Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, October 19, 2015

As Girl Waits With Gun, more fabulous fictional females join her on the reading circuit

One of the best things I did this past weekend was finish up Amy Stewart's debut novel, Girl Waits With Gun, which is a creative cocktail of fact and fiction. Based on a true story set in Paterson,NJ during the year 1914, our main heroine is Constance Kopp, the eldest of three sisters living on their own at a remote farm.

While making a trip into town, Constance and her sisters Norma and Fleurette have their horse and buggy rammed into by a speeding motor car driven by Henry Kaufman, the spoiled rich owner of a silk factory who fancies himself as a bit of gangster.

Instead of paying for the damages to the Kopp sisters' buggy(which comes to fifty dollars), Henry refuses to take responsibility and after Constance confronts him and his thuggish friends at his factory, a reign of terror begins.

Kaufman and his pack of hoodlums threaten the girls by making late night drives to their place, tossing bricks wrapped with vicious notes in their windows(that include plans to kidnap youngest sister Fleurette) and even attempt arson at one point. It soon falls to Constance to seek out official help from the authorities, most of whom are reluctant to tangle with a well connected business man.

Fortunately, Constance is able to gain the trust and assistance of a local sheriff in making a case against Kaufman but also finds herself to be a rather capable detective as she looks into a situation involving another woman who has run afoul of Henry Kaufman, only this time a child is at stake.

Amy Stewart is best known for her nonfiction works(The Drunken Botanist, whose research lead to the inspiration for GWWG) but her first try at fiction is a true success. I'm very grateful to Library Thing for granting me such a fine prize as this to read.

 Stewart's capable ease at evoking Constance and her family(as well as the other characters she runs into) shows her to be a real proficient in this department. Her sure and steady hand makes the tension in the story soar while keeping some solid ground for her characters to find their way and the world she sets up here is one that I would like to return to again.

While I know that this isn't meant to be a series, Girl Waits With Gun does have the flair of such fictional feisty female crime fighters such as Miss Phryne Fisher, who I think Constance would get along well with, even if she's not as much of a party girl. Both ladies share a keen set of wits and plenty of savvy to deal with trouble at their doorstep, despite what the men about them might think:

That isn't the only book I completed lately with a compelling leading lady with real world ties; The Paris Wife by Paula McLain has the first wife of Ernest Hemingway tell her side of the story.

Hadley Richardson's quick romance with Ernest began in the States but once they were married and he was determined to get more serious about his literary ambitions, Paris became a second home to them. The love between the two of them was so strong that it made their growing circle of friends(which include F. Scot and Zelda Fitzgerald) rather envious and yet admiring at the same time.

However, their relationship was far from perfect and they had their struggles even before Hemingway decided to fall with love with a mutual friend of the couple. I've read A Movable Feast and a few other books about that period of time in Paris where writers flocked to Shakespeare and Company, so  many of these names such as Gerald and Sarah Murphy(a well to do couple that hung out with this crowd) were familiar to me.

I never was big into Hemingway,other than AMF, and part of this story goes into the inspiration for his first major novel The Sun Also Rises,which is interesting and makes me want to pick that one up.  Despite that, Hadley's emotional journey as she battles self doubt and is torn between supporting Ernest unconditionally and finding her own personal joy, is the real heart felt tale being told here and told very well:

The Paris Wife I had on loan from Booksfree(the Netflix of paperback books) and one of my next borrowed titles from them is Fannie Flagg's The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion.  It's been awhile since I read anything by the fun and free spirited Flagg and this one promises to be a hoot with heart and a bit of history.

When Sookie Poole seeks a way to handle her troublesome mother, a hidden secret regarding her own past is discovered that leads her to find a quartet of feisty sisters who during WWII ran their own gas station, Three of the sisters also flew transport planes for the U.S. military as members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Having a much overlooked part of women in service history blended into this novel is a nice tip of the hat there and should make for a really engaging read that I'll be watching my mailbox for:

Not all of my preferred reads are female focused within the historical fiction genre but that section of the bookshelf does have it's charms. Lots of good writing in that category, not to mention various ports of call from America to France, England and beyond.

As we speak, I'm already planning my list of Winter Reads and one of them will be Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle. Granted, I've read quite a few novels about the wives of Henry the Eighth(most of them by Philippa Gregory) but this story gives new focus to Katherine Parr, the last of his brides who managed to keep her head there.

The Tudor court is hard to resist for writers and readers alike,so add yet another historical fictional miss to my pile of awaiting books and while such books are mainly fiction, they do offer some insights into actual history that make it more fun to learn. It's a tricky line to walk yet as long as the balance between both ends is clear, having a royal romp or two is fine to enjoy:

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