed. "If only he had known ____." "If only she had realized ____." That can really fire me up as I yell, "Just TALK to each other, people!" It hasn't been too bad so far, but if there's much more of it, it might sink this ship.

Meanwhile, I like the characters and I'm totally engrossed.



  1. K,

    What is the historical period that the book is actually about?

    It's funny you say that about historical fiction. I'm currently reading "The Women" by T.C.Boyle, which is all about Frank Lloyd Wright. Although I like it, I'm definitely struggling with the historical fiction aspect of it. I guess it was exhaustively researched, but I keep wanting to look it up and figure out which parts are "true." It's actually sort of the inverse of my memoir problem now that I think about it. I'm finding myself a little too concerned about how much of it is real.

    The exception, for me, seems to be when things are more historically distant. I read Wolf Hall last summer, which is about the Tudors and the role Thomas Cromwell played in the life of Henry VII. It was terrific and I didn't worry as much about that aspect of it. (Perhaps because there's no one left alive to dispute it. As I'm reading the women, I kept thinking it must be really weird to be one of his grandchildren/ greatgrandchildren and to learn your grandfather is a philandering, reckless spendthrift.)

    Anyways, I'm enjoying it. I read it for my first FB online chat, but I only got about 1/3 of the way through it. I'll definitely finish it.


    PS So glad to hear you liked Bloodroot!
    PPS Yes, I would very much like to work in a place with a recycled books pile. Maybe I should start one at work?

  2. It's 1605, England, so maybe far enough back in time for you? I really like what the author writes in the forward:

    "Part of the imaginative struggle in writing about an historical period is dealing with the distortion caused by the filter of our own modern sensibilities.

    "I find that the seventeenth century hovers on the barely conscious edge of our own experience. While the medieval mentality feels utterly foreign to me, I suspect that most of us could get through a day in the early seventeenth century and feel that we pretty much understood the people around us. We could make some sense of their lives. We would recognize and share both their pleasures and their terrors. I fear that we would also find much to recognize in their politics."

    Basically: it's recent enough to relate to what's going on, but it's far enough back that you're not thinking about the characters' grandkids. Heh.

    You should totally start a recycled book pile at work! Teachers like to read, right? ;)

    We started ours about 3 years ago and it's been very successful. We have two bookshelves: non-fiction and fiction. It does require some moderation -- if someone dumps crap that no one will take, it needs to get removed after awhile -- but the local library is happy to take our cast-offs for annual book sales (they even come and pick up the books!) We donate books that aren't moving quarterly, so it sort of re-kindles interest when the shelf goes empty and slowly gets re-filled.