A Victorian Vacation [Café Libro]


Carson TerBush

Last time, Emily Dexter challenged me to read A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor. This novel followed the stories of two pairs of sisters, one from the past and one from the present, in Victorian London. When Tilly Harper moves to London to assume her new position as housemother in the Violet House, a sanctuary where disabled orphans make a living by making silk flowers, she hopes to find a place where she can belong and escape the difficult family situation of her childhood. However, she ends up uncovering the story of Flora and Rosie Flynn, two sisters who lived in the city several decades before who were separated at a young age. As the novel continues, Gaynor weaves an intricate story that connects the lives of Tilly, Flora and Rosie, ultimately producing a message of loss and forgiveness.

The book also had a fascinating historic aspect. Personally, I have always been interested in Victorian England, and A Memory of Violets exposed a side of this time period not-often discussed: the life of the lower class. The struggles of Flora and Rosie as they tried to find food and shelter each day really opened my eyes to the horrors the lower class faced in that time, and brought the opportunities and resources we have, especially here in Carmel, into perspective.

I have to admit, though, I had trouble getting into this book. It didn’t move very fast, and with how fast-paced life at CHS can be, it is sometimes difficult to take a moment to sit down and read with so many other obligations and stressors on your plate. However, as I continued reading, I found myself gaining interest and toward the end, I looked forward to reading this book as a way to release stress about my other responsibilities.

The message of the book was encouraging and sweet, and I would recommend it to someone looking for a calm read who might have an interest in historic 19th- and 20th-century London or who wants to chill out and take a break from the stresses of high-school life.

The Next Challenge:

For next week, I challenge Emily to read I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson, the story of two twins and their experiences as they grow up in a family of artists. Told from a different twin’s perspective at different times of the novel, this book highlights how personalities can change over the years and how you shouldn’t judge another person without knowing their side of the story.

I’ll Give You The Sun took my breath (and my plans for doing homework) away when I first read it; I hope you will be as enraptured by this book as I was. Enjoy!

On this blog, Emily Dexter and Carson TerBush will put their book recommendations to the test. Each week, one will challenge each other to read a book she has read before and enjoyed. The following week, they will judge the recommended book and then propose the next challenge. They hope to inspire new readers to read some new books. To read more, check out the Café Libro blog at https://hilite.org/category/cafe-libro/.