So, The Sherwood Ring. If all historical fiction was this well done, I would read very little else. It's brilliant. Unfortunately, really well done historical fiction is a pain to find and the good ones I've read have spoiled me.
The Sherwood Ring is what got me started on the history of the American Revolution in the first place. I read it when I was fourteen or fifteen and fell in love with everything about it. (But mostely with Peaceable Sherwood) I was rather desperate to read more like it, but have yet to find a book that equals it. It's very frustrating.
The plot of this book is a little strange, when you stop and think about it. But while you're reading it, nothing could feel more natural.
Peggy Grahame is rather miserable. He father has just passed away, leaving her orphaned, and she finds herself living with her rather eccentric Uncle at the family estate, Rest-and-Be-Thankful. The estate dates away back to the early 1700's and is full of antiques and history.
"The first Enos Grahame came to Orange Country in New York and built the place in 1749, I think it was. He named it after that resting place on the hill at Edinburgh. The Grahames have been there ever since, accumulating family traditions."
Peggy is terribly lonely in the big, empty place. Her Uncle pays almost no attention to her, and the one fellow she met and became friends has been forbidden to visit Rest-and-be-Thankful by her Uncle and she doesn't know why.
That's when things get interesting. The ancestors of this old house began to visit to help her pass the time. Sure, they're ghosts, but they really do tell the most wonderful stories--all from the American Revolution. (I told you, the plot sounds really weird, but I promise it works!:)
'"Well, Peggy," said the young man, with a sudden delightful smile that changed his arrogant face completely. "Do you know who I am?"
I thought for a moment. I had, as a matter of fact, recognized him at once, but it seemed rude to use the actual word 'ghost.'"
I'm always impressed with the easy the author tells this story. It's actually a fairly complex idea and the stories of the past get woven in to Peggy's story in a brilliant way.
I am in complete awe of Elizabeth Marie-Pope's mastery of history. When she's writing about the Revolution, she is so comfortable with it that it is vivid and real. Something I find lacking in most historical fiction. She tells the story as if that were the only time frame she'd ever known and there's no need to explain aspects of it to you. That's just how it was.
I wont lie. The ghosts are my main reason for loving this book. They are fantastic. There are four of them, two men and two women, and their stories are all linked.
I'm going to attempt to 'cast' them for you. That's always fun. I know everyone has their own ideas of how book characters look, so these pictures are just my opinion.
If he were dark haired, he would be a really good Richard Grahame.
He starts out as a rather conceited young Colonel in the American army. He is under special orders from General Washington himself to put a stop to a very organized group of marauders causing all sorts of trouble in Orange County. Dick is delighted and doesn't think the job will be that difficult. But as time goes on and the groups exploits get stronger and better, Dick begins to realized just how wrong he was.
"It was the first time in my life that I had tasted real failure or shame, and I found them both uncommonly hard to swallow."
"That's very good of you," I murmured civilly. "Please don't hesitate to help yourself to that bunch of grapes just because I've come into the room."
"He must be very different from you, Colonel Van Spurter," I could not help remarking in the sweet, humble manner I used only when I was feeling my deadliest.
Of all of the character, Peaceable is the hardest on for me to cast. I went through every male actor I could think of, trying to come up with someone that would nail the role. Honestly, most of they actors I like are too old for the role. And even the ones I do like, aren't really Peaceable. But I couldn't leave him the only won without a picture. So you get to see a young Tom Hiddleston. I think he could play Peaceable to perfection. Whether he looks exactly like him or not.
"But Peaceable had risen already--to this day I do not know how he did it--swaying dizzily, with one hand clenched over the back of his chair, yet insanely, unbelievably, erect and unruffled."
"I am very grateful to you, Captain Sherwood," I said with calm politeness, "for saving my life."
There. That's the best review I can manage. Though I really feel it doesn't do the book justice.
I mentioned once that I don't have very many fictional crushes--well. Peaceable Sherwood is one of them. Though Dick definitely has his moments too. :)
It's a satisfying book, with a cozy sort of ending. There's plenty of excitement and clever plot development. I think I re-read this book almost one a year. I should really try and leave it be for a while. It's just such a lovely story, I can't help myself.
Now you should go find yourself a copy of the book and see for yourself just how fun it is.
Let me know if you ever get a chance to read it. I'd love to hear what you think of it.