Glory Over Everything

I am a huge fan of historical fiction. Give me a great story set in long ago eras with captivating characters and I’m in heaven.

Some of the eras I’m especially drawn to are WWII and slavery – two very emotional, brutal and turbulent times where the worst of humanity is offset by the bravery and resilience of people struggling to survive.

63275410_hrFans of Historical Fiction set in the southern United States during the 19th century will be eager to get their hands on the upcoming, Glory Over Everything from Canadian-born author Kathleen Grissom. It is the sequel to her very popular historical fiction novel, The Kitchen House, which introduced readers to a host of memorable characters and due to its focus on slavery and indentured labour, touching and often emotional story lines. While you could read Glory Over Everything as a stand-alone I think readers will have a better understanding of where Jamie and some other characters are coming from if they read The Kitchen House first. Personally, I loved reconnecting with some of my favourite characters from the first book.

The Kitchen House – With Glory Over Everything hitting shelves on April 5, 2016 readers still have time to read the first book to get acquainted with Belle, Jamie, Mama Mae, Lavinia and the rest of the characters. For those who haven’t read The Kitchen House it’s a story told via two different points of view – Belle, a black slave and Lavinia, a young Irish indentured servant. Witnessing situations from these two very different viewpoints gives readers a better understanding of just how different life was back for white servants and black slaves.

The Kitchen House focuses more on Lavinia’s story as she tries to straddle two worlds – the white world and the world of the slaves in the kitchen house. Grissom doesn’t hold back as she describes sometimes brutal descriptions of what slaves endured at the hands of their masters and also deals with different kinds of oppression – the powerlessness of women of all colours and the differences between families who seem to have it all (money, power, freedom) and slave families who appear to have nothing except each other. Grissom’s writing is vivid in its description of what life was like back in the late 18th century and evoked many different emotions in me from – shock, sadness, unconditional love, anger and joy. This book had it all. Some scenes were so emotional that they were hard to read but the characters were varied and quite multidimensional and you quickly begin to care about them.

glory-over-everything-9781476748443_hrGlory Over Everything – I was recently given an advanced reading copy of Glory Over Everything and once again Grissom captivated me from beginning to end. This sequel is definitely a page-turner and has Grissom’s signature captivating writing style and includes several characters from The Kitchen House. It follows the life of Jamie Pyke as he tries to make a life in Philadelphia while hiding a secret that could destroy the life that he has built. When someone to whom he owes a debt comes for his help Jamie realizes he must return to the south and face a very uncertain future with potentially dire consequences. The story is told once again via multiple narrators and is a fast-paced read that not only focuses on race, slavery and the Underground Railroad but on family ties and how one’s upbringing can influence us throughout our lives. With complex characters, a gripping plot and emotional scenes have made Glory Over Everything one of my favourite books of 2016.

Both of these books are filled with human endurance, strength, love, violence, betrayal, family loyalty, courage, trust and the power of hope. That’s a whole lot of emotion all wrapped up into two books but Grissom is a master at writing gripping novels that leave her readers thinking of the characters long after the last page is turned.

– – Laurie P.

Watching & Rewatching

I re-read and re-watch things all the time. This is, I know, a shocking waste of time when you think of the new items that arrive at the library every week. I really should be filling my time with new and exciting stories instead of going back over old ones but “I can’t help myself” which is a line that Greg Kinnear says to Meg Ryan in the movie You’ve Got Mail.

You’ve Got Mail is a movie that I’ve watched so many times that even the minor conversations are mapped out in my head and I return to it and others whenever the mood strikes me. It’s the same with re-reading favourite books. If I hear an author on the radio, like a recent interview that Muriel Barbery did on the CBC, then I can put The Elegance of the Hedgehog on hold to read it again so that I can feel myself comfortably back in the world of Paloma, the concierge, and 8c8b98e0-1a94-0132-085d-0eae5eefacd9the glamour of a Paris apartment building. If someone mentions Pride and Prejudice in conversation then I can walk over to the shelves and check it out before I leave work for the day. It’s not that I don’t read new books at all; I feel the pull of the bright and shiny NEW stickers but there is something about re-reading or re-watching that I love.

With re-watching I don’t even have to sit down and re-watch; I can play a movie or tv series while I do the chores in the kitchen and poof, it’s like I’m playing a 1940s radio drama while I sort the laundry or file papers. My father used to talk about listening to Amos ‘n’ Andy or Fibber McGee when he was young (it’s possible he might have called me ‘Fibber McGee’ when I was trying to talk my way out of something) and I can turn anything familiar into a radio play by just turning up the volume and hearing those voices tell me their story. Especially with a particularly well written drama like one by Aaron Sorkin or Nora Ephron. I feel like they are responsible for every great line on screen that I remember. If it’s not You’ve Got Mail I’ll usually choose When Harry Met Sally. There is really nothing like watching someone be wooed while singing music from Oklahoma. Rogers and Hammerstein music is quintessentially romantic. Everyone knows this.

gallery_ustv-the-west-wing-cast-shots-2Unless we are talking to someone who prefers… the clever lyrics and catchy music of Gilbert and Sullivan. That would be Aaron Sorkin. If you type his name into our catalogue you will be watching the screen for hours and hours to catch up on all that he has written or produced. To see references to the work of Gilbert and Sullivan you must watch The West Wing (season six is a sure bet for some great moments). This late 1990s-early 2000s drama follows fictional American president Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) and his staff (an incredible ensemble cast) through some of the most fantastic storylines based on their interpersonal relationships and the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of the White House. It lasted seven seasons with Sorkin as the head writer on most of the first four and had multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards for the entire run. It’s a dream-come-true show that makes for great watching or re-watching and we have multiple copies of it on DVD here at the library. If you feel like you have reached your limit on West Wing watching then I have splendid news for you because cast member Josh Malina recently began a podcast where he is sharing an episode-by-episode discussion of the show with excellent trivia, unique insight and special guests! Here is a link to that website.

I’d like to think that I’ll stop this habit of re-reading and re-watching but thinking about The West Wing makes me think about the film that Sorkin wrote just before The West Wing began production. It was directed by Rob Reiner with his singular approach to humour and starred Michael Douglas as an American president who is falling in love with Annette Bening’s character. It’s called The American President and shares many of the same qualities as The West Wing and I just love it. Michael J. Fox is sensational in this movie and so very funny. We have more than one copy of The American President here at WPL. I think I’ll go see if there is one on the shelf.

– – Penny M.