October 02, 2006

Telling the True

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Meg Moore has finally become accustomed to having a stepmother... for the most part. She has found that she loves her new little siblings, and feels a joy in them that comforts her. Though her father feels that her reading and writing are frivolous things that her life of privilege affords her, she is, for the most part, learning to balance needlework with reading and she keeps her stories a secret from all but the closest of friends. Meg tries not to fight her stepmother too hard when the woman heaps duties upon her that have nothing to do with her favorite things.

Meg is adjusting to all of this because she is growing older, and big changes are on the horizon. Meg fears she must marry, and soon. Though she has a decent dowry, with the birth of each new sibling, her share becomes smaller... and smaller. How will she live, if she must give up her books, her words, her art? She must marry someone wealthy, someone who will allow her to continue to read and write. She must, she knows, marry a bookseller, so that she can stay at his side and run the bookshop. But her father's apprentice, Will, aggravates her with his proud ways, even as he flirts with her. He thinks he's much smarter than she is... and really, he thinks women should know their place. Another would-be suitor, Edward, has Meg cringing. He's her best friend's brother, and he is a winemaker. Meg finds him kindly, but cannot imagine the appeal of anyone who knows about nothing but taxes and tariffs and the price of a barrel of Madeira, and when he asks to court her, makes a joke that he should find her an exciting story instead, rather than taking him seriously.

When Edward goes away on a voyage and is captured by pirates, Meg regrets her impetuous, jesting words. She does all she can to retrieve a disastrous situation, and in time, it seems that things are coming to rights. But when Edward returns, all he wants of Meg is for her to tell his story. He wants her to write A True and Faithful Narrative of his trials, so that others may truly know the reality of lands away from England, and be changed, as he was. Edward wants Meg to really see him for who he is. Meg, repelled by this strangely new Edward, is confused yet fascinated by his story. She keeps her storytelling a secret from her father and Will, but she goes to listen. After slavery, Edward doesn't think like he used to... things that offend others no longer offend him. Edward seems to trust that Meg can really write the story he needs her to... Meg knows her father has forbidden her writing, but she can't stop herself. It's a story that must be written... no matter the consequences.

This novel captures the writer's love of writing, and talks knowledgably about how to construct a well-written story (which is really interesting and good information!). It also recreates a fictional London of long-ago, with its dangers and dirt and pleasures. It's a highly readable sequel to At the Sign of the Star.

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