Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

As someone who found my world history textbooks lacking in strong women leaders, I’ve gravitated towards historical fiction to fill that gaps. Thanks to many novels, I’ve traveled to India and ancient Egypt and walked in the shoes of powerful queens. As soon as my review copy of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran arrived, I eagerly dug in.  And finished the book in one sitting.

Set on the cusp of Britain’s colonization of India, Queen Lakshmi fights to keep her throne and preserve her people’s way of life. She gathers a powerful army of men and her trusted women warriors to keep the British empire at bay. In fact, Lakshmi’s actions earns her the name of Rebel Queen in England.  Her story is told through the eyes of Sita, one of her female bodyguards. Raised in a small town, Sita was raised in purdah. She was not allowed to leave her home or speak to other men without her father’s permission. With no dowry to speak of, Sita’s father trains her so that one day she may join the queen’s private army.

I don’t know very much about this time period of India, but the colorful world of the India court leapt off the page. Some novels set in pre-colonial India focuses on the jewels and riches, but Rebel Queen gives a glimpse into the aristocracy and the lower castes, like Sita. Telling Queen Lakshmi from Sita’s perspective was perfect because as she learned about the world around her, so does the reader.

At the beginning, I found Sita’s explanation of the caste system and Indian mythology a little too obvious and simplified. However, it works in the context of Sita’s story–she’s been asked to write a memoir for the British about her former life in Queen Lakshmi’s court. In the early 1900s, I doubt very many British truly understood the people that they forcibly colonized. Once I turned that last page I was simultaneously sad that the story was over and excited because I wanted to learn more about Queen Lakshmi.

I highly recommend Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran. If you enjoy reading novels about strong female characters, this book is overflowing with independent women who were not afraid to take control of their destiny.

While you wait for Rebel Queen to release on March 3, you should read Michelle Moran’s other novels about female rulers. I suggest you start with Nefertiti.

READ MORE: 7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers From History

Book Club Feature: The Goddess of Small Victories + Giveaway

Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec

Goddess of Small Victories FL2W Book Club Banner

Staying in theme with our first book club selection, our second pick for October is also about numbers.

The Goddess of Small Victories (Other Press) by Yannick Grannec (translated by  Willard Wood) is a fictional account about brilliant mathematician Kurt Gödel as told from his wife’s perspective. Adele, a former cabaret dancer, was shunned by the scientific community, but as Gödel’s widow, she refuses to relinquish his papers over to the scientific community. The novel alternates between flashbacks to their relationships and to 1980 where young Anna is tasked with the job of obtaining the papers from Adele.

More about the book:

Princeton University 1980. Kurt Gödel, the most fascinating, though hermetic, mathematician of the twentieth century, has just died of anorexia. His widow, Adele, a fierce woman shunned by her husband’s colleagues because she had been a cabaret dancer, is now consigned to a nursing home. To the great annoyance of the Institute of Advanced Studies, she refuses to hand over Gödel’s precious records. Anna Roth, the timid daughter of two mathematicians who are part of the Princeton clique, is given the difficult task of befriending Adele and retrieving the documents from her. As Adele begins to notice Anna’s own estrangement from her milieu and starts to trust her, she opens the gates of her memory and together they travel back to Vienna during the Nazi era, Princeton right after the war, the pressures of McCarthyism, the end of the positivist ideal, and the advent of nuclear weapons. It is this epic story of a genius who could never quite find his place in the world, and the determination of the woman who loved him, that will eventually give Anna the courage to change her own life.

The Goddess of Small Victories  will be released on October 14, but pre-order the book now so you can join us on October 16th for our From Left to Write book club discussion. Learn more about the book and author in a recent interview about the novel.

Yannick Grannec is a graphic designer, freelance art director, professor of fine arts, and enthusiast of mathematics. The Goddess of Small Victories is her first novel. She lives in Saint-Paul de Vence, France.

Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec

Giveaway:  Win a copy of  The Goddess of Small Victories! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below (US and Canadian addresses only).

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Review: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt received quite a bit of buzz during Book Expo America back in May, and rightly so. Hunt brings to light an important part of United States history that many of us should, but do not, know. Written from the perspective of a soldier, this novel takes a different look at the Civil War because “Ash Thompson” is really a woman disguised as a man. Ash leaves behind a husband to take care of their farm and joins the Union to fight against the South. Such a story was not uncommon. Many women, from both North and South, disguised themselves as men to fight for their side.

Without giving away too much, Ash becomes revered as a hero, thrown in a madhouse,and accused of treachery. Told in first person narrative, the short novel is gripping as Ash describes her encounters with civilians, her fellow soldiers and enemy soldiers. For her, they are all each their own type of battle with only one goal: to make others believe that she is a man. If her true identity were discovered, she could be imprisoned or worse.

If you’re a Civil War buff or curious about this “secret” part of United States history, you definitely want to read Neverhome.

P.S. Earlier this year, I read I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe (my review). Human nature makes me want to compare the two since they are both about women who fought as men in the Civil War. They two are different enough that I think you should read both.  McCabe’s character has a yearning to be more than her gender regulates her to be while Hunt’s character focuses on her sense of duty.

Book Club Discussion: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

From Left to Write Ruby by Cynthia Bond Book Club

Today is book club discussion day for our latest read, Ruby by Cynthia Bond. At its heart, the novel is a story about love, friendship, and inner demons. The novel’s title character Ruby has had a rough life strife with inner demons.  Ephraim, a childhood friend, wants to help her become whole again. If she’ll let him.

From Left to Write members have share some thought discussion about Ruby over on their blogs. Take a look:

Learn more about author Cynthia Bond at her website and make sure you grab a copy of Ruby.

Reading it with your book club? Here are some reading group questions for Ruby.

Book Club Feature: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

From Left to Write Ruby by Cynthia Bond Book Club

From Left to Write Ruby by Cynthia Bond Book Club

Our next book club feature is the novel Ruby by Cynthia Bond. This debut novel takes its readers to racially divided rural Texas town where we meet our title character Ruby. Here’s more about the story:

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Join From Left to Write book club members this Thursday, May 8 as we discuss this intense and gripping story whose issues are still very relevant today.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Learn more about author Cynthia Bond at her website and make sure you grab a copy of Ruby.

Reading it with your book club? Here are some reading group questions for Ruby.

7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers From History

Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers-From Left to Write

Lately everyone’s been talking about leaning in and banning bossy, but before Sheryl Sandberg, we had strong, bossy queens, empresses, and even a pope. Yes, a female pope. These inspiring women rulers used their brains and their beauty to rise to the top of a world ruled by men.

You’ll probably recognize some of these historical women in these biographies and historical fiction novels. I hope you’ll learn about the new to you awe-inspiring female rulers.

Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan is a novel about the life of Mehrunissa who becomes the famous empress of Mughal Empire, through her marriage to Emperor Jahangir. Though he has many wives, Jahangir dotes on Mehrunissa and she given more power than most empresses are given. The well-researched details will make you feel transported to 17th century India.

Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan

Immediately after you finish The Twentieth Wife, you’ll want to pick up its sequel, The Feast of Roses. While the first novel illustrates Mehrunissa’s rise to power, the sequel depicts the challenges she faced as a woman deemed with too much power. You won’t be surprised to see some of these opinions still exist today.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

In Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff digs deep into historical texts and puts together a fascinating biography of one of the most famous queens in history. We read and discussed this biography as a From Left to Write book club selection in September 2011.

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran is a fictionalized telling of this famous queen’s life as told by her younger sister. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you try to keep track of the different schemes and plot twists in the ancient Egyptian court.

The Last Empress by Anchee Min

The Last Empress by Anchee Min is about Empress Orchid, mother of the only male heir Ch’ing Dynasty. She rises to power after the emperor’s death,when their son is only five years old. This novel recounts the tumultuous times during 19th century China as the Empress tries to hold on to her power.

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak tells the story of this famous Russian empress through the eyes of her handmaid Barbara.  The political intrigue will keep you turning the pages.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

While the Vatican denies the existence of a female pope in 855 A.D. during the Dark Ages, there are hundreds of manuscript contains accounts of a female papacy. In the novel Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross imagines Joan’s rise in the Vatican and what motivated her to pretend to be a man. Whether Pope Joan really existed or not, this novel will make you believe how easily this could have.

Which of these women intrigues you or inspires you the most?