Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review -- A Violet Season


A Violet Season: A NovelA Violet Season: A Novel by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source:  Copy provided by the author (I was not compensated in any other way for my review)
Genre:  Historical fiction
Sensitive reader:  detailed descriptions of breastfeeding; prostitution; women's private parts

Steeped in the rich history of pre-turn of the century violet farming, A Violet Season, explores the conflicts and pressures imposed on the Fletcher family, Hudson Valley violet farmers, who are trying to survive on a meager agrarian income.

Patriarch Frank Fletcher has been relegated to a farm manager by his property owning brothers, and is bitter and angry at his demotion. His wife, Ida, in addition to working the farm and greenhouses, also works as a “wet nurse” – nursing other women’s babies in an attempt to earn additional income to keep their family solvent. Their children, Alice, Reuben and Oliver, all teenagers, are doing their part to help their family.

But Frank isn’t satisfied with their efforts or their monetary return – so to maximize the earning power of his family, Frank expels Alice from their home and forces her to work in a brothel on the Lower East side of Manhattan.

What proceeds from Frank’s decision is a family wrecked by lies, abuse, and exploitation.

What initially was a novel about the discord between the Fletcher family, really evolved into a novel about the inequality and subjugation of women.

Author, Kathy Leonard Czepiel, does a heroic job in casting the plight of the Fletcher women. It is crystal clear that in 1898, neither Ida nor Alice had many options outside of their current roles as mother and marriageable-aged daughter.

But the evil by which Frank treats his daughter, all in the name of money, was horrific. I haven’t hated a character in a book this much since the dad in The Poisonwood Bible.

This was a tough book for me – the author’s prose, story thread, and characters were credible and authentic. But when you spend so much of your reading time cursing a particular character and wanting to wring his neck, it’s hard to see the overall scope of the story.

Fortunately, the author’s ending helped soothe the volatile feelings I was experiencing, and gave me hope for both Ida and Alice and their future.

A richly narrated book – but not one that leaves a pleasant feeling afterward.

Thank you to Ms. Czepiel (see-peel) for allowing me to read her novel.