MixedHistorical Novel Society... the diplomacy becomes both rather too easy and overly complicated. Throw in a subplot about a beautiful look-alike to Elizabeth, and this tale becomes as implausible as an offer to purchase Tower Bridge. Nevertheless, The Queen’s Men is good fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. With the intricacy of a Rube Goldberg watch, the narrative only intermittently embraces historical accuracy or reality. Yet you keep reading, because you want to know how the thing manages to keep ticking away.
RaveHistorical Novel SocietyFrom this ingenious premise, Keneally spins a delightful, often hilarious, wide-ranging coming-of-age novel. You have the usual themes, such as sexual awakening, learning to adjust abstract morals to real-life circumstances, and how to judge another person in his or her fullness, allowing for imperfections. To that, add what it means to be a family outcast in a country settled by outcasts. Keneally celebrates the frontier ethic, in which a person’s deeds and capabilities often, but not always, matter more than his or her birth. As such, you can pretty much tell the good guys from the bad guys without a scorecard, and they seldom do anything to challenge the judgment; perhaps that’s Dickensian too. However, laughter levels that broad-brush approach, with a theatrical tone that Dickens himself might have admired. A few characters could have stood more nuance, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Highly recommended
RaveHistorical Novel Society... excellent ... Think of the Sixties...the demand to speak out, question authority, and cast off restraints. Margreete’s Harbor embodies this deeper portrayal in a delicate, impressive, lived-in way. Novels that rely on famous Sixties people or moments to stoke their narratives fail to convince me, no matter how many icons they pile up. Rather, Morse depicts family members scrabbling to understand their time and one another, so how each responds, and why, reveals their inner lives and an era ... the characters in Margreete’s Harbor achieve a rare complexity, as they rise to the occasion one week and behave impossibly the next. Nobody has all the answers or a charmed life. You never feel an authorial hand shaping the action, or a voice speaking for a character. That’s how Morse achieves that lived-in feeling, which comes from the ground up ... If you remember the Sixties, Margreete’s Harbor will relive them with you. If you don’t remember them, you’ll taste their essence through exquisitely rendered relationships—and, no doubt, think of our time as well.
L. Annette Binder
RaveHistorical Novel SocietyThe Vanishing Sky reveals the German home front as I’ve never seen it in fiction, a small town where nobody asks questions or unburdens herself, so that neighbors who’ve known one another all their lives are strangers ... Binding tells her story patiently, like an artist placing tiny pieces into a mosaic; this literary novel isn’t one to race through. But I find it gripping, powerful, and a brave narrative, unsparing in its honesty.