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A Reader of Fictions: The Leave Taking - Howard Shore

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Leave Taking - Howard Shore

The Wicked and the Just

Author: J. Anderson Coats
ARC Acquired from: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

First Sentence: "Tonight at supper, over capon and relish, my father ruined my life."

The first thing that struck me about this book was what a complete brat Cecily is. I guess this should not have been surprising with a name like Cecily (literary reference: The Importance of Being Earnest). The book begins with her complaints about having to move to Wales (god forbid!), where there will be a bunch of savages and not a single marriage prospect. Admittedly, moving is a huge deal when you're young and will have to leave behind everything you know, but it is does not make you exactly "like the saints who were sent into the desert to be killed by infidels."

Of course, the second chapter comes from the viewpoint of a Welsh girl who has to serve this English family. After that first chapter, it is so satisfying that this girl calls her a brat. Spot on! Gwenyfar and I spent at least half of the book wanting to do nothing more than slap Cecily silly. Thankfully, she does grow as a person somewhat throughout the book.

However, she doesn't necessarily make as much progress as I was expecting. The way things play out is likely more realistic. Having to read so many pages from her insufferable perspective was definitely a pain, and I wondered why Coats set the book up that way. Eventually, I did figure it out, and felt kind of dumb for not having caught on earlier. Oh well. Cecily's character being the way it is shows starkly just how terrible the situation in Wales is, if even she can feel pity for the locals.

Except for the narrators, I loved The Wicked and the Just. The historical period and subject covered, that of the English domination of Wales, is one I have never encountered in fiction before. Getting to learn something from fiction is always a pleasure. Who says you can only learn from non-fiction? To those people, I say PSHAW.

Unlike a lot of YA fiction, Coats focuses on social issues and family relationships, rather than romance. There are some elements of romance, but they definitely take a back seat, and aren't even necessarily romantic, so much as part of the social order. I definitely recommend this for readers in search of realistic, well-written historical fiction.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "God save me ere I have any babies. They are grabby, clingy creatures who steal your figure and always want a ribbon or a wooden sword. And who sometimes make you die bearing them."

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Blogger April (BooksandWine) said...

YES! I wanted to deck Cecily most of the time while reading this. And okay, while she makes some character growth, I was like yeah, she's still annoying.

And Gwen (shortened because I legit can't spell her full name) I loved her and that she was a survivor and taking care of family. I definitely had a lot of understanding for her resentment.

AND THE BEST PART? ALL OF THE HISTORY. I am such a nerd for historical fiction. And like you? I like learning things while I read. Yay learning. :-)

April 28, 2012 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Agreed with all of that. I just don't know why Gwen couldn't have had more of the story. It was legit like 80% Cecily. I would have been happier if I'd spent less of the story wanting to bitch slap someone. Increase it to 50/50 and this probably would have gotten a 4.5/5.

I think I respect somewhat that Cecily didn't grow too much as a character, because that's what someone would do irl, let's be honest. BUT it was not nearly so much fun to read. haha.

April 28, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Also, she's another one of these characters that thinks she's a great person, but totally is not. I HATE that. Like, fine, be a bitch, but own it. Then I'll think you're sassy and great.

April 28, 2012 at 9:33 AM  

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