The Long Branch book club began its binge on all things historical with The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah. They met to discuss the novel on June 7. This book became their favorite book to date and inspired the group to gravitate for a time toward historically accurate narrative.
The author Ms. Hannah beautifully wove a tale of horror, intrigue, strength, pride and love. The Nightingale begins in modern day with an older woman in Oregon receiving an invitation to the reunion of the French Resistance and Underground of World War II. The reader only knows the woman as Mom from her overprotective son. He is more than curious as to why his mother would be invited to such a gathering and why she wants to go. He insists on accompanying her overseas. Here, the story glides to the beginning of World War II where the reader is introduced to two young sisters whose last name means Nightingale.
The sisters’ lives take very different routes, but each fight the Nazis in their own way without the other knowing what their sibling is doing until late in the novel. Despite the horrors of the War, each woman finds beauty in living and surviving. It would be a disservice to this book to give away much more. All of the Long Branch Book Club recommends The Nightingale as a moving tale of heroics of the heart, mind and body through ghastly times.
Looking to find a similar historical novel closer to home, the book club chose next to read Forty Times a Killer by William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone, a prolific western author and his son. Forty Times a Killer brought to life one of Gonzales’ local Wild West, gunslinger folk heroes, or villain depending on who you talk to, John Wesley Harding. The Long Branch book club met to discuss this novel on July 10.
The group enjoyed the novelization of John Wesley Harding’s life, although some who are fans of Johnstone found the work subpar to the author’s other western novels. All agreed that Harding’s life and the way the world was back then was interesting, but the authors did not give the reader any characters to like, even the fictitious narrator and friend of Harding, Lil Bit. All the readers felt sorry for Lil Bit, but some had a hard time suspending their disbelief in the short, gimp-legged, hanger-on to fully be inspired by him.
Harding’s character while portrayed as loyal to family, friends and the recently fallen confederacy was also depicted as an irresponsible, glory hound. Still, the group as a whole would recommend this novel to anyone interested in Gonzales, Texas or Wild West history.
On Aug. 2 the Long Branch Book Club will meet at 315 Saint Lawrence Street, Gonzales to discuss a novel that encompasses more of Texas’ history, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne.
“…The legendary fighting ability of the Comanches determined just how and when the American West opened up….They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.
Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.
S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told.” Amazon.com. Snacks will be available and all are welcome to join the discussion on Aug. 2.