Thursday, May 14, 2009

Historical novel, "Through A Glass Darkly" by Karleen Koen keeps me enthralled

Even though it is a hefty 673 pages, I could not stop reading this novel published in 1986 until I was done, that is given time for eating and sleeping and a few other necessary activities. My eyes are tired! But sometimes a novel like this one, set in the 17th century among the aristocracy in England, will cover difficult issues better than a modern one where fear of being politically incorrect muzzles a writer. In this one a young heiress, granddaughter of a duchess, comes of age, and her mother tries to find a wealthy suitor to 'buy' her for what he can offer the family. Her mother first settles on an older man in his early forties who wants to develop a valuable property that comes with the fifteen year old bride to be.
The prospective bride is lucky in that the man is very handsome and she falls in love with the idea of marrying him. Then her mother gets what she thinks is a better offer and drops the negotiations leaving her daughter bereft. The daughter turns to her grandmother, the duchess, who knows the handsome suitor who was an aide to her husband when he was a commander in the military. Her husband thought highly of him, so she agrees to help the daughter get the man who she now loves desperately. She goes by the greedy mother who is thinking only of what she can get out of the marriage, and negotiates with the man himself. But she is a little troubled as she has heard stories about the bad reputation of this man who has never married and is concerned about whether her grand daughter will really be happy.
It seems that he is afflicted with what is called the French vice or the Italian one according to gossip and loves men as well as women. May even have loved her husband the duke, but the duchess suppresses that thought as she was very happy with her husband.
Well, of course, the rumours happen to be true, and the beautiful fifteen year old has a very tough job trying to deal with not only the women he has loved but the men as one comes back into his life after the marriage, a French prince, she immediately senses as a rival, but it takes most of the book for her to face what their close relationship is really all about.
Oh how easy it is to lose your heart to a very handsome man who has undoubtedly been targeted by gays since he was very young, who love charming handsome young lovers just like women do. Karleen Koen is a shrewd brave writer, too, she does not shrink from the truth. I thought she wrote about these complex matters extremely well.
What is more all of Europe had an economic meltdown after the marriage, and even noblemen went from riches to rags. The bride's own older brother commits suicide after a string of bad investments. Her mother has to pawn her jewels even more frantically than in good times. The magnificent house her handsome husband is building on the land she brought to him becomes his downfall and is eventually lost to creditors. De ja vu!
Small pox and pneumonia and consumption strike terror in the hearts of those who lived in those times. Even without the black plague there are horrors enough in this novel.
But stories like this are why I read. I got hooked a long time ago on a good novel. A good writer weaves her spell and I can barely lay a book down until I am done.


Pamela said...

That sounds like a great book! I love stories set in that time period. Glad you enjoyed it.

Lisa said...

Gerry, thank you so much. You have always been there for me and I could never ask for a better friend. :o) Big hugs to you! {{Gerry}}


Carlene Noggle said...

HI Gerry,
I love historical novels..Use to love the author; Catherine Cookson..and read every book she wrote!! Some twice. Sad to say, I do not read as much as I use to, except on here.


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