Martha Conway

Teoksen The Underground River tekijä

5 teosta 271 jäsentä 29 arvostelua

Tekijän teokset

The Underground River (2017) 126 kappaletta, 16 arvostelua
Thieving Forest (2014) 80 kappaletta, 7 arvostelua
The Physician's Daughter (2022) 32 kappaletta, 2 arvostelua
12 Bliss Street (2003) 20 kappaletta
Sugarland (2016) 13 kappaletta, 4 arvostelua

Merkitty avainsanalla




The American Civil War has just ended and vita Tenney is determined that no matter what she will become a doctor, but her father is opposed and her mother can't see a life for a woman outside of marriage and the protections that would offer her. She finds that Jacob Culhane, a man determined to make a future for himself, away from the small town he grew up in, facing up to his experiences in the war and his urge to honour those he has left behind.

It's an interesting story and Vita is so determined to succeed and to be a truer version of herself than society is willing to admit, I liked her and really wanted them both to succeed and her moment of crisis was so well done. Not my usual type of read but good at the same time.… (lisätietoja)
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wyvernfriend | 1 muu arvostelu | Jan 4, 2024 |
May Bedloe has two serious problems, about to be multiplied by a third in this year of 1838. First, she takes care to speak the precise truth as she perceives it, and not a word more or less, refusing to countenance a lie, in herself or anyone else.

Her concrete approach to life amuses some and puzzles or puts off others, but in either case, leaves May feeling as if she’s not fit to make friends or be among people.

Secondly, she’s in thrall to her actress cousin, Comfort Vertue, who’s as self-absorbed and exploitive as they come. When Comfort isn’t abusing her younger cousin’s pliant nature, as in draining her life savings or demanding that she use her superb dressmaking skills to fix up the elder’s wardrobe, she lectures May about her character and tells her what she, May, wants.

But the cousins are abruptly sundered (and left destitute) when the Ohio River steamboat on which they’re traveling blows up near Cincinnati. All you need to know is that May saves a little girl she’s never met, whereas Comfort doesn’t even bother to let her cousin know she’s still alive, having been looking out for Number One.

Her skill at this game has led her to the home of a well-to-do abolitionist, Mrs. Howard, who promptly informs May that her presence is unwelcome. Elder cousin will now be retained as a stump speaker for the abolitionist cause, by which she’ll earn her keep; May should simply go elsewhere, right away. Home, maybe.

But home, in Oxbow, Ohio, no longer has anything to sustain May, and—you guessed it—Comfort doesn’t speak up for her. However, Thaddeus, a roguish actor of Comfort’s acquaintance, coaches May in her first lesson in lying, with which she pries twenty dollars out of Mrs. Howard, presumably for travel expenses back to Oxbow. Instead, that twenty goes to repair a certain boat in which the actor has an interest. Captain Cushing’s Floating Theater, which sails up and down the Ohio, mooring at towns where the citizenry might wish dramatic entertainment, now has a new seamstress/pianist/ticket taker.

No longer relegated to her cousin’s dressing room (from which Comfort often locked her out), May now lives and works among theater folk, eight of them. Consequently, her difficulties with artifice emerge and cause conflict with people who live by pretending to be what they’re not. Much humor ensues, and this unusual coming-of-age story boasts a raft (almost literally) of delightful stage types, from the acquisitive, overbearing Mrs. Niffen, whose husband never says a word, to Thaddeus, the trouper past his prime.
But there’s much more here. As May slowly wakes to the life of emotion and gray realities, she also wakes to slavery’s impact and the necessity to act against it. I won’t say more, except to note that her knowledge brings great danger, rendered with hair-raising vividness. And to keep the suspense, don’t read the jacket flap, which gives away too much, as though the publisher feared that potential readers would otherwise find the story lightweight.

I like how Conway has portrayed the towns along the Ohio River, whether on free soil or in Kentucky, a slave state, and how she doles out period details with a deft hand. I also admire her gift for characterization; I love tales about the theater, and these performers ring true to that lively art.

I also like how Conway refrains from granting May a full-character makeover. Our heroine learns a little, tasting the pleasures of suspension of disbelief and glimpses of human warmth. But she remains herself, ever concrete, seeking rules to live by, which seems psychologically accurate.

Comfort may be a little over the top, but there again, psychology holds sway: a masochist like May will invent reasons to bond to a narcissist, so Comfort's excess has a purpose. I mind more that the author, though normally careful with language, occasionally uses words like “feedback,” which don’t fit the era, and inserts the rare modern thought pattern. But these are quibbles. The Underground River is a wonderful book, and I recommend it.
… (lisätietoja)
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Novelhistorian | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 24, 2023 |
The Physician’s Daughter is a tale of a determined young woman in post Civil War Massachussettes. She lives with her father, a country doctor and longs to follow in his footsteps. She studies his books and wants to go to medical school but he thinks women are good for nothing more than getting married and having babies.

Women throughout history have been butting their heads against the walls of tradition that try to keep them from moving forward. Vita is determined to break free of the strictures of society and pursue her desire to practice medicine. But she lives in a time when she has no control over her own destiny and her father marries her off.

Her marriage is not one of love but rather of convenience and she and her husband come to an arrangement but can she trust him? He has goals of his own and needs the boost her dowry can give to support his business dreams.

Vita turns to nursing as a panacea but still pursues her ultimate goal. Will she achieve it? Or will life and the society to which she was born wear her down?

This was an utterly fascinating read with a heroine you just really want to root for as she fights her way in a world that just does not want to see her succeed. Vita is a well written, well constructed character that drives the story forward. She has the burning desire, no need to be a doctor and really isn’t going to let anything get in her way.

It will keep you turning the pages as you root for her.
… (lisätietoja)
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BooksCooksLooks | 1 muu arvostelu | Oct 12, 2022 |
This is a 5 star Historical Fiction novel set in a Mark Twain style story. I loved this book and didn't want it to end! The Underground River has a very unique storyline about a young costume seamstress aboard a riverboat theater in 1863 that travels up and down the Ohio river. This is a tale of making friends in unlikey places, a story of betrayal and blackmail, and involves abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. As a character driven read, I doubt I will ever forget this cast of unlikey misfits for a very long time. Standing ovation, clap clap clap!… (lisätietoja)
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vernefan | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 7, 2021 |



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