The Tea Rose series by Jennifer Donnelly

The three books in this series, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose make up a marvelously engrossing family saga series. The series spans three generations of a couple of families during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although most of the series takes place in and around London, particularly London’s East End, some of the characters travel to America, Africa and Asia.the Winter Rose

The characters are rich and full of life. They experience despair and joy. They find love, lose it and find it again. I found myself really wanting things to come out all right for them. Usually it did, but sometimes it didn’t.

I listened to the Audible.com version of all three novels, narrated by Jill Tanner. While continuing to recover from my broken foot (still healing), I found myself subject to bouts of insomnia. These books kept me company and I cared more about the troubles of the characters than my own.

Highly Recommended for fans of General Fiction, Family Sagas and Romantic Historical Fiction.

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Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo

Publication Date: May 3, 2016 by Knopf. I listed to the Audible.com version narrated by Mark Bramhall.

Summary: Several years after the end of the first book, Nobody’s Fool, Sully is having heart problems and is nearly at death’s door, his landlady Mrs. Peoples is deceased and, the cop he once punched out for being an idiot, Doug Raymer, is Chief of Police. Vera runs the diner; her daughter is still having problems with her abusive ex-husband and Rub Squeers is still the runt of the litter.

This novel is a microcosmic look into the lives of the people of North Bath, New York, Unlike the first novel which featured Sully, this one mostly centers around Doug Raymer. Some of the characters we got to know in the first book have faded into the background.Everybody's Fool

Comments: While entertaining enough, Everybody’s Fool pales in comparison to Nobody’s Fool. The characters aren’t nearly as engaging and the book lacks some of the subtle humor present in the first novel.  I originally read Nobody’s Fool about 20 years ago. I wanted to refresh my memory, so I re-read/listened to Ron McLarty’s narration through Audible.com, then went on to Everybody’s Fool.

I just didn’t find myself as emotionally invested in the story. I don’t care if I ever hear about the town of Bath again. Despite all the tragedies in people’s lives, there was a glimmer of hope at the end of book one. I felt that hope was never present in book two. Well, one tiny bit at the end but not enough to make up for the rest of it.

As for the audio versions, I have to say that with McLarty’s “Sully voice” fresh in my mind, I had a hard time picking out Sully in Bramhall’s narration. The voices just weren’t as distinct. This may have colored my impression of the book somewhat.

Despite my less than glowing review, I am a fan of Richard Russo’s novels. There are a few I’ve never read, and I still plan to read them.

 

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

Publication Date: September 2003 by Canongate Books. Audio edition released May 2011, narrated by Jill Tanner.

Summary: In Victorian London, William Rackham spends his days in gentlemanly pursuits. In other words, he does very little besides drinking with his friends, writing pointless drivel and visiting prostitutes. His father, a perfume magnate, struggles to get his son to grow up and prepare to take over the factory.

William doesn’t take well to his father’s dictates, despite having his allowance cut off, putting his household financial straits. His wife, Agnes, a dreamy, innocent who suffers from poor mental and physical health, is forced to do without the life of luxury she grew up in, exacerbating her conditions.

The Crimson Petal and the White

William doesn’t appear to give a fig about any of this until he meets Sugar, a prostitute. While Sugar obviously appeals to his basest desires, William also finds deep satisfaction in talking to her. Although Sugar is self-educated, she has a sharp mind and can converse on a wide range of topics.

William eventually wants her all to himself and becomes her Sugar-Daddy (pun intended). He sets her up in his pied-à-terre with a generous allowance. All is well until Sugar, bored with inactivity, starts spying on the rest of William Rackham’s family.

Comments: This is a very long book (835 pages). I’m not sure how interested I would have been in the print edition, but it made for a great audio book. I looked forward to crawling under the covers at night and hearing more of Sugar’s story. Despite the length of the novel, I wanted even more of her story at the end of the book! This is the hallmark of a good yarn. The Crimson Petal and the White was the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2003. The book was also made for a TV miniseries in 2011.

Highly Recommended