Daren Wang

Teoksen The Hidden Light of Northern Fires tekijä

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The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang takes place from 1861-1865 during the American Civil War. As Charles Frazier has written, the book is "a distinctive clear-eyed perspective on a fresh corner of the Civil War." That's because it takes place in northern New York, in and around the only secessionist town north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The story follows Mary Willis, her father Nathan, and brother Leander through the tumult and turmoil of war. Nathan Willis, a compassionate and intelligent man, owns one of the most successful farms and lumber mills in the area. When Mary joins the effort to aid escaping slaves he is reluctant, knowing their lives and livelihood are at risk, but he assists her nonetheless, even allowing slaves to be hidden in their cellar. One of those is Joe who will become central to the plot.

There are a few weaknesses in the book. There are many secondary characters and several sub-plots that I thought would have been better scaled back. Although it's well written, some of the characters, including Joe, deserved more development.

What I love in an historical novel is an actual connection to the past and this has that. When Wang was a child, his family bought an old farm house in Town Line, New York, the secessionist town where the book takes place. The farmhouse was full of old things including "shelves and shelves of books." Included in those was a diary written in a "lady's hand." In the diary were inserted letters, handwritten receipts and newspaper clippings. Years later as an adult, Wang traced the history of the long ago family and this novel was inspired by that research.

Although Wang's first novel has some imperfections, I hope he continues to write. I will put him on my watch list and hope for another historical novel from him. I think anyone interested in American history, particularly that of the Civil War years, would find his first novel intriguing.
… (lisätietoja)
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clue | 8 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 26, 2017 |
*I received a copy of this book through the publisher.*

I don't know if I was just in the wrong mood for this book, but I struggled to get into it. I liked the concept, particularly that it highlighted the sympathies many northerners had for the south during the Civil War. And Mary, with her fierce determination and bravery as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, was a great main character. If someone was interested in a unique novel about a lesser known part of the Civil War, I would certainly recommend this book.… (lisätietoja)
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wagner.sarah35 | 8 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 9, 2017 |
I went into this novel due to the obscure history it incorporates. Detailing the only northern town to secede from the union to join their Confederate “brothers” is a fascinating setting and concept. I’ve heard of this event mentioned in a movie called Copperhead. That caught my attention and so was excited to get a full novel exploring that. While this book was interesting, though, I feel like it’s mediocre at best, not the great work it could have been.

The narrative began strong, immersing the reader into a world in turmoil. While the town is situated in upstate New York, right up against the Canadian border, the reader gets a real feel for the divided loyalties of its populace. While there are strong abolition tendencies with Mary’s Underground Railroad station and a church close by whom is also a part of the network, there’s also a very strong undercurrent of resentment against African Americans from the strong German population of the town. The author does a great job in creating a tense atmosphere of suspicion, betrayal, and prejudice against which to tell her intense story.

In the beginning, I also felt a strong connection to the characters portrayed as well. I was enthralled by Mary and her family’s efforts to hide John from the local bandits who hunted down refugees for the reward and the local hostile population. Mary’s strength of will and gutsy nature nabbed my love and admiration. Her family and community members felt like real individuals. I also adored Joe’s determination to live a life of his choosing, no matter the cost. His bravery, intelligence, and compassion in the face of the horrors of slavery and prejudice make him stand out.

However, I’d say about half way through this book starts to lose its way. As we explore more characters POVs and start to divert into other storylines, the plotline loses its focus on Mary and Joe. While this might not have been a problem in a longer work, this book’s latter half didn’t give enough room to fully develop these side stories and alternate POVs. What we’re left with is a mish mash of story threads and half-baked ideas that never really live up to the potential they could have had.

And because of these additional storylines, the heart of our story, Mary and Joe, get lost. They show up less and less as the novel progresses. The author’s effort to explore other stories and different aspects of the Civil War in the latter half bog this book down, drowning out Mary and Joe almost completely. By the time our stories concluded, I felt no connection to anyone, not even these two. In the end, I felt let down by this title due to this.

While expectations were high and the first half started out strong, ultimately I felt let down by this title. Characters started out strong, drawing the audience in emotionally. However, with multiple story threads and POVs making an appearance, the book tries to be too epic in too short a page count. In the end, readers are left with a mediocre title that could have been so much longer. Here’s hoping that future titles from this author get better with time.
… (lisätietoja)
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Sarah_Gruwell | 8 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 26, 2017 |
Town Line is an obscure place, just outside Buffalo and close the the Canadian border, but as the American Civil War develops Town Line becomes the only Secessionist town north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Mary does not fit in to Town Line, she is the educated daughter of a farmer but has to run the family home whilst her brother Leander runs wild. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves flee to Canada. When an injured runaway is hidden by Mary, her entire network is imperilled and this act sows the seeds for danger and heartache for all concerned as the war rages far to the south.

The setting of this book is really interesting as the plot is a little too messy to be completely believable. That's not to say that I didn't really love the book but it felt very much at the 'fiction' end of 'historical fiction'! The horrors of slavery are well-represented and the power of family ties looms large, I particularly liked the desperation of Yates. Politically there are a lot of good points here and especially the idea that although Southern States were pro-slavery and Northern States less so, that was not a view held by Walland there are shades of grey in all conflicts.
… (lisätietoja)
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pluckedhighbrow | 8 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 15, 2017 |




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