Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review -- Early Candlelight

Early Candlelight (Borealis)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars -- lovely writing, lovely story, less than stellar ending.

Book source:  Personal copy

Sensitive reader:  a wonderful love story without any objectionable material.

My adoration of Maud Hart Lovelace began late in life…as in a year ago when I discovered her juvenile writings (The Betsy-Tacy Series) through numerous book blogs. Our mother daughter book club devoured her first four books in rapid fashion.

After such an introduction, I’ve been eager to explore her other writings. Before Christmas I purchased her recently re-released copies of Carney’s House Party and Winona’s Pony Cart, Emily of Deep Valley, and Early Candlelight.

I’ve been keen on reading nostalgic old fashioned books as of late, so I picked up Early Candlelight last week.

Ms. Lovelace explores life on the Minnesota frontier at the turn of the 19th century. Her characters range from those families who reside within the walls of Fort Snelling, fur traders, local Indian tribes, Canadian settlers and voyageurs.

Deedee Dugay’s French descent family lives on the surrounding lands of Fort Snelling. A large, boisterous family, Deedee is the only girl in the company of many brothers. They have a harmonious relationship with the Indian tribes and with all their neighbors. The only ones they come into conflict with are the military leaders at the Fort who feel their trading of alcohol with the local tribes is creating tension that could escalate to violence, so they force her family to relocate, thus disturbing their family harmony.

Jasper Page is a well respected fur trader, who lives elegantly among the locals and enlists the Dugay sons to be a part of his many expeditions. Thus, Deedee becomes acquainted with Monsieur Page, and develops a lifelong love of him, in spite of his elite social class.

Ms. Lovelace develops a tremendous story of these frontiersmen and women. Her descriptions of Fort life– the parties they planned at the arrival of steamboats and the clothing that they wore – were amazing. Her attention to detail when describing the fashions of the time made me wonder if she had dreams of becoming a clothes designer in addition to a writer!

As she developed the relationship between Deedee and Mr. Page, I was ready to anoint this book the truly American Pride and Prejudice: strong willed, lower class beauty, falls for esteemed, handsome gentleman landowner. Their word play and interaction was enticing and longing. Would they or wouldn’t they end up together?

Then, just when I thought Ms. Lovelace’s story telling couldn’t exceed itself and a cacophony of fireworks were going to explode over these lovers – she ended the story. Flatly. Disappointingly.

So, I loved her writing – I loved the story – I loved the characters that she created – I loved her meticulous descriptions into early Minnesota frontier life – I just was so let down by the ending.

I’m still a huge fan, and can’t wait to read the other books I have, I just wish this one would have met my expectations.