Friday, July 9, 2010

New Historical Fiction by Karen Cushman

From the first sentences, through dialect and authentic description, Newbery Medal winner Karen Cushman's newest historical fiction, Alchemy and Meggy Swann, conveys you to 1573.  Elizabeth I is on the throne, but Shakespeare has not yet begun his plays.  Medieval ideas are beginning to fade, and a new way of thinking and beliefs are starting to take hold.  Meggy arrives from the country at her father's impoverished house on Crooked Lane, in London, with her goose Louise, and little else, only to discover that her alchemist father does not welcome her there.  Meggy is crippled and uses two sticks to walk.  She possesses a quick wit and a sharp tongue, and uses them to protect herself, and to forge a new life in a crowded and dirty city.  Cushman includes a quote by Carl Jung at the beginning of the story : "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed."  Meggy the true alchemist in the story both transforms and is transformed through her choices, and the people she meets, during her struggles with life in London.  This book includes a map of old London, and an author's note with historical resources.  A fast, highly enjoyable read.   My rating: 3 and a half stars

Karen Cushman's website

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