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Tag Archives: American Indians

The Chamomile by Susan F. Craft

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The Chamomile by Susan F. Craft

I wasn’t all that sure I’d like this book when I started to read it. It seemed a little too simple and it drug a little bit. However, a couple chapters in the story line really picked up. I was actually impressed with how much happened in the book without it seeming packed with ridiculous events pilled on top of each other.

The story follows Lilyan and is told solely from her point of view. She lives in Charleston with her brother, Andrew, and her companion, Elizabeth. After her brother is arrested for joining the Patriots, Elizabeth begins to work as a spy and pass along information. She meets Nicholas, a Patriot captain, and the two have a slow building, cleanly written love story.

The author did a fabulous job of incorporating some history into the story line. You didn’t learn a whole lot of history through the book, but you got enough to get a sense for the time period, learn some interesting tidbits, and follow the story and its place in history. The story line moved at a great pace, not too fast and not too slow. After the first few chapters, which kind of dragged on a little bit, the content really propelled the story along. I can’t really say action because a lot of the book was talking and getting information.

The characters were quite complex for a shorter book. You got a real feel for the characters and their personalities right from the start which is somewhat difficult to do. The book also really pulled you in to what Lilyan is feeling throughout the story and you feel what she’s feeling and hoping for her dreams. It’s also not a book where you start yelling at the characters because they’re doing something stupid. You don’t really feel that they are acting counter-productively to their wish, which is what happens in some books. The events happen in a logical order and are plausible enough that you don’t start wondering if this could actually happen.

I strongly recommend this to people who like historical fiction. It’s supposed to be for teens and young adults, but it can be read by adults as well. The story is complex and this would be a great read to start historical fiction. There is a love story wrapped up in the more complex war story line. It’s also a clean book, so it would be good for anyone. There is some violence, but it’s not over-the-top and it’s in a normal context. There are some rough scenes so I probably wouldn’t recommend it for below middle school. It was a great book, but probably not a re-read.

My rating:

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One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

I was disappointed by this book. That’s not to say it was bad or had a bad story line and plot. No, my issues were with how the information and story were presented. The book is the story of a group of women that volunteer for a government program called the Brides for Indians. The goal is to meet a trade suggested by the Cheyenne chief Little Wolf that the Indians would get one thousand white brides for their warriors to help assimilate the Indians into white society in exchange for one thousand horses. The trade was agreed to in secret to avoid the public outrage and volunteers for the program were taken as regular volunteers and recruits from the lunatic asylums and prisons. May Dodd had been placed in a lunatic asylum for promiscuity by her family (i.e. she was living with a man as an unwed woman – the man was below her social class as well). When the offer came she took it and the story follows her and the other twelve or so women that were the first recruits.

It is an interesting book idea and the story unfolds in a good and interesting way. However, the story is supposed to be a series of journal entries and letters written by May Dodd. The whole time I was reading it, it did not feel like a woman writing it – it read like a man trying to write as a woman. The information presented was not what a woman would have focused on, it’s too logical and clear cut compared to how a woman would think, consider, decide, and write. You hear almost nothing about her pregnancy other than she is pregnant where a woman would have focused on this as well. Additionally, I was hoping to learn about how the Cheyenne lived, how they did things, etc. Unfortunately in the book, you get an overview. You know she learns to skin animals, butcher, cook with local vegetation, tan hides, and learn the language because she says she does. You don’t get any disgust, uneasiness, wonder, or any other emotion a woman would talk about in a diary, let alone any of the details. Also, you never feel like she has assimilated to the native culture even though the journal entries say she does. It is all just rather jarring.

I do give the author credit for a great story idea and a good plot. The story does have its interesting areas and when just looking at how the story unfolded, it is rather good. If you are looking for an interesting social read, this isn’t bad. There is an interesting band of women you come to love in the book. I did like the women that were described because they were so realistic. There are areas of graphic violence, so be prepared for that as well. However, if you have ever read anything about Indian life, it should not shock you.

My rating:

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