Friday, April 25, 2008
I have always been a fan of historical fiction. When I think back to my favorite books as a young girl or look through old boxes of my books, this is so clear to me though I don't think I realized it until I was an adult. I prefer books about women, am partial to books about London - throw in a prostitute and squalor and I'm in. I don't enjoy tales that are especially romantic or melodramatic. I am interested in how people lived - what life was like.
This is why I was so thrilled when Harper Collins offered me a copy of Sally Gunning's latest novel, Bound. Alice Cole is seven years old when she crosses the Atlantic from London to Boston with her family. When the ship reaches Boston, only she and her father remain of their family and Alice is bound by her father into indentured servitude to the Morton family. Mr Morton is kind to Alice and apart from doing hard work her life is not unpleasant. When Mr Morton's daughter leaves to marry, Alice goes with her and her time remaining to serve becomes the property of her new master. Alice finds herself in danger in this home and runs away. She stows away on a boat to Satucket on Cape Cod and is taken in by the Widow Berry. Here Alice works hard but lives in fear of her secrets being discovered. The life that Alice builds in Satucket is jeopardized and it takes every bit of her strength and bravery to find her way again.
Bound is just the sort of historical fiction I love. I thought the characters were interesting and multifaceted. There was a fascinating plot that kept me turning pages. There was a small amount of romance that did not overshadow the main storyline. What I enjoyed the most, though, was reading about life in New England in 1764 with the controversy of taxation without representation in the background. I learned not only about the politics and legal processes of the time, but also what sort of work was done in the home including how cloth was made, what sorts of food were eaten and what life was like for women.
I have not yet read Sally Gunning's previous novel, The Widow's War which is the story of the Widow Berry. I certainly plan to, and look forward to seeing what Gunning writes next. While this story wrapped up nicely, I could see the possibility of Alice turning up in Gunning's future work.