Despite being in quarantine and stuck in bed a couple of weeks ago, being sick did give me the chance to read my holiday book. ‘Caleb’s Crossing’, by Geraldine Brooks, has been languishing on my bedside table since I bought it on my birthday in February. But not anymore!
The story is a fictional historical drama based on the factual details surrounding the circumstances of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University in the 1600’s. It is told through the eyes of the main character, Bethia, an ‘English’ girl, daughter of a Martha’s Vineyard minister whose main aim was to convert the Indians to Christianity.
Bethia is strong, intelligent and resourceful girl in a God fearing, strictly religious colonial community. She struggles to fit the accepted role deemed to be appropriate for women of the day and is conflicted with the contradictions she sees in her society.
It does seem that I have a penchant for historical drama at the moment because another recent read of mine, another birthday buy, was ‘Sarah Thornhill’, a sequel novel by Australian author Kate Grenville. I love Grenville’s writing; she uses language in a beautiful way and has a talent for evoking the Australian landscape. Her character, Sarah, is like Bethia, struggling with her allotted role in life on the edge of wilderness. Sarah, too, has encounters with the indigenous people of the area in which she lives, although her story is influenced by the underlying tragedy of the first book, ‘The Secret River’.
Both these books are brilliant reads and I recommend them wholeheartedly. Both have themes which ask some questions that most readers would find uncomfortable, and not just those in Australia. And both are written by Australians. Brooks is a now a resident of Martha’s Vineyard.
So, now what am I going to read?
Post holiday Edit: Lack of choice at our holiday destination led me to buy “The Slap” by another Australian, Christos Tsiolkas, and I have just finished the first ‘section’. I normally don’t like to buy the book after I have watched the movie/series, but in this case I was interested to see how the author initially developed the very unsettling themes. And it is good!