While Jeanne Baret is a fascinating subject and admirable heroine for any woman, the execution of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe suffers as Glynis Ridley interjects too much supposition for a woman who left virtually no paper trail. No one could possibly know her thoughts or her feelings, and yet that is precisely how Ms. Ridley fills the pages. There is a bit too much reading between the lines on firsthand accounts of the journey as it is, and the insertion of emotions and thought processes for a woman who will always remain a shadowy figure in history compounds the issue. Unfortunately, it is excellent historical research undone by the author’s personal feelings interspersed throughout the pages.
Wherever You Go is an interesting story of people searching – for answers, for forgiveness, for a sense of belonging – but ultimately forgettable. None of the characters really stand out as strong leads, and their actions are collectively a bit predictable and forced. Something as messy as race relations in Israel should not tie up into such a tidy bow as this does. Readers will appreciate the chance to learn more about the Israeli culture and daily battles against the Palestinians but feel that Joan Leegant continues to sugarcoat the issues and make them palatable for American readers. The entire novel left me feeling disappointed at the possibilities left unfulfilled.
In Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers presents a fascinating picture of women, especially poor women, in the 1600s. Their lack of options and their poor treatment at the hands of almost everyone will raise a reader’s ire. Unfortunately, Laure’s story is meant to be particularly poignant but rings slightly false given the surprisingly little character development. However, the descriptions of Paris and of the settlement of Quebec more than make up for the lapse in storytelling. This is better enjoyed from a historical perspective than it is for the overarching storyline. While it is definitely interesting, it is not necessarily one I would recommend to others.
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris is worth reading not for the fictional elements, which however delightful are stereotypical and therefore predictable, but for the historical elements which shine a bright spotlight on heretofore unknown or little-known facts of World War II. Ms. McMorris’ diligent research and unique personal understanding of the Nisei make history come alive again.