Thursday, December 25, 2008
Star-Crossed by Linda Collison
Reasons for reading: looked interesting; liked the cover; Historical Fiction for Triple 8 Challenge
Summary (from School Library Journal): "Patricia Kelley is the bold heroine of this 18th-century seafaring saga. Left with debts after her father's death, the teen leaves her English boarding school to claim her Barbados plantation. She stows away on a merchant ship, but is soon discovered and threatened with expulsion at the nearest port. The ship's surgeon intervenes and she becomes skilled as a nurse, but finds joy only in her nightly visits on deck when she wears sailor's clothes and learns to climb the ropes. She longs to be with Brian Dalton, the bosun's mate, but he is beneath her socially. In Barbados, Patricia finds that she has no home, and she agrees to the surgeon's marriage proposal. Part two depicts their growing relationship and the work they do to combat yellow fever. Part three finds Patricia a penniless widow and shipwreck victim. Disguised as a man, she signs on as an assistant surgeon on a frigate bound for battle in Havana and is reunited with Brian."
My thoughts: This was a good, well-researched story with many details about 18th century medicine, history, and ships. I confess I got a bit bogged down with all of the references to the different types of sails, etc., but it turns out there's a handy glossary in the back, which would've been good to have seen beforehand. I found the medical and historical details more interesting.
Patricia is very unlikable at first, which was a bit off-putting, but she develops as the story progresses and she realizes that her expectations are not going to come to fruition and she must make a new life for herself. All of the characters are quite well-done, especially Dr. MacPherson, the kind, sometimes gruff bagpiping ship's surgeon who becomes Patricia's husband.
This is definitely a book for high school readers, as there are many references to prostitution, sex, birth control, and lots of graphic details about the illnesses and injuries Patricia has to deal with. (I never need to read the words "bloody flux" again!)
Overall, a good historical story with elements of sea-faring and female empowerment.