The next story in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is A House Divided by Sulari Gentill. This story is the first in a series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s. I must admit to enjoying this type of historical fiction far more than war novels. It doesn’t hurt that it’s set in Australia, a continent and culture(s) I’ve wanted to experience for most of my life now. And which I’m happy to report I will finally have the opportunity to visit in 2023! Cannot wait to go there, New Zealand, and Guadalcanal next year.
I’ve begun reading A House Divided and am on page 126 of 358 pages. I’m enjoying the characters, their insights and quirks. It’s an easy to follow story but also includes aspects of life in the 1930s in Australia, the politics of the time, and also how crimes were solved prior to modern day methods of identification, like fingerprinting and DNA analysis.
One technique Ms. Gentill employs is one I’ve seen more often in mysteries and crime fiction, actually general fiction, than in women’s fiction and romance novels. That is the use of “head hopping” with the point of view character. In other words, the point of view from which the story is told switches within the scene from one character to another. In this story, sometimes three times in one scene. In romance, in particular, that is frowned upon; POV shifts should happen between scenes, not within them. So it took a moment for me to adjust my expectations but it’s handled well in the story and isn’t confusing to me. It reminds me of classic literature, to be honest, because you’ll find the same technique used in them as well.
I’ll try to finish reading this story before my next installment here. For one thing, I want to know whodunnit! Until then…
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Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.
Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.
But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.