Book Review Club: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek #review

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek coverThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson
Historical Fiction

I was interested in reading this book because the backdrop is the Depression-era attempt to bring books to people in the back woods of Kentucky, a program I’d not been aware of before. Apparently, Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the Kentucky Pack Horse program. Big city libraries donated excess books and shipped them to Kentucky. Local women were hired, all unmarried, to distribute books to the hill people. Because of the lack of roads, the book women rode horses or mules with panniers filled with books over difficult mountain trails. (They were the first mobile librarians!) What a fascinating piece of little known women’s history. (There was another novel about this published last year called Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. I wasn’t able to check that one out due to a very long reserve list.) The list wasn’t as long on this book, and I was able to borrow the ebook from the local library.

Richardson combines the book woman history with the story of the Blue People of Kentucky, something else I knew nothing about. Apparently a man named Fugate with blue skin arrived in the area from France in the late 1700’s and married a woman with white skin. Four of their seven children were also blue. Scientists now know that the condition, inherited methemoglobinemia, is caused by a rare gene combination. Apparently Mrs. Fugate carried a recessive gene for the condition. The Blues were considered Colored People and were treated little or no better than African Americans. You can learn more at this YouTube video.

The protagonist is Cussy Mary Carter, a blue woman. In her travels, she faces ignorance and danger from some, but wins others over with her book deliveries. The local doctor wants to study her in hopes of curing her. The preacher wants to drive the devil out of her. And one of her patrons actually thinks she’s pretty. Her journey shows us the best and worst of human nature, but in the end, she’s in a far better place than at the beginning.

I loved this book; I’m so glad I read it. Beautifully written, Richardson’s love and knowledge of Appalachia shines through, as does her love of books. I recommend the book for anyone who loves books and libraries!

Linda

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Book Review Club: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty #review

Last month my readers group read books that have been made into films, and then we watched the movies. One of my choices was:

Chaperone coverThe Chaperone
by Laura Moriarty
Historical Women’s FictionSet in the early 1920s, the book tells the story of a journey to New York City of Louise Brooks, who became a famous silent movie actress, and her chaperone Cora Kaufman Carlisle. Louise Brooks was a real person, and you can read about her life here:But the story is mainly about Cora, whom I assume is a fictional character. She chooses to accompany the free-spirited Louise to NYC because that’s where she was born. Cora was taken as a three-year-old to an orphanage run by nuns, and she was later sent west on one of the orphan trains where she was adopted by a couple named Kaufman. The flash backs to her past story are quite interesting. Once in NY she tries to learn who her birth parents are.That’s all I will say. Cora’s story is far more compelling and complicated than I anticipated from a teetotalling middle-aged Kansas housewife. I enjoyed most of the book, but found the ending dragged out too long.

movie posterThe book was made into a movie of the same name by the creators of Downton Abbey. I watched it on PBS.

Elizabeth McGovern plays Cora, whose name was inexplicably changed to Norma for the film. Haley Lou Richardson played Louise Brooks.

I liked the movie. McGovern does a good acting job, despite the fact that she’s about 20 years older than the character she plays. The movie captures the heart of the story, and mercifully, ends sooner. I thought the script was pretty good.

I recommend both for fans of historical fiction, although I wouldn’t fault anyone for not quite finishing the book.

Linda

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