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The Kashmiri Shawl: A Novel Paperback – May 23, 2014
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About the Author
Joanne Dobson is a novelist and a scholar of American women’s literature. Her six-book Professor Karen Pelletier mystery series won her an Agatha nomination and a Noted Author of the Year award from the New York State Library Association. THE KASHMIRI SHAWL is her first venture into the genre of historical fiction. Formerly a tenured professor of American Literature at Fordham University, Joanne is a specialist in Emily Dickinson and in the work of nineteenth-century American women writers. Currently she teaches in National Endowment for the Humanities and Fulbright Fellowship International summer programs at Amherst College. She also teaches Creative Writing at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, which this autumn honors her for her multifaceted career as Scholar, Teacher, and Writer of Fiction.
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Top customer reviews
I’m a long time Joanne Dobson fan, and “The Kashmiri Shawl” did not disappoint. The writing is rich, the plot complex and the historical settings fascinating. Anna’s tyrannical minister husband, Joshua Roundtree, grew more menacing by the page. I found myself aching for Anna, but also cheering her, as she grew more independent and determined.
I'm not a big fan of historical novels, but I really enjoyed this book. Its rich descriptions of both the squalor of 1860 New York and the exotic lure of India drew me in and I devoured it from beginning to end.
I read this book after reading Ms. Dobson's blog about why she decided to publish The Kashmiri Shawl through CreateSpace after agents and publishers turned it down, despite the fact that the author has a number of books published by the mainstream press.
An agent told her the big publishing houses weren't interested in a historical novel about 19th century New York that moves back and forth between the city and India. But she might be able to sell it if Dobson added a serial killer.
And I'm so glad Dobson left out the serial killer.
Anna’s story is a remarkable one, full of adventure, tragedy, and joy. Anyone who is a parent will resonate deeply with her passion and determination. I am not a parent, but she made me understand what it would feel like to love a child—no small achievement, as I have often said I simply never got the parenting gene! Her story is set against the backdrop of upheaval and violence in both India and the United States, and if I had a criticism it might be that a few of the historical figures and events felt a little bit dragged into the story. Also, some of the major characters’ points of view seemed a little modern, stretched to reflect contemporary values in order to make the characters more appealing to today’s readers. For the most part, though, the historical context is deeply woven into the fabric of the story; in essential ways, external historical events drive Anna down her path. The world of nineteenth-century New York especially is brought to life in vivid and unforgettable terms.
There were a few points in which the author’s choices were different from those I would make—and I stress that this is not a criticism, because they are perfectly valid choices; but they distanced me personally a little from the story at times. (1) In the first part of the book, the action kept flashing back in time and space to fill in Anna’s backstory; I would have preferred a more linear narrative, which would have allowed the central crisis she faces to burst upon us in a more surprising way, and would have shown us the entire arc of the character’s development, not just the second half of it. I felt we already had been told how to think about certain past events before we learned fully what they were. (2) The narrative writing style is more modern than the setting, dialogue, and letters that are reproduced in the book. This is also a valid choice—and I feel like a hypocrite for differing with it, considering that my own novel does the same thing in the opposite direction, telling a modern story in Georgian prose! So I can’t count this against the book, even though my personal preference for nineteenth-century historical fiction is for it to be written in nineteenth-century language.
I was deeply absorbed and emotionally stirred by this book, and impressed by the quality of the research. I hope the author finds a publisher who will do justice to it and to any future work she produces!
Most recent customer reviews
as rather abrupt. Nonetheless it kept me turning pages.Read more