Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Viney's Mountain

On Viney's Mountain by Joan Donaldson
Holiday House, 2009
224 pages
YA; Historical
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Read for YA Overlooked Book Battle.

This historical novel is set in very rural Tennessee in the late nineteenth-century.  Although Viney loves her mountain town her older sister Lizzie loathes it and hopes to escape one day.  She might get her wish when a group of Englishmen arrive in Rugby to found a new utopia.  Despite Viney's hopes, the changes wrought by these foreigners will forever alter her life.

Viney was a tricky character.  Although she professes to hate the changes inflicted on her town by the Englishmen and to be uninterested in courting, her actions did not always follow that.  Sometimes she was cruel and spiteful; the next moment warm and welcoming.  I felt a bit unbalanced while reading her story.  However I did admire most of her actions.  She lived in a very difficult time and place, especially as a young single woman who is effectively orphaned.  She is also a skilled weaver who incorporates the mountains into her artwork and is eager to read.

Her relationship with her sister Lizzie is important but as Lizzie jumps at the opportunity to flee their small cottage in the hopes of being in the way of an eligible gentleman, the reader doesn't spend much time with her, at first.  After tragedy strikes, we learn more about Lizzie and she shows her real mettle.

Although many of the Englishmen are useless twats, there are a few good men.  One is Seamus, who's actually an Irishman and a skilled fiddler.  The other is Charlie.  Viney takes the opportunity of their arrival to feign an interest in courting in order to appear normal to her neighbors.  Of course, this manipulation of the decent men does not entirely end well and Viney is forced to make difficult decisions.  There are some very cute moments between her and Charlie, I must say.

The historical elements were great and the writing was fine.  Quite a bit of the dialogue is told in the vernacular with "ain't"s and such filling the text but I understand the historical accuracy of that; I don't like it but I understand it.

Overall: A fine historical novel of an often ignored time and region in American historical fiction.

Cover: Pretty plain; doesn't jump out at the reader to attract attention. I think it has a fairytale-esque element to it like a young maiden on a quest.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very interesting. I like the historical setting (you're right, it's pretty ignored in fiction) and I think the premise is quite intriguing - founding a Utopia.

    Great review!


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