Day: March 15, 2014

Review of ‘Touched With Fire’

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Ellen Craft was a real person. A slave, the daughter of her owner, she was given to her half-sister as a wedding present. After she married a fellow slave, William Craft, the two of them cooked up a plan to escape to freedom. Christopher Datta, in his first novel, offers a fictionalized version of Craft’s life in Touched With Fire.

Datta’s account, though fiction, is based in large part on the true story of this couple and their intense desire, not only for freedom, but for the chance to live their lives as they see fit. A compelling story, it takes the reader into the emotions of a tortured period in American history in ways that a mere recitation of facts could never accomplish. Datta gets into the minds and hearts of his characters, through credible dialogue and detailed descriptions that make the history come alive. Not only do you come away from this book with a better understanding of the corrosive effects of slavery on society and people, but an appreciation of the power of love and faith.

But, Datta doesn’t stop there. The middle part of the book, an account of Ellen Craft’s adventure masquerading as a man and enlisting in the Union Army, contains battle scenes that not only portray the details of war in rich color, but gets into the minds of those who fought those battles.

If you like historical fiction, this is a book that you must read. If you’re a first-time reader, it is even more important that you read it – to see how history can be made to come alive.

Four Stars to Datta for this first book, and I look forward to his next effort.

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Review of ‘The House of Three Murders’

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A decrepit old house, The House of Three Murders, sits ominously in a thicket in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The site of a gruesome mutilation years before, the house sits almost forgotten until the lives of five people intersect with it on a November night in 1960.

Gary J. George’s The House of Three Murders takes the reader on a wild journey through the lives of these five, mainly from the point of view of Charlie Merriman, a young Mojave Indian, and Aeden Snow, a high school student. George uses an interesting technique to tell his tale – Merriman’s story is told in third person, while we hear directly from Snow. Instead of being disruptive, as such point of view switches often are, this method of telling the story helps to heighten the tension as George adeptly weaves the threads of two disparate lives together to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion.

The author does a remarkably effective job of painting small-town life, and his dialogue is spot on in pulling us into the narrative. The House of Three Murders is a tale well-told.