Book Review | The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Hello bookish friends!

I hope you discovered something new this week. Although the week isn’t over yet, so there is still plenty of time to learn something new. This week’s book review is on The Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker.


“The defeated go down in history and disappear, and their stories die with them.”

The Silence of the Girls

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times, but re-tellings are some of my favorite stories to read. Hearing from the point of view of a side character in an otherwise well-known tale gives such fresh perspective. It’s also a way to find out about how the other characters and people lived, or what could have happened if they would have had more say. The Silence of The Girls is a re-telling of The Iliad (Trojan War) from the point of view of Briseis, one of the former queens of the many kingdoms in Troy, whose kingdom is conquered by the one and only Achilles. And OH MY GOSH, my heart was breaking into a million pieces just imagining how the women and children were being treated.


They’re the warriors, with their helmets and armour, their swords and spears, and they don’t seem to see our battles– or prefer not to. Perhaps if they realized we’re not the gentle creatures they take us for their own peace of mind would be disturbed?”

The Silence of the Girls

If any of you ever read the Iliad or taken a Humanities course on classicism or Greek mythology, or even watched the Brad Pitt version of Troy, then you KNOW how this story ends. Despite that, while reading I was honestly at the edge of my seat. I knew what was going to happen but because it was Briseis telling the story (and at some points Achilles and Patroclus), the story was fresh and enlightening. There were times when I doubted what would happen. There is a lot of foreshadowing on Achilles part, and at times I felt as Briseis did, conflicted. I wanted to feel bad for Achilles, and at times I did. But remember these are women who were ripped from their homes, abused of, and treated as things with no thoughts or feelings. I was torn from being able to fully grieve the Greek warriors and despising them. This makes the story all the more real though and makes us really think how history is told throughout time.



“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’s story; and I’d failed. Because, make no mistake, this was his story– his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter. Here I was, again, waiting for Achilles to decide when it was time for bed, still trapped, still stuck inside his story, and yet with no real part to play in it.”

The Silence of the Girls

Who is telling the story matters because the person telling the story paints it with the colors that they personally saw and experienced, not the person next to them. Lin Manuel had a point in the song “Who Tells Your Story” as Briseis says many times in her narrative as well. She realizes many times that the women who experienced the war, it will never be their story, it will be Achilles, or Odysseus, or even the scumbag Agememnon. This is why these stories are so important. The women and children suffered, immensely and although this is fictional, it isn’t any less real. We need to hear the other sides story if we are ever going to be able to paint a picture of an event fully.


“What will people make of us, the people of those unimaginable distant ties? One thing I do know: they won’t want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery. They won’t want to be told about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls. They won’t want to know we were living in a rape camp. No, they’ll go for something altogether softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.”

The Silence of the Girls

Despite the agony and the utter hopelessness of the situation, the women are resilient. They are strong in the only ways they know how to be. I highly recommend this book. I’m probably going to add it to my Top Shelf books because I believe it will be one I turn to time and time again.

Until next time my bookish friends.

Read Something Wonderful & Stay Curious.
Gisela

Lit Chicks December Read | The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton 💕

Hi Friends! 

I hope your December is magical and peaceful. If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas! If you celebrate anything else then I wish you a joyous season! Woo!

Carla and I are back with a Regency-era romance this month and we must say it was uniquely entertaining. It’s an old-timey romance with all the trimmings: an uber smart heroine, a stuck up duke (he changes we promise), a creepy villain, and endless hijinx.

Enjoy friends!

xoxo

Book Review: The Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham

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“I am only twenty. How can someone like me really help anyone?”

Hello Friends.

There are very few times when a book leaves me completely speechless. Or at least vocabulary escapes me and I can’t seem to put together a coherent thought on what I just read because I have been so affected by what I just read. I also feel like I get this way everytime I read a historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II. Just when you think you know most of what happened, there is something new to discover, and I think that is what calls to me from this particular type of genre.

For those of you who do not know, and it may seem odd, I absolutely adore historical fiction, but I especially love historical fiction that takes place during World War II. I know there are plenty of time periods, events, cultures in other times of the world that are very much important and I love reading about them as well, but I do not know what it is about WW2 that completely captures my attention, my fascination. Perhaps it is because how wide this war’s reach was and how many lives it altered – to the most important political leader, to the smallest soldier or child or sister or spy. Everyone was involved and I think this is why I find it fascinating – there are thousands of stories of resilience no matter what class, race, gender… so many stories we have yet to discover… and I want to read them all.

I’m sorry I have yet to speak about the book friends, but The Lines We Leave Behind in lamest terms… messed me up. I’m a mess. It was an extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman who finds herself in incredibly difficult circumstances. And although her story is fiction, it is rooted in fact – there are those, real people who probably had similar experiences and are in fact real. This book is historical fiction, but also mystery, thriller, suspense. Our main player, Maud or Amber (since she goes back and forth) finds herself in an unbearable situation (in an insane asylum) after the war and deals with what I can imagine many after the war experienced as PSTD. But because she was also a woman, it was handled horrendously different from her male counterparts.

Guys, again, this book left me shaking. I could not believe what I was reading and I was filled with hope and rage and hope and rage and oh my goodness this roller coaster of emotions was a lot, but so worth it. Read it. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

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“Of course you don’t forget. But you cross that bridge and you can’t cross back to where you stood before. You keep marching, that’s all you can do.”

The darkest of secrets, betrayals, forbidden romance, and MURDER. What else can you expect or want when you put together a cast of unruly characters on a secluded island in summer. My second Beatriz William novel and I AM OBSESSED.

The story centers around Miranda and her interactions amongst the higher class summer vacationers, and the year-rounder islanders who serve them. Miranda’s mother marries into a higher class family in 1951 and what ensues is a clash as the two classes collide (that’s a tongue twister). Miranda must consolidate her growing feelings for the son of a fisherman whilst balancing the act of a new society girl, a role she never thought she would play. There are three storylines – Miranda in 1951 when she first arrives on the island, 1969 when Miranda returns to the island after 18 YEARS, and 1930 from the point of view of Bianca, a young Portuguese girl who has so much more to do with the story than you first believe.

Friends, I got through the first half of the book in one night because I 👏could👏 not 👏put👏 it 👏down.👏 You would think you would get confused with so many storylines but no, Williams crafted a seamless story that had me at the edge of my seat as secret after secret is revealed. Williams was able to tap into the nitty gritty emotions and the relationships that bind us no matter how much we yearn to break free and the main protagonist, Miranda was my absolute favorite, a real “star in the sky.” Class does play a major role in this book, and it’s interesting to see how the characters interact with each other despite the social divides.

Side Note: The Shakespeare quotes sprinkled throughout the novel were brilliant. I’m no Shakespeare expert but I can enjoy the bard. 

My written words don’t do justice for how I feel about this book. I was left speechless last night at 1:00 in the morning.

“Promise me something,” he said. “Don’t ever let them keep you down. “Those bastards, don’t let them change you.”

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If you’ve read The Summer Wives or any other book by Beatriz Williams, let me know and we can fangirl together because my heart is so full right now!

What to Read After | Next Year in Havana

I think I mentioned this in my previous review, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again – historical fiction is one of my favorite genres out there. I’ve always been a history gal, always looked forward to my history classes. Where everyone else was snoozing through the series The Blue and The Grey in 7th grade, I was devouring every minute of it and sobbing over Jonas and Mary’s tragic love story (sorry if I ruined it for you). It was this depiction, among other books, in all its flawed glory that showed me that you can give even more meaning to history to people when you put it in a familiar emotional context for people to understand.

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Look at what a stud muffin John Hammond is.

When an author forces the reader to stand where a regular person stood amidst the turmoil of an event in history, it forces the reader to be emotionally involved. Next Year in Havana did that for me as well. I’m not ready to let go of the high of reading that book just yet, and if you aren’t either, I’ve included my picks on what to read next.

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This book was the first book I read this year (2018) and it changed EVERYTHING. In the main protagonist, Evelyn you get the same spirit as Elisa. They both work hard and love harder. The backdrop is set around the same era as Next Year in Havana and includes all the mystery and intrigue as well!
  2. Lady Be Good by Amber Brock – I have not read this book yet, but it’s on my radar after I spied on it in the bookstore. From New York to Miami to Cuba in the 1950’s, I believe this book will have the same whirlwind feel of Next Year in Havana.
  3. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras – Okay, bear with me, so this book has nothing to do with Cuba. With that being said it is still historical fiction and takes place in 1990’s Colombia during a time of political unrest. This book comes out next week and I’m excited to pick it up and learn about something I have only slightly heard about.
  4. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway – For those of you who like the classics (although that term can be problematic), Hemingway sweeps you away into adventure, bootlegging, romance, and yes, Cuba. I read this years ago as a high school student and hardly remember the entire plot. I’m interested to read it now with more understanding than I did as an awkward teenager.

Let me know if you plan on reading any of those books or read Next Year in Havana. I’m always happy to fangirl with you! To end this post I’ve included a scene from Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Book Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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“What does it say about a place that people will risk certain death to leave it?” 

After reading this book my heart is nostalgic for a country I have no connection to, and it breaks for those that do. Chanel Cleeton wrote a loving story during two turbulent times in the history of Cuba. Although, after reading this book it’s hard not to say that the times in between have been a complete disaster, a crime against humanity.

I absolutely adore historical fiction with all my heart and enjoy when authors write dates and facts into books so that you can know when and where things are happening. Cleeton does this in a brilliant way. She gives us the facts without taking away the emotional context of the story. If anything it only adds to the drama of the story and keeps had my heart racing trying to determine the outcome (even though we know what happened in history). As a reader, you learn everything you need to know and more to understand the circumstances that Marisol finds herself in while traveling to the land her grandmother was exiled from.

The book goes back and forth between Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa’s point of view to Marisol’s (in the present), and it was interesting to say just how alike the two women from different time periods, are. Their actions mirrored each other, without them even realizing it.

I’m an advocate for historical fiction. I truly believe when you put the emotional context into historic events, people understand, people empathize. For anyone not versed in the Cuban Revolution or in the precarious relationship the United States has with Cuba, this is definitely a good book to read. And for my romance gals, there is plenty of swoon-worthy moments as well.

“Do we all dare to hope for more? Of course.”

I give it 5 stars. If you want to fangirl with me about Next Year in Havana, please reach out to me!

Gisela’s review of Cocoa Beach

“I was not falling in love; I was certainly not falling in love. Love was a fiction, written by Nature to disguise her real purpose. This sick, breathless sensation in my belly was only biology. This heat on my nerves. Only the instinct to procreate. Or something else, maybe. The recognition of imminent danger.”

I.Did.Not.Know.Who.To.Trust. (Now read that again but clap between each word because that’s EXACTLY how I described this book to my friend).

I was expecting one thing, and got another but in a very good way. I was expecting an easy beachy read for the long weekend and was I mistaken. Coco Beach is a complete mystery filled with twists and turns at every corner. Alternating between the past (World World One) and the present (1922), Virginia’s story unfolds throughout the book, and each chapter leaves at a cliff-hanger, which begs you to read more to find out what the heck happened.

Being from Florida myself, and also very much into history, it is extremely interesting reading about Florida in the days when it was still this wild land filled with strange animals, fruit, storms, and people. So many familiar names were dropped throughout the book- Maitland, Winter Park, Miami- places that I either drive through all the time or have passed by before. At one point, I was on my way to the beach, driving past present-day Maitland and reading about it in 1922 when it was just all orange groves! Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe this.

If you love historical fiction, intrigue, mystery, the jazz age, bootleggers or all of that and more, read this. After that ending, I’m looking forward to reading more of Beatriz Williams’s books.

Gisela’s review of Cocoa Beach