210. The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Publication: Sandpiper (October 29, 2001) (originally published 1958), Paperback, 256pp / ISBN 0618150749
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
Rating: Buy it
Read: October 15-25, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
Newly orphaned Peggy Grahame is caught off-guard when she first arrives at her family”s ancestral estate. Her eccentric uncle Enos drives away her only new acquaintance, Pat, a handsome British scholar, then leaves Peggy to fend for herself. But she is not alone. The house is full of mysteries—and ghosts. Soon Peggy becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled. History has never been so exciting—especially because the ghosts are leading Peggy to a romance of her own!
The Sherwood Ring was one of the books talked about during the Unsung YA event earlier this year. In fact, it was featured at Split My Infinitives, so thank you to Kaylee for posting about it because I really did enjoy it!
You know the Children of Green Knowe series? This book is like that. Family history, family ghosts, the meeting of past and present, weird adults and precocious kids. But that’s not all! The Sherwood Ring has romance! And (snarky) soldiers! And fiesty women who do stuff! Conspiracies! A character named Peacable Sherwood for Pete’s sake!
It has its problems. It follows the Shakespearean tradition of having everyone get married at the end, even the 17-year-old who’s practically a shut-in and only has one friend– the dude she’s going to marry. Plus part of his wooing technique is to tell her how she’ll become a housewife who darns his socks for him. (Gaston?!)
I don’t personally find that tactic attractive, but Peggy seemed to like it so whatever. And it WAS written in 1958, after all. But I so wanted Peggy to become the newest family historian– she seemed so interested in history! She could have gone to college and majored in history like her soon-to-be-husband! Its kind of confusing why nothing was said about Peggy’s prospects outside of marrying the dude, because Elizabeth Marie Pope was a professor with a PhD and everything (and she got it in a time when women didn’t really do that) so surely it would have been okay for Peggy to get some more education as well? It makes me suspect that the book is trying to do an old-school gothic romance instead of a new-school feminist story, sort of like an homage rather than a reinvention?
Anyway, to get back to what I liked about it. Let’s talk about what my favorite part was: the historical bits!
The historical fiction part of the story is told within a frame narrative, so we’re both in the present (albeit that present is now the past for us readers of today) and in the past with the ghost characters. They’re telling their story to Peggy, but they also take over the narrative while they’re doing so. The Sherwood Ring isn’t just Peggy finding out more about herself as a person, it’s also about her family helping her to do that via a romance/adventure/action story. A story that they LIVED IN. Pretty awesooooome~
I love the American Revolution era. It’s so INTERESTING. And of course it’s very exciting (and makes excellent musical material as well) and full of wonderful stuff like spies and swords and redcoats and, er, rather more depressing things as well, which The Sherwood Ring doesn’t go into detail about that but it does hint at it, so!
I just really liked The Sherwood Ring. Normally I think the romance (and the gooey language that goes along with it) would have annoyed me, but the rest of it is so charming and fun that it sort of soothed the irritation. If you like historical fiction or even gothic romance, you’ll probably like The Sherwood Ring! It’s a nice little book.
If I ever get a cat I’m naming it Peaceable Sherwood. I JUST AM.