Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Reviews: Lincoln and The Postmistress

Review 1) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

You know there are hours of your life spent reading that you will never get back when a glance at the acknowledgment reveals an author's sources to be Wikipedia and Google. As a reader, I was more shocked by the authors blatant revelation of his lack of research than the fact that it was so painfully obvious that academic research was lacking. Essentially, it's the life story of Abraham Lincoln, explaining the death of his mother and those whom he loved and lost in his life as victims of vampires. After his mother's death, young Abe commits to killing every vampire in America. Trained by a "good vampire" Abe learns to track and kill his enemies. Eventually his efforts results in the Civil War, since southerners were in a conspiracy to keep slaves to feed vampires.
Yes, I am a naive history geek who expected more from this title. Sure, I knew it was fiction. No, I didn't expect a completely authentic biography. But seriously, I did expect more. With all of the semi-credible civil-war historical fiction out there, I expected Grahame-Smith to display a more scholarly approach to his work. Instead, the reader is filled with the same high school history stereotypes of North and South that completely ignore the complexity of the situation. He fills the pages with pseudo-history in a made for Hollywood fashion. While explanation of what happened at Roanoke is imaginative, the poorly photoshoped photos do little to add to the story's credibility as conceivably possible. In short, this work joins Meyer's Saga in the long line of vampire writing that is an insult to the term "literature." Thank heavens that at least Lincoln's vampires don't sparkle.
Grade: D-

Review 2: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Compared to the first read, this one could only prove better. Luckily this historical fiction shows indications of author invested research, adding credibility to both the story and strengthening the reader's bonds to the characters.
The story focuses on seemingly unrelated people and places shortly before the US enters WWII. A doctor from a small town in Massachusetts travels to a London under Nazi attack. There he meets and American radio correspondent shortly before his own death. The radio correspondent travels Europe, looking for a way to voice the situation of Jewish refugees, the doctor's wife awaits the return of her husband. This story is filled with heartbreaking scenes and the reader becomes involved in small town life.

I smiled, I cried, I ached for each of these incredibly believable characters. Again, not 100% historically accurate, though the author openly acknowledges and explains the logic behind her shortcomings. Although the story is more about the characters than the moment in history they share, they interact in a firmly researched realistic environment.

Grade: B+ StumbleUpon