Review: The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope

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
Source: BookMooch
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!

Review

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.

And

Get your own copy @ Amazon or Powell’s and support Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog!

Other reviews: Here In the Bonny Glen | Oatmeal for the Foxhounds | Two and a Half Booklovers

If I ever get a cat I’m naming it Peaceable Sherwood. I JUST AM.

"And then I realized that she is me."

The Paris Review has made a ton of interviews available for free online, including this amazing one with P.L. Travers, who you may know as the author of Mary Poppins and– my personal favorite– I Go By Sea, I Go By Land.

Once, when I was in the United States, I went to see a psychologist. It was during the war when I was feeling very cut off. I thought, Well, these people in psychology always want to see the kinds of things you’ve done, so I took as many of my books as were then written. I went and met the man, and he gave me another appointment. And at the next appointment the books were handed back to me with the words: “You know, you don’t really need me. All you need to do is read your own books.”

That was so interesting to me. I began to see, thinking about it, that people who write spontaneously as I do, not with invention, never really read their own books to learn from them. And I set myself to reading them. Every now and then I found myself saying, “But this is true. How did she know?” And then I realized that she is me. Now I can say much more about Mary Poppins because what was known to me in my blood and instincts has now come up to the surface in my head.

Thanks to Leila for posting about it first!

Review: You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers

211. You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Publication: Riverhead (October 14, 2010), ARC Paperback, 322pp / ISBN 1594487731
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: Buy it
Read: October 25-26, 2010
Source: Publisher
Summary from Amazon:

Heather Sellers is face-blind– that is, she has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that prevents her from reliably recognizing people’s faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion and anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, and gait. But she sometimes kissed a stranger, thinking he was her boyfriend, or failed to recognize even her own father and mother. She feared she must be crazy.

Yet it was her mother who nailed windows shut and covered them with blankets, made her daughter walk on her knees to spare the carpeting, had her practice secret words to use in the likely event of abduction. Her father went on weeklong “fishing trips” (aka benders), took in drifters, wore panty hose and bras under his regular clothes. Heather clung to a barely coherent story of a “normal” childhood in order to survive the one she had.

That fairy tale unraveled two decades later when Heather took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and began to discover the truth about her family and about herself. As she came at last to trust her own perceptions, she learned the gift of perspective: that embracing the past as it is allows us to let it go. And she illuminated a deeper truth-that even in the most flawed circumstances, love may be seen and felt.

I absolutely devoured this book. I read it every chance I had, and I even stayed up late one night to read just a bit more before falling asleep (I was barely conscious the next morning, but it was worth it!). It was offered to me as something like Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors, and that’s exactly what it reminded me of– except without the humor. Instead, it’s full of hope and love, something that I think wasn’t as evident in Running With Scissors (or if it was, it was buried under the black humor).

What I liked best about You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know is that it’s so relatable. Ms Sellers grew up in a crazy environment, and her face blindness just exacerbated the problem. She didn’t have Mr Burrough’s knowledge that something was wrong with how she was living. She knew her parents were weird (“peculiar,” is how she puts it), but she didn’t know that they had actual mental illnesses until she was in her 40’s. She didn’t even know that she herself had face blindness– she just thought she was crazy!

The author (lifted from her website)

Reading about her journey to work all this out and then come to terms with it (which does take a while) was really fascinating, and I felt great empathy for her. By the end it was clear that by getting a grip on her prosopagnosia she could get a grip on the rest of the parts of her life, too, including her parents and her relationship with her (ex-)husband. Maybe her self-confidence comes on a bit quickly after 200 pages of her vacillating between “is my mother schizophrenic or not,” but I’m glad that it happened, and that she can talk about her life so truthfully and freely now (as compared to when she was younger and apparently twisted things around to make them seem more normal).

It was just a really good book. The only real complaint I have is that the dialogue never sounded really real, like the things people would actually say. It sounded instead like how people talk in newspaper articles or magazine interviews– sort of stilted. But I got used to it eventually, and after a while it stopped bothering me. I don’t think it’s anything that would keep me from recommending this book to y’all! Because I think it’s a fantastic book, and I hope more people read it!

(This book is, by the way, Oprah’s November bookclub pick. If that’s the sort of thing that will keep you away, then…oh, I don’t know. Ignore it? TRUST MEEEEE instead!)

Watch Heather explain face blindness on Good Morning America.