1934 ‘A striking picture of the hardships of that era’. @CathyRy reviews #HistoricalFiction The Unveiling Of Polly Forest by @CWhitneyAuthor @steffercat

Today’s team review is from Cathy. She blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading The Unveiling Of Polly Forrest by Charlotte Whitney

The Unveiling of Polly Forrest is set in Michigan in 1934 during the Great Depression and presents a striking picture of the hardships of that era. For the rural farming communities times were extremely tough. The prices for crops dropped so much that some farmers were left with no choice but to either sell up or lose their farms to foreclosure. There were no luxuries like indoor plumbing, extra money for clothes or anything but the most basic foods.

Polly lives with her husband, Sam, on the farm next to that of her sister, Sarah and brother-in-law, Reverend Wesley Johnson. Polly is young, pretty and immature, preoccupied with her own situation and not at all cut out out to be a farmer’s wife. She’s only been married a short time and the considerate and agreeable man she fell in love with has been replaced by a controlling bully. When her husband is killed in a freak accident Polly is at her sister’s house but that fact doesn’t seem to exclude her from suspicion due to the nature of the death.

‘The elephant in the room, of course, was that everyone in the congregation had seen Polly’s bruises and heard her story about falling off the hay wagon when she broke her ribs. I was sure it remained the main topic of conversation. Maybe Samuel Forrest was a cruel husband, but Polly, “Pushy Polly,” as Sarah had often nicknamed her, should not have rolled over and succumbed to his beatings, if that, indeed, had happened. Sarah and I had always been next door. She could have come to us for refuge at any time, day or night.’

The story is narrated from alternating first person perspectives — Polly, Sarah and Wesley, all flawed, well defined and complex. This drives the story and shows the individual points of view as events unfold. The investigation into Sam’s death begins to uncover much more that expected and puts the family in danger.

Sarah and Polly’s relationship is strained at times, more so from Sarah who had been, and perhaps still was, a little jealous of Polly. Both have their own differing versions of their childhood, but it was good to see the development of their characters as the story progresses. The twisty plot kept my interest throughout, it’s entertaining, sad in parts and the historical aspect is very informative — not only about the plight of the farmers but things like telephones with party lines and how people could listen in to everyone else’s phone calls.

There’s drama, heartbreak and several serious issues covered, and even if I didn’t quite see what Wesley’s fall from grace added to the story, I enjoyed it very much.

Desc 1

– Rural Michigan, 1934

When her new husband Sam perishes in a bizarre farm accident, would-be milliner Polly soon becomes the prime suspect in his murder. As she digs for evidence to clear her name, Polly falls into a sinister web implicating her in a nefarious crime ring being investigated by White House Police. Polly’s life and those of her family are at stake.

Narrated by Polly, her self-righteous older sister, Sarah, and Sarah’s well-meaning, but flawed husband Wesley, a Methodist minister, the story follows several twists through the landscape of the rural Midwest.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT 1930s American #HistoricalFiction THREADS by @CWhitneyAuthor

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here, https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Threads by Charlotte Whitney

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4 out of 5 stars

Threads is a set on a farm in Michigan during the Depression, about a family struggling to survive.  The novel is told in alternating first person points of view of the three daughters: Flora, who is seventeen, Nellie, the youngest, who is seven, and Irene, somewhere in the middle.  Nellie is a tad wild, with a vivid imagination; Irene is a rather smug goody-goody on the surface, but is clearly suffering from ‘middle-child syndrome’, while Flora is very much the ‘big sister’, nearly an adult, who sees how the world works outside the concerns of the other two.  Each sister’s character is clearly defined, with her own distinctive voice.

The novel is primarily concerned simply with the way of life of that place and time; it is character rather than plot-driven, an illustration of the family’s world and their fears, joys and struggles.  These people were POOR.  If you’ve never dined on potatoes every night, or looked on a bean sandwich as a treat, you should never think of yourself as hard-up again!  Within the girls’ narratives, Ms Whitney has shown us a larger picture of the country in the 1930s; they tell of the ‘train riders’; unemployed, itinerant young men who travelled the country by stowing away on trains, begging for food wherever they stopped.  The way the community pitched in to help each other.  The fears that consumed them all; if they couldn’t sell enough produce, they would lose their homes.

I found Flora’s chapters the most interesting as she was concerned not only her own insular world (what happened at school, etc) but talked about the way of life as a whole.  On occasion, though, Irene and Nellie would reveal much within their own childlike eye-view; this was done most skillfully.

If I have any criticisms, it’s just that I would have liked a bit more actual plot; events coming to a climax and then being resolved, at some point.  There is a little mystery concerning an event from the first chapter about which we don’t get the answer until the end, but I felt there were missed opportunities to make the story more of a page-turner.  However, I did enjoy it, throughout, and would most certainly recommend it as an insightful and highly readable look at this recent and still relevant time in America’s history.

Book description

It’s a boring, hardscrabble life for three sisters growing up on a Michigan farm in the throes of the Great Depression. But, when young Nellie, digging for pirate treasure, discovers the tiny blue-black hand of a dead baby, rumors begin to fly. Narrated by Nellie and her two older sisters, the story follows the girls as they encounter a patchwork of threatening circumstances and take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

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