Friday, February 10, 2012

Sweeter Than Birdsong Book Review

I have a new book to tell you about called Sweeter Than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliot. As per my usual way of reviewing a book, I like to give you the "teaser" that is on the back of the book or inside cover and then tell you what I think.
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter's dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she'll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College's musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. then he hears her sing--and the glory of ther voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.

A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage--and her voice--if she is to sing a new song for their future.
This book has mixed a little history in with fiction. There really was a Ben Hanby and he wrote the song, Darling Nelly Gray, which at the time was called the "Uncle Tom's Cabin of song". He also wrote "Up On The Rooftop", the famous Christmas song. Unfortunately for Ben, he took ill when he was only 33 and died. There really was a Kate Winter who was the first woman to attend that college and when he died (they did marry) she never remarried. He was a successful teacher and was remembered fondly by his students.

And yes, he did help the slaves in the Underground Railroad. And there really was a John Parker who was also helping the slaves just probably not with the Hanbys on the Railroad. But he was known to help them in other ways and the author just thought it would be fitting if she included him in the story. I wanted you to know that part before I gave you a quick response of what I thought of this half historical book and half fiction.

Sometimes life isn't always fair and Kate and Ben were no exception. Ben's father was a bishop and actually was the first one in the family to start smuggling black slaves thru the Underground Railroad that led north. That is how Ben got intangled and it became a passion of his also.

There was one slave in particular that they all wanted to help escape and that was Nelly and her baby. Even Kate's mother played a role in helping the black slave and her baby make it to the Railroad but before she got there she was recaptured and word came later that both she and her baby were dead. That is how Ben came to write the song, Darling Nelly Gray, as a tribute to her and her baby. It was also to let her know that her death and her baby's death had not been in vain.

Because of this tragedy, Kate gets the courage to speak her mind and she also regains her voice (she lost it for awhile and could not sing) and when Ben Hanby proposes to her, she accepts. She finally understands what it is to be free and that sometimes it comes at a cost. But in the end, her parents are not as hard as she thought they would be and gave their blessing for them to marry. Kate and Ben had several years of marriage before the Civil War broke out. They did have some children although the book does not say how many. There have been several bio's written by the extended family of Kate and Ben and their ancestors.

I am not going to tell you anymore about the book because to tell you step by step what happens to them and how they finally ended up together is a journey each person must read for themselves. I thought I might pique your interest in the book if you knew that it was part truth, part made up. Happy Reading! You will enjoy this book, especially if you are a history buff about that time period.

About Rosslyn:

Rosslyn Elliott is the award-winning author of Fairer than Morning, the first in the Saddler's Legacy series. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in English from Emory University. Her study of American literature and history inspired her to pursue writing fiction. Elliott lives in Albuquerque, where she homeschools her daughter and works in children's ministry.

Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours. The photo's used in this review were provided by me and the sometimes cranky camera!


Courtney Pies said...

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Robin Quick said...

Sounds very interesting. I love to read. I like the time setting this book is written in. I find it fascinating. Will look for this on to read for sure!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Mary, thank you so much for taking the time to write a review! I appreciate your supportive words.