Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catching Up, Part 2

The following books were interesting, but somewhat disappointing.

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
While this book does relate a general biography of Galileo's later years and his struggles with the Church in contrast to his scientific discoveries and beliefs, it doesn't really address his daughter much beyond he living conditions in the convent. The story is told in a very straightforward way, mainly stating facts and inserting letters written from Sour Maria Celeste (the daughter) to her father, which primarily detail her hardships as a nun and asking her father for money. I enjoyed reading about the controversy Galileo endured with the church and the betrayal of his friend, who became Pope Urban VIII. But overall, the book was rather dry.

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
If you are reading this book to learn about William Blake, you will be sorely disappointed! In her previous novels, Ms. Chevalier uses an era, the culture and secondary characters to reveal the main character, but in this book you learn a lot about the fictional Kellaway and Butterfield families and about Philip Astley and his circus, but you learn almost nothing about Blake.
I like her writing style, the story is fun and easy to read and had it not been billed as historical fiction about Blake it would have gone over better.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Although I liked this book, I didn't love it. Mantel tackles a much told tale from a different perspective, telling the story of Henry VIII's discarding of his first wife to marry Anne Boleyn from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. The story begins with a brief history of Cromwell's youth and then follows his rise to becoming the right hand man to the King. I was intrigued by the debate between Henry and the Pope regarding nullifying his marriage, not realizing how lengthy the process was and all the negotiations that preceded that event. The author does a great job in keeping the star of the story as Cromwell, but also uncovering the nature of Henry, Anne, Catherine and many others who were close to the king and his court.
One big negative is that there are so many characters, many of them with the same name, that it is difficult at times to distinguish which Thomas or Mary or Henry the author is discussing. Sometimes a character is mentioned once, only to reappear 200 pages later and I had to go back in search of who this person was (not as easy on your Kindle). I also found this book to be a slow read, hundreds of pages with much of the same going on and never getting to "the good stuff," which I discovered half way through is in the sequel (helps to know in advance there is a book 2)! If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will like this segment of Henry's life.

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