Book club book review

The Two Wells Book Club (back row left to right), Fran Taplin, Jenny Dowling, Angela Brient, Sue Peters, and Jill Meyer. Seated, Bronwyne Sharpe and Christobel Crabb.

This historical novel set in the mid 17th Century is based loosely on the small amount of history available on Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American from Martha’s Vineyard to graduate from Harvard College in 1665.  

Brooks explores a myriad of themes in the book, particularly the strong religious attitudes and beliefs that permeated every aspect of people’s lives.  

It is a book which brings to light many social issues from the time and country that it is based in, and which still resonates in today’s society.

The main character, Bethia, is born into a strict Puritan society and her own personal struggles begin with the fact that she is female, as there are immediate social obstacles put in place.

Her father is quite ‘liberal’ in his views towards the American Indians, he doesn’t believe in stealing from or harming the local Indians.

Caleb and Bethia develop an innocent friendship, but they must be sensitive due to the constraints of the day and the different cultures.

The clash of the two cultures is portrayed with Bethia questioning her own religion, and she is increasingly frustrated in her yearning for knowledge, which is frowned upon for women.

The book was immensely enjoyed by most of the members, some having read it previously and appreciated it more so the second time round.

The language was hard to read at times, as Brooks used the old English vocabulary that was spoken in the day, although this helped to drag the reader into the time the story was set.

Some of the members found the characters difficult to relate to, however, all held the same attitude to towards the character of ‘Makepeace’, Bethia’s brother, a very unlikeable person.

The author, Geraldine Brooks, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006 for another novel, ‘March’, and ‘Caleb’s Crossing’ was on the New York Time’s best seller list when it was released in 2011.  Many of her other novels are international best sellers.

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