Review: Velvet Spade Reads
Eleanor Courtown is the story of a young woman of privilege. When her cousin marries and sails for Canada in the 1870s, Eleanor determines to follow. Having left home in secret, she soon has reason to regret her decision. Friendless in a strange new country, both women fall victim to a brutality that threatens to destroy them.
This is a work of historical fiction based on events of the period. Written with a masterful command of the voices it inhabits, the novel’s endearing characters come alive in a nineteenth century setting. The journey of its protagonist highlights the importance of those immigrants, of every class, who came to North America and who have played essential roles in the establishment of a developing social fabric.
“Black is a natural story teller and the tale of Eleanor Courtown is one that will capture your heart and your imagination. The novel carries the reader from Ireland in the 1870s to Canada, as feisty Eleanor searches for her widowed cousin and, once there, begins to establish a new life far from home. By turns humorous and heart-breaking, Eleanor Courtown is rich in its grasp of character, its genuine understanding of period, place and the language of the time; the story is both rich and satisfying.” -Donna Morrissey, author of six bestselling novels including Sylvanus Now, Kit’s Law, The Deception of Livy Higgs and most recently, The Fortunate Brother
The poisoning is when my course became clear. I shall set down these remembrances so that you understand the treachery which transpired… The tale began in Ireland and has ended here in Orange Hill, Canada.
I picked up Eleanor Courtown a few days ago as my son went down for his 4pm nap. The book reading gods must have been looking down me because I didn’t even realize that an hour and a half had passed until my baby was crying for me to come play. I reluctantly put the book down but came back for stolen moments, reading far too long into the night. Bottom line: I finished this book in less than 24 hours and believe me when I say that with a one year old in the house, that doesn’t happen very often. There is definitely something special about this one.
That is to say, Eleanor Courtown didn’t exactly suck me in from page one. It honestly took me through the end of the first chapter to really find my groove with Black’s writing style. The story is spoken from the voice of Eleanor, a young Irish woman living in 1870s Canada, and so Black’s prose is written as if from the time period. It was a bit jarring at first – it made me feel like I was reading something that was written much longer ago. But as with reading a piece of classic literature, after a while it stops being strange at all. I was very impressed with Black’s ability to take me back in time with Eleanor’s authentic voice.
Eleanor herself was a marvelous heroine. She perfectly represents a young privileged woman of her time and place. The modern woman in me wanted to roll my eyes at her nearly every time she seemed scandalized or when she overlooked seemingly obvious factors. Still, I found myself relating to her. This is her story, after all, and I wanted so much for her to find her place. I was happy to see how she grew during the course of the novel – but not too much. She seemed to find a beautiful balance between her old life and her newer one.
Eleanor Courtown is a character driven novel and Black doesn’t disappoint with her cast. It is also extremely well paced. As I mentioned above, I flew through this novel, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if it dragged or slagged in any obvious places. Don’t get me wrong, Courtown is not a fast paced novel. I think it would definitely be enjoyed slowly, bit by bit, if you can manage to take your time. Good luck.