Week ending February 17, 2017
Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. 7 CDs. 7:49 hrs. Brilliance Audio. Nov. 2016. ISBN 9781531837204. $19.99. digital download. F
Doctorow (1931–2015) reads his classic historical novel (first published in 1975) about the opening days of the 20th century with a dispassionate voice that doesn’t stress, emphasize, or otherwise try to influence the listener. He lets the story speak for itself as he narrates as if he were reading a newspaper describing the intermingling of famous people with the ordinary, barely named fictional ones—Mother, Father, Brother, Tateh, etc. Brief intersections hint at unknown potential: Tateh sketching a portrait of Evelyn Nesbit while Freud watches from a car; Houdini having automobile trouble near Father’s house; and learning that Father was to accompany Robert Peary to the North Pole. The new century was a time of wonder and change—cars, airplanes, high-risk escapes—and of culture clashes with the poor, blacks, and immigrants that result in injustice, violence, and death.
Verdict The fascinating, ironic, and fanciful strands that Doctorow pulls from history and imagination are both humorous and horrific. Hearing the story in the author’s own voice is the best way to read this book. Highly recommended.—Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA
Vinet, Lynette. Knight’s Caress. 8 CDs. 10 hrs. Dreamscape Media. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781520049175. $59.99. ROMANCE
The year 1067, following Saxon England’s defeat by the Normans, finds the former Lord Tedric of Woodrose Keep dispossessed of his estate, sheltering his followers in a cave. The favored Norman now residing at Woodrose, Lady Amberlie de Fontaine, juggles her own miseries: scheming in-laws, childless after five years of marriage, and her husband slain, reportedly by Tedric. Dreading King William’s choice for her next husband, Amberlie nurtures her hatred of “Tedric the Barbarian” from a safe distance. When Tedric is advised that Normans have taken his sister captive, he retaliates by kidnapping Amberlie, and their fierce physical attraction threatens to overpower their hard-won enmity. Originally published in 1993, Vinet’s sexy tale lacks character development but delivers dramatic plot twists textured with medieval conventions (notably, the bridal custom of the “morning after” gift). Elaine Claxton narrates compellingly, with English and French accents that occasionally sound campy but reinforce what Vinet does best: mirror the country’s overturned allegiances, rampant mistrust, and ill-informed prejudices in Tedric and Amberlie’s stormy relationship.
Verdict Especially for readers who prefer love scenes that are torrid yet phrased in more genteel terms, this diverting historical romance represents a solid choice for libraries collecting to please genre fans.—Linda Sappenfield, Round Rock P.L., TX