Thursday, June 6, 2013

Playing With History

Playing With History is a monthly column dedicated to books that are history based, but with a fictional plot. I tend to gravitate toward Henry the VIII's England or the Italian Renaissance, but here or there I plan to step out of my usual if the plot sounds promising enough. I will use our usual rating of Bookshelf, Library Bag or Donation Box.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fictional account of a woman who left her parents' home to start over after her husband abandons her. Leaving her daughter, with the intention of sending for her later, Lucy cut off her hair, put on her brother's clothes, and began a school of dance for young ladies all while living as a man named Joseph. After awhile Lucy actually becomes Joseph, identifying as male. Joseph is found out and leaves, but it is only the beginning of his adventures as he goes into the territory of Minnesota to guard a land claim over the harsh winter and then attempts to start a horse farm. He also faces a trial for impersonating a man after he's (again) found out to be a woman. The novel follows the journey which includes some instances in his life where he's plagued with mental illness, but also the attempts to regain his daughter, Helen and his struggles with religion and what it meant in those days. 

I am outside my comfort zone with this book, not because of its content at all, but because of its time period, which is just where I like it. As with last month's post where I reviewed a book which takes place on a Southern Plantation, I am trying to read more that I wouldn't have reached for previously, expand my horizons. Sometimes I'm disappointed, but a lot of what I've tried this year has delighted me.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is one of the latter. I had to force myself not to stop reading and Google everything about this incredible historical figure. I am intrigued by anyone who breaks the mold they are told they must live in and Joseph does this incredibly. William Klaber takes fiction and what he was able to find in letters, newspaper articles and other documents and weaves them into something that is engaging and riveting. 

Reading it in the current time where gender identification is still a taboo and complicated matter, it was incredible to read about someone who was able to live as he wanted even though society was against him.  The relationship between Joseph and Marie (Joseph's wife) is both comforting and beautiful. I also enjoyed when Joseph would read books we now would refer to as classics and give his opinion of them. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is mentioned as is Adam Bede by George Eliot. 

The Verdict

Bookshelf: I had a hard time starting the  book which had nothing to do with the content, but only because I was not in the mindset for a historical fiction. Once I started, however, I couldn't put the book down. This was a well written tale of a individual who was brave and honest even though others thought he was being deceitful. Now, I'm off to find out more about the true story!

*Review is based off a galley provided from

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