This is the next post reviewing books in the BBCs Big Read challenge that I participated in many years ago. For details of the overall challenge, see this post.
96. Kane And Abel – Jeffrey Archer
They had only one thing in common . . . William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant – two men born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, their paths destined to cross in the ruthless struggle to build a fortune.
Kane and Abel is the marvellous story, spanning sixty years, of two powerful men linked by an all-consuming hatred, brought together by fate to save . . . and finally destroy . . . each other.
Before reading this book, the only thing I knew about Jeffrey Archer was that he was a politician who ended up in prison. However, it turns out he writes a good book. This book is one of those giant family saga type books, that were so popular in the 70s and 80s. Think the male version of a Barbara Taylor Bradford. So, if you want a plot full of hardships, revenge and passion over the entire life of your characters, this is the book for you. I’m always intrigued by stories of family struggles, wealth and business interests, and the plot just pulls you along.
95. Katherine – Anya Seton
Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.
Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.
A few years later their paths cross again and this time, their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure, and passion.
I read this book a few years before the challenge on the recommendation of a friend and was delighted to find it had made its way onto the list. Until I read this book, my impression of history was that it was pretty dull and rather pointless. But here, I discovered historical fiction for the very first time. Seton is a meticulous writer and provides detailed family trees for her books. I understand she used some artistic licence but endeavoured to stay true to the original stories. From Katherine, I learnt more history in one book than I seemed to remember taking in at school.
After this book, I continued to read more of Anya Seton’s work, and later this lead me to read some Philippa Gregory novels, too. Without Katherine, this is a genre I would probably not have explored.
My favourite Anya Seton book is called The Winthrop Woman:
This bestselling novel and follow-up toKatherine-follows Elizabeth Winthrop, a courageous Puritan woman who finds herself at odds with her heritage and surroundings. Elizabeth married into the family of Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In those times of hardship, famine, and Indian attacks, many believed that the only way to prosper was through the strong, bigoted, and theocratic government that John Winthrop favoured. Defying the government and her family, Elizabeth befriends famous heretic Anne Hutchinson, challenges an army captain, and dares to love as her heart commanded.
Through Elizabeth’s three marriages, struggles with her passionate beliefs, and countless rebellions, a powerful tale of fortitude, humiliation, and ultimate triumph shines through.
I read a fair number of Seton’s other books too, all based on different periods in history. Some of her books have a more supernatural theme than a realistic historical theme, and I didn’t enjoy those quite much.
I’m just covering two books this time as I managed to find a lot to say!