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Mina [Kindle Edition]

Jonatha Ceely
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $5.01 (39%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In the musty attic of an upstate New York house, a woman finds a clasped box, hidden away for over a century. Inside, wrapped in cambric and tied with a green ribbon, is an old manuscript written by a girl dreaming of a better life, fighting for survival, and coming of age in a time of chaos and danger. This wondrously told tale is a stirring adventure set in nineteenth-century England, a novel of rich history and vibrant imagination.

Amid the lush fields and gardens of an English estate, in a kitchen where every meal is a sumptuous feast, a young servant called Paddy anxiously hides her true identity. Using coal soot and grease, she conceals her flaming head of red hair and covers her body, desperate to keep the job she needs to survive. But the girl, whose real name is Mina, cannot conceal from herself the pain of her past or the beauty of an Ireland she remembers with love and grief—until she meets a man who convinces her to trust him, a man hiding sorrows of his own.

To the mysterious Mr. Serle—the estate’s skilled and quiet chef—Mina dares to confess her true identity and reveal a shattered past: her flight from the blighted fields of her homeland to the teeming streets of Liverpool...her memories of the family she lost and dreams for the future. And as Mina and Mr. Serle begin to know each other, an extraordinary journey begins—a journey of faith and identity, adventure and awakening, that will alter the course of both their lives.

The sights and sounds of nineteenth-century England come vividly to life in Jonatha Ceely’s magnificent novel, a tale that explores the intricate relationship forged by two people in hiding. Moving and unforgettable, Mina is historical fiction at its finest—a novel that makes you think, feel, and marvel…until the last satisfying page is turned.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The hardships of poverty and displacement are tempered with hope, determination and the will to survive in this well-researched debut historical novel. Fifteen-year-old Mina is still resilient despite great suffering, having lost her sister and parents during Ireland's potato famine. In 1848, she and her only living relative, brother Daniel, begin a treacherous journey to America, but soon become separated. Mina outruns further peril by escaping to a grand estate in the English countryside, where she finds work as a kitchen assistant. Forced to hide her flaming red hair (" 'the devil's gift' "), dress as a boy and answer to Paddy, she is unable to trust anyone with her secret except—perhaps—the chef, Mr. Serle, a dark-skinned, mysterious man, who "like a god in an old story... happens when and where he is wanted." The unlikely pair prepare food by day—Ceely's descriptions of a Victorian kitchen are deliciously vivid—and share their painful memories by night. The relationship between the two foreigners blossoms, but can they fully trust each other? Ceely's prose is graceful, but the pacing slows markedly as the protagonists' stories unfold, keeping readers at arm's length. A final burst of energy and suspense livens the conclusion, and fans of the genre will appreciate Ceely's light touch and historical consistency.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ceely's novel is the tale of the friendship between a young Irish girl who disguises herself as a boy to work on an estate and the estate's mysterious chef. As far as anyone knows, 15-year-old Mina Pigot is really a scrappy Irish lad who goes by the name of Paddy. When a startled horse steps on Mina's foot and breaks it, Mr. Serle, the quiet, reserved chef, offers to let her work in his kitchen. Although the other kitchen boy, Tom, torments her, Mina enjoys the work. When Mr. Serle falls ill from a fever, she cares for him, becoming curious about his feverish ramblings. It isn't long before he discovers she isn't a boy, and over a series of quiet evenings, she shares with him the sad story of her flight from Ireland. Mr. Serle has a secret, too, but Mina will have to overcome her prejudices to sympathize with him. Although the novel is somewhat slow moving and the plot is thin, Ceely captures the period perfectly with vivid description and minute historical detail. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 486 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385336888
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (March 30, 2004)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1LR4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,829 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adeep historical tale March 30, 2004
By 1848 her sister and her parents died due to the potato famine, but fifteen year old Mina still lives with her dream of making it to the United States though her one effort ended with the ship catching fire and sinking. To survive Mina changes her sex becoming Paddy so she can earn a living as a stable hand on a country estate. Over time, "Paddy" is promoted to work as an assistant to the Italian chef Mr. Serle, sharing a room with him. Mina reveals her true gender to her boss, but he keeps her revelation secret from their employer.
Serle informs Mina that he is a Jew who fled the poverty of the Rome ghetto. He too dreams of America where he hopes to one day open a restaurant and make his fortune. Both begin to wonder if they pool their resources, could they achieve what they failed to accomplish separately. That means trusting the other something neither is used to doing.
MINA is a deep historical tale that shines a powerful microscope on mid nineteenth century Ireland and England. The story line is incredibly descriptive as Jonatha Ceely fill MINA with historical data like the workings of a Victorian kitchen, but that also keeps the pace of the plot at a leisurely stroll. Still genre fans will take delight with this insightful picturesque look back at a bygone era through the eyes of two survivors that is ideal fill in reading over a few days.
Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and touching Victorian novel... May 5, 2006
The year is 1848. Fifteen-year-old Mina Pigot wants to flee to America with her brother Daniel after her whole family dies during the Irish Potato Famine. However, her plans to emigrate America are tarnished and she ends up working at the stables of an English country estate. Before landing at the English estate, she and her brother lose contact with each other when they are obligated to separate. Now she must disguise herself as a boy and hide her red hair with dirt. But when the manager finds the "boy" unfit for work after an incident with a horse, she starts working at the kitchens with the dark and mysterious Mr. Serle. None of the snooty servants at the estate knows she's Irish and she cannot tell them such a thing, but she finds a kindred spirit in Serle, especially after he tells her that he is a Jew who had fled the slums in Rome and has dreams of going to America. But will Mina trust him enough to share her secrets? There are various twists throughout the novel.

Mina is quite a beautiful historical novel with attention to detail and a dark, compelling story that will keep you reading until its final pages. You get a glimpse of poverty in nineteenth century England and Ireland and the things the Irish had to go through to survive. The story is quite poignant, but with a touch of hopefulness that keeps you wanting the best things to happen to the main characters. Serle is a wonderful character who takes Mina under his wing and has nothing but her best interests at heart, even during the times when she expresses her prejudice toward Jews when she had no idea that he was Jewish. Mina is also a great heroine with flaws as well as virtues. She is exasperating when she isn't compelling and I enjoyed the parts in which she nurses Serle when he suffers from a bout of Malaria.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1848 is not a time to be poor September 21, 2004
Her family dead from the famine in Ireland, her dream of emigrating to America dashed, her brother and only living relative missing, Mina Pigot wakes in a stable loft from a dream of loaves turned to stones and rises to tend her new master's horses. It's 1848. A frightened fugitive as well as a refugee, she's disguised as a boy, her flame-red hair carefully blackened with soot.

Grateful for food and shelter, she feels lucky to have found a place on this English country estate, but it's a precarious place. The estate manager, suspicious of Paddy, as they call the Irish, startles a horse into injuring the `boy' and turns him off as unfit for work. But the shorthanded cook, Mr. Serle, a dark foreigner, takes him into the kitchen.

The back-stories of Serle and Mina unfold amid the daily life of the estate. Though the servants (except for Serle) aren't much more sympathetic than the gentry, Mina keeps her secrets and learns her work from sun-up to well after sundown. Ceely treats us to the aromas of baking bread and roasting meat, the skill of regulating the ovens and ranges, the plucking and peeling and beating and layering and timing of meals for a dozen, twenty or more.

Mina's narration, full of grief and hope and determination, but frightened of bullies like the senior kitchen boy, sometimes seems too timid, too ready to cry. Who wouldn't be with the life she's had, but it's not the tone of a hero. And while the reader knows that Serle is a Jew, Mina seems impervious to his disappointment every time she makes a remark about Jewish child killers and devil worshipers. Nonetheless, when Serle falls delirious with a bout of malaria, Mina nurses him. He's her only ally, true, but she has also grown to care for him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful March 11, 2005
A delightful and easy read. Actually, three stories in one as the two main characters tell their own life tales in the context of the book. A story about overcoming hardships and tragedy through friendship, love and most importantly, hope. I felt especially drawn to the character of Mr. Serle, portrayed as a kind and warm "father-figure" type whose wisdom was both powerful and inspirational. The gastronomically descriptive text always made me hungry and wishing I was sitting at the tables enjoying the delicious foods with characters. I recommend this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great period writing
Ceely writes a riveting narrative that keeps you guessing. Great period writing. You can almost smell the wood ovens.
Published 4 days ago by Marty Krystall
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book which my friend recommended
I loved this book which my friend recommended. I loved the characters. Nice flow to the prose. anyone who loves the art of cooking will also appreciate the details of the... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Lucy
5.0 out of 5 stars Mina is delightful
I loved the historical fiction and the blending of values. Also the friendships that grows between and among the characters is heart-warming.
Published 10 months ago by pam
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Mina is a great story about a young girl who escapes from the potato famine and struggles to get to America. Read more
Published on July 30, 2012 by D. ponasik
4.0 out of 5 stars A delicious story that leaves you hungry for more!
A young servant that finds work in the kitchens of an estate in the English countryside, Paddy has several secrets that they need to keep in order to survive there: their name,... Read more
Published on April 15, 2010 by Elizabeth A. Hart
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reading.
There are two books that tell the whole story. Beautifully written and hard to put down. One of my favorites and my friends loved it too.
Published on May 18, 2009 by SightSeeker
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite
This book and it's sequal "Bread and Roses" are two of the most touching novels I have read in a long time. Read more
Published on February 16, 2008 by Luna
5.0 out of 5 stars More Please
This book left me wanting to know what happens next to Mina and to learn more of the Irish Potato Famine(I must admitt I tend to avoid adversity in my reading for entertainment). Read more
Published on February 19, 2007 by JN
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich details, lovely characters
I just finished this book this afternoon and felt compelled to write a review here. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in narratives relating to the Irish famine -- the... Read more
Published on August 11, 2006 by Uranium
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful
Set against the background of an English estate where Mina conceals her gender to hide the intricate secrets of her recent past. Read more
Published on July 5, 2006 by W. Zollo
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