Up for this week's review: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.
BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale
Why I bought this? I love Shannon Hale's work. I saw it on the shelf at the BN when it first came out and snatched it up. As I recall I did read through the inside of the dust jacket, but it was just for curiosity's sake. It had no bearing on whether I would purchase the book. Sold!
Synopsis: It's a retelling of a very obscure fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. It's completely made new--think Goose Girl. A lady, Saren, and her maid, Dashti, are shut up in a tower for seven years because Lady Saren refuses to marry her betrothed. Saren's father oversees the bricking in of the door and tells her that she has seven years to think about her disobedience. Dashti keeps a journal of what happens to them. Hope and danger come in the forms of two suitors who can only talk to them from the outside.
This book is so incredibly well done. I absolutely loved it! I know I always say that my reviews are based on how much enjoyment I get out of reading the book and not its literary merit, but this one has that too. The lyrical language is compelling. Shannon Hale is a master at crafting the words to fit her characters. The story is moving and funny and poignant. I'm planning on rereading it Feb.
My rating: *****
My 14 year old daughter's rating: ****
CS: 2 out of 10--This one is very clean. It gets a 2 for some mild violence. I would even let my 8 year old daughter read this one.
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN by Simon Winchester
Why I bought this? I was trolling the bookstore for something more grown up and the picture on the cover caught my eye, so I picked it up and thought the title sounded interesting. Then I read the subtitle: A tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. I love the OED. I read the back, and I had to get it to know the whole story. Sold!
Synopsis: This is a history that reads almost like fiction. It is meticulously researched. "The Professor," James Murray, oversaw the compiling of the definitions for the OED (This began at Oxford University in 1857). When he and his committee noticed that one particular man, a Dr. W.C. Minor, had made over 10,000 submissions (if you've ever read through the OED then you know just how huge that is), the committee felt he should be honored for his amazing contributions to the monumental dictionary. Murray found that he was an American Civil War veteran and locked away in an asylum for the criminally insane in Surry--a "madman."
This is an amazing history. Well written and fascinating--full of humor and sadness. Winchester did his homework and tells the story of a very troubled man who had a lot more to give to the world than just his insanity. His obsession with words helped keep him closer to sanity than just about anything else.
My rating: *****
CS: 7 out of 10--This is mostly for the situations with Minor. There are things that happen in the asylum that are very disturbing for those who are sensitive. I would recommend it to adults, but not kids. It would probably be alright for 17 and older. The details are all true and some of them are brutal.