There is no need to add to the accolades already published for Geraldine Brook’s 2011 novel Caleb’s Crossing.
While technically not a historical novel it comes very close by adding disciplined imagination to a factual story line that makes this book a great read. I join The New York Time’s Bill Cunningham in his thinking that the prodigious use of the word marvelous is often joyously appropriate. It certainly applies to Caleb’s Crossing.This work of Pulitzer Prize author Brooks proudly stands alongside her so honored March.
While reading Caleb’s Crossing I thought of Anya Seton’s Winthrop Women which was set in the same period and mindset. Anne Hutchinson even makes an appearance. Martha’s Vineyard was a distant place in the 1650s but not removed from the narrowness of Puritan provincialism.
Bethia and Caleb, a teenage girl and a native young man. You will fall in love with them both as you travel on their personal journey, guided beautifully by Bethia’s narrative.
Whether historical novel or fiction, Caleb’s Crossing is further testament that some independent thinkers who came to America during the Great Migration would ultimately prevail over the rigid and strident Puritans.
British historical novelist Philippa Gregory in her foreword to Anya Seton’s Katherine is correct in identifying Seton among those writers who ” Dominated historical fiction following World War II.” In the opinion of Gordon’s Good Reads, Seton’s historical novel Katherine , a huge best seller in the 1950s , is perhaps her very best. Katherine is without doubt a love story, a romantic novel indeed, but the attention to the detailed setting in Medieval England in the 1300s , gives this book high marks as a classic historical novel. Just as she did with Winthrop Women, Seton traveled to the novel’s setting and has marvelously recreated a world that only a novelist of her calibre could bring to life.
Katherine , from rags to riches , Knights in shining armor ( John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster), serfs, England’s feudal system, bastard children, the Black Death, kept woman, love triumphs! All of the elements of a great romantic novel are here but with page after page the reader is placed in a time and place of Fourteenth Century squalor, chivalry and treachery amid riches , castles and jeweled crowns beyond imagination. Arranged marriages enthroned Kings an Queens including 12-year-old King Richard, while the lower classes begin an epoch march to freedom, long before Cromwell and Henry the Eighth dashed all hopes of equality. Seton gets the history right and delivers the lesson within the framework of a wonderful love story well outside the confining lines of a text-book. Add to this novel the poetry and presence of Geoffrey Chaucer!
Put Katherine on your reading list. Anya Seton ( 1906-1990), through all of the years will, never disappoint. See my previous reviews here at gordonsgoodreads of Seton’s Winthrop Women and Dragonwick. Also by Anya Seton: Avalon, Devil Water, Foxfire, Green Darkness and My. Theodosia.