Sunday, December 30, 2012

Life's What Happens

The strength so this writer lies in her ability to create authentic characters, developing them to the point where we care about them very deeply. Life's What Happens is set at Kent State University in Ohio in 1969/1970 and its characters are a group of fraternity brothers. This is the period of time at Kent State when the US nationally reinstated the military draft to get enough young men into military service to serve in the Viet Nam war. The fraternity brothers followed are predominantly seniors whose lives will be irrevocably changed when the numbers are drawn that will allow them to either finish their lives on a normal course or will send them to serve and quite possibly die in the rice paddies and jungles of Viet Nam. How this affects their lives and the lives of their girlfriends and friends is beautifully and accurately portrayed. The horrific event of the National Guard being called to quell peace protests on campus that led to the deaths of four students at the hands of the National Guard and the subsequent closing of the campus during finals is integrated into the story in a way that neither supports nor condemns the deaths of those students. The book is very well written with wonderful characters, memories of the good times they shared in college and the sorrow at the changes in their lives wrought by events outside of their control. I do suggest that the author check out the erroneous use of Marshall Law in the place of Martial Law, the law invoked that allowed the National Guard to be present on that fateful day in 1970.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Wind from Entouhoron

The Wind from Entouhonoron
This particularly good piece of historical fiction is set on the shores on Lake Ontario at the time of the War of 1812. Although British and American forces coalesce for major naval battles that will likely decide the war, normal life concerns continue to be of utmost importance to the average people living around Lake Ontario. Take Jake Eastland, for example. Jake was raised as the adoptive son of Mrs. King. Now that she has died, apparently intestate, an unscrupulous barrister, Edgerton Smythe has descended on the estate, serving Jake notice that taxes are due, liens are against the property and that Smythe fully intends to purchase the estate at a small fraction of its value. Jake has no money and is desperate for a way to save the property both for himself and for his friends, the Indian natives who live on and around the property. Believe it or not, things get complicated only AFTER that point, when Jake is introduced to British naval commanders, expatriates of the French aristocracy looking for a "treasure" of their own, Jake's drunken father who abandoned him early in life, pirate kings, a child criminal. and colorful characters of every type and description. It is the fascinating, colorful characters that are the strength of this novel. To people a novel with so many colorful characters who avoid being stereotypes and carry the foibles of real people is Art Tirell's forte. When you add in the far reaching scope of the story, the complexity of the plot and subplots, The Wind From Entouhonoron is a formidable novel. Well written, fast paced and lengthy enough to really sink your teeth into (400+ pages), this is rollicking good historical fiction. I understand and appreciate the title but am a little concerned that it may fail to attract that number of readers that a book this good deserves.