Historically fascinating and emotionally gripping: another success for Davies.

IMPASSIONED CLAY

A striking seventh novel from British scholar and critic Davies (Four Dreamers and Emily, 1997, etc.) examines the revolutionary passion of two women separated by 400 years.

When Olivia’s mother dies, the teenaged girl and her father acquiesce in the dead woman’s wish to be buried in the yard of Pinfold, the home that’s been in the family for generations. While digging a grave for the devout Quaker, the two come upon the remains of a 17th-century woman. More startling, and of particular interest to the archaeologists brought in, is the artifact she’s buried with: a scold’s bridle, a gruesome device of torture once used to silence troublesome women and heretics. For the stoic Olivia, fascination with the dead woman first serves as a distraction from the death of her mother, then turns into a more generalized obsession when she goes off to college and becomes a historian. Her unorthodox teaching methods and overt masculinity manner win her few friends, though the independent Olivia cares less about her contemporaries than about her mission to find the identity of the woman she unearthed all those years ago. When the skull of the woman identifies her as one Hannah Jones, Olivia begins searching in earnest. As historian/detective, she painstakingly uncovers documents that illuminate Hannah’s extraordinary life as one of England’s earliest Quaker proselytizers. With her “yoke-fellow” (wife and religious helpmate) Isabel Clarke, Hannah roamed the countryside as a religious and social anarchist, frequently tortured and imprisoned, until finally she was executed and buried in shame with the bridle. Using “found” documents, Davies builds an exacting portrait of the turbulent time and instills a quiet majesty in her subjects. Fierce, bewitching Hannah, humble Isabel, even misanthropic Olivia—all lend a compelling dignity to this little gem.

Historically fascinating and emotionally gripping: another success for Davies.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-7043-4659-1

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Women’s Press/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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