Monday, 28 November 2011

These is My Words

I finished this book on Thursday but was so busy over Friday and the weekend that my review of These is My Words by Nancy Turner had to wait until today. This is another book that was recommended to me - a couple of years ago - by Kay at My Randon Acts of Reading and that has been languishing on my tbr mountain ever since. But I always think there's a 'time' to read every single book and this one's time had definitely arrived.

Sarah Agnes Prine is a teenage girl (around 16 or 17) who lives on a ranch in 1880s Arizona. She has four brothers but wants more than anything to have a sister -

It is good to have these brothers here but it's not the same as having a girl you can talk to and play with, and besides, they can be an ornery bunch and tease me no end. I am purely outnumbered.

The family own a spread near Phoenix, but up sticks suddenly at the father's whim and begin a journey to Texas because he thinks the living might be easier over there. Sarah is the keeper of a diary and charts the family's progress.

Almost immediately tragedy strikes and continues to strike. Indians attack. The Prines join forces with a couple of other families and the Indians continue to attack. There are deaths, rape, sickness, Sarah's mother suffers a breakdown and so forth. Sarah has to grow up very fast indeed. Luckily it seems she's the best shot in the family and she is the one who saves them more than once.

Arriving at their destination what's left of the family decide that Texas is not the place for them after all. They join a wagon train that is heading back to Arizona territory and Sarah meets, for the first time, Captain Jack Elliot, the army officer who is escorting the train. She's not impressed, finding him too rough and ready and too much inclined to speak his mind. The trip is long and arduous and, once again, Sarah's shooting skills are required. She gains the admiration of the captain but is scared of the effect he's having on her.

Eventually the family arrive back in Arizona and decide to settle near Tuscon where the army has a base and where Captain Elliot is stationed. They stake a claim and start building a ranch to raise horses but, although they are now settled at last, their trials and tribulations are very far from over.

The main thing to say about this book really is how much Sarah Prine's character shines. It practically jumps off the page at you and you just can't help loving her. She judges herself harshly. She feels she is not devout enough and not 'good' like her sister-in-law, Savannah, because she has uncharitable thoughts about people and often acts rashly. But the fact is, of all the family, it's Sarah who is the strong one. Time and time again the family rely on her quick wittedness in an emergency and she never fails them. She is intelligent, strong, and a staunch ally. Throughout the book various events test her to the limit but always she comes through.

I probably should stress that this book is a work of fiction... because... in fact it does read uncannily like a non-fiction diary. I have yet to read any of the several diaries of pioneers I have on my Kindle, but it will be interesting to compare the two when I eventually get to it. What may be missing is the romantic element. Somewhere on the net I actually saw this book described as a 'romance'. I laughed. Not sure how anyone could get it quite so wrong. There is romance, yes, but Mills and Boon/Harlequin this definitely is *not*. It's hard hitting, *tragic* in places... quite a few places in fact... and underlines what a tough life these people had forging a life for themselves in an alien environment, which had a native population that didn't want them there. (And you can understand *that* too.) But underlying the tragedy is a tale of great courage and hardship written with honesty and a great deal of humour. I adored Sarah... and Jack Elliot too. What a pair.

I've just discovered that Nancy Turner has written two more books about Sarah Prine, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden. I honestly can't wait to get my hands on them. These is My Words will make my top ten list at the end of the year, no question. Wonderful, wonderful book.


DesLily said...

Hi sis.. I have to tell you..I am nicely reading your review when "what I"m reading next" caught my eye because of the name "Rickman" (as in Alan *grin*) needless to say I had a difficult time reading the rest of your review LOL..

I am glad you liked the book and so much so you want to read more by the same author..that really tells a lot !

so.. onward and upward to a new book!

(gawd, I am still thinking "alan rickman" and my word verification is "driblett"..duh lol lol)

Cath said...

Hey Pat! Yeah... don't think that name coincidence didn't occur to me. LOL. I even wondered if they might be related as I know AR has brothers. But am guessing not.

This last three days has been busy... need to look at your latest review... was it Gyles Brandreth? Think so. I got book 2 of Oscar Wilde from the library and then had to take it back before I'd read it because someone else had reserved it.

BUT, my new webcam came today so sometime over the next couple of days will be getting Skype set up properly on *my* computer. woooohoooo!!!

DesLily said...

hooray!!! I had a thought that that the webcam might wait until christmas (as a pressie) but I'm glad it didn't!!! I will have to get your skype name I don't think you can use the same name as the one on p's computer?? I guess we'll find out!

and oh yes I love the Glyes books!! (love his name too lol)

and now I'll be thinking of alan rickman all day! (which isn't a bad thing lol)

Cath said...

Pat: Peter saw the same one as he's got on offer, half-price on Amazon or something and nabbed it quick. Yeah, I'll be using the same account. I imagine we wouldn't be able to use it simultaneously but that won't be an issue as it'll mainly be me using it. lol.

What are you reading next?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I don't know this book, but, your review really grabbed me, Cath. I do enjoy stories of the pioneer spirit and think this is one I might like. Thanks for another great review.

FleurFisher said...

I read this years ago, and I've forgotten a lot but I do remeember loving the characters. Thank you for the reminder.

FleurFisher said...

I read this years ago, and I've forgotten a lot but I do remeember loving the characters. Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Cath, I'm so glad that you enjoyed this book. It's one I've recommended over and over. And, yes, it is funny to hear it described as a romance. It is, but one with real grit. LOL

Did you know that it's based on the grandmother (I think) of the author. Loosely based I believe. Also, another little observation - did you notice that as Sarah's reading skills improved, so did her grammar and such in the book - just like a real diary. I've known about the sequels, but haven't read either one. Since I've decided that 2012 is going to be the year of the series (and sequels make a series), I may have to reread this one and then take in the next two.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

Great review, you obviously really enjoyed this one.

It is good when you can say that there are elements in a book, which are almost realistic enough to be non-fiction, to me that is a sure sign of a good author who researches her subject extensively, to ensure that the experience is as authentic as possible.

I notice that, as well as the series of three books featuring Sarah and the challenges of a woman's life in the nineteenth-century Southwest, Nancy Turner has also written a stand alone novel featuring East Texas in the years of the second world war. This book has also received some great reviews, so I shall definitely be adding them all to my reading list.

Cath said...

lifeonthecutoff: I don't know why but I just have a feeling that you might like this one quite a lot.

FleurFisher: It doesn't seem to be a very well known book but those that have read it all seem to have liked it.

Kay: Thanks for recommending this one, I'd never hear about these books if it weren't for wonderful people like you.

No... I had no idea that the story was loosely based on the author's grandmother. How fascinating. Yes, I saw how Sarah's writing skills improved as her reading did. It was lovely too when she sat the exams but sad to note how her younger brother was able to go and have a career, whereas Sarah was not.

I hope, somehow or other, to hear about some of the series you decide to read in 2012.

Yvonne: I hadn't noticed that stand-alone book on Nancy Turner's Fantastic Fiction site, so thanks for pointing that out. It sounds excellent so I'll be keeping an eye out for that too.

Kailana said...

I have never heard of this book before. I am so glad you enjoyed it!

Cath said...

Kelly: I loved it. But I must admit I wouldn't want to be reading about that amount of hardship *all* the time!

DesLily said...

I'm reading the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson..not enjoying it as much as the other two books..and thought this one I'd really like most.. oh well.. slow reading again

Vintage Reading said...

I'm interested in the pioneers, but am also sympathetic towards the plight of the Native American Indians. Such a violent period of America's history.

Eesti said...

I loved this book since I was teen and still reread every couple of years. My copy is in tatters and am in search of a new copy. This was my Grandmother's book passed to my Mom and passed on to me. It is absolutely timeless and a great read. You will remember these characters long after you've read it.

Cath said...

Pat: Shame you're not enjoying this BB book quite as much. I sort of thought it would be as good as his others and planned to read it myself. I'll grab it from the library sometime.

Nicola: I think that all these years on we can see both sides of the story and are able to sympathise with, or at least understand, all parties concerned. It was a violent part of American history but also *our* history as it's our ancestors who colonised the country.

Eesti: Yes, I'm sure I will remember the characters for a very long time.