Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Book Review: A Gathering of Days

I haven't posted a book review in a while. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that I haven't actually finished reading a complete book in a while. I am currently reading quite a lot, and this will hopefully be the first of many completed--and subsequently reviewed--books of 2019.

Today I am reviewing a novella called A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos. Quite a mouthful with that subtitle, so we'll just call it A Gathering of Days.

So what is this book about? Ignoring the fact that the title seems pretty self-explanatory, here is what it's all about:

Catherine's mother has died, following the birth of an infant son, and when her father decides to remarry, Catherine faces painful changes, not the least of them in herself.

It is a novella, which only leaves so much room for plot and character development, and it is also in journal form, which leaves even less room. With that being said, what were my first impressions of this book? I enjoyed it. I wasn't enthralled by it, but I certainly wasn't bored either.

It is a historical novel, which is one of my favorite genres to read and write about. The characters are vivid, despite having limited scenes due to the nature of short stories and journal entries. The main character and the person writing the journal entries that are the reader's window into the story is Catherine Hall. She is a fierce, playful, clever, and kind fourteen-year-old girl caught between childhood and adulthood. And while this is true of most teenagers, it is more striking in her case as she has had to step up and fill her mother's shoes. Catherine's voice is quite an entertaining one to hear a story from, and her wit and kindness come through quite clearly. The other characters, Catherine's friends and family, are delightfully portrayed through Catherine's eyes.

Joan Blos also does a remarkable job of slipping in historical facts through Catherine's simple explanation of daily life and of various farm tasks and festivals she attends. The reader is able to learn a lot about the time period by simply living with Catherine and without excessive info-dumps.

The plot, while relatively simplistic, is artfully crafted. Blos also touches on potentially controversial topics as Catherine interacts with a runaway slave and various other aspects of 19th century American politics are introduced throughout the story. And yet, Blos never preaches her own views of the topic in any way. The characters themselves come to their own conclusions, of which none are precisely the same, and the reader is allowed to make their own decisions on the subject.

The writing itself is delightful. Catherine's speech is quaint and simple, and yet Blos manages to be brilliant despite this.

Would I read this book again? Probably. It is perhaps not high on my 'read again' list, but it is well worth a second glance.

Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely. Go and read, my friends. You will not be disappointed.

And in the meantime,

Happy Writing, everybody!

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