Official Review: Bread and Heaven by S.E.Taylor

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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NadineTimes10
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Official Review: Bread and Heaven by S.E.Taylor

Post by NadineTimes10 » 21 Dec 2016, 17:41

[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Bread and Heaven" by S.E.Taylor.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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In a late Nineteenth Century coal mining town, few people could understand how a marriage between a certain reverend and his wife could work. Reverend Morgan Humphrey Jones was a quiet man, devoted to chapel ministry. His wife, Margaret Ann, was a forceful and ambitious woman who didn’t particularly like attending chapel. What’s more, raising their nine children in an area stricken with poverty would be no easy task. The challenge of their lives together and the endurance of their family comes alive in Bread and Heaven: A Family Chronicle from Rhondda Valley by author S.E. Taylor.

Upon my first glimpse of the title and cover of this book, it immediately registered in my mind as nonfiction, a biography. When I came back to look again, I saw the book was actually categorized as historical fiction, so I picked it up. Once I started reading, I found that the book is indeed a true chronicle. Using family anecdotes recorded by her mother, memories from her other relatives, and some creative license, the author has written a biographical account that reads like a novel.

The writing is dense, detailed, and steadily paced, with pages of family photographs that strengthen the sense of time and place. This is not the type of book that one is likely to rush or breeze through. There are some parts that may appeal to biography readers more than fiction readers looking for a more heavily plot-driven story. Still, the density and detail allow the reader to become quite familiar with the Jones family. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I’d gotten well-acquainted with the Joneses and with life in their valley.

Margaret Ann, the author’s great-grandmother, is the unrivaled backbone of this story. She has a no-nonsense, commanding presence. I thought her to be too pushy and controlling at times, virtually steamrolling over the will of anyone in her path, especially her family members. Yet, it’s clear that nothing means more to her than the welfare of her loved ones, and she has heart. She keeps that heart in check beneath her strength, so when any signs of need or vulnerability peek through, those signs are all the more impactful. The book’s fitting title is derived from Margaret Ann’s sentiments, and it’s a wonderful descriptor of her marriage to Morgan.

There’s a momentous change concerning Morgan’s vocation that I would’ve liked to see unfold in real time, as many of the other scenes do. Because his decision is pivotal to his life as a reverend, I thought it deserved a pivotal scene with dialogue instead of a summary. There are also some spacing and punctuation errors within the book’s dialogue and at the end of sentences. However, the errors are relatively few, and they aren’t so jarring that they disrupt the story.

Even with its minor weaknesses, this is an inspiring account of purpose and dedication, woven into history. Overall, I give Bread and Heaven a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Biography and historical fiction readers alike can appreciate the author’s creative portrayal of her family’s dynamics, their trials, and their successes.

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Bread and Heaven
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Post by Silvermoon » 30 Dec 2016, 15:41

A nice and thorough review that is well balanced. I love historical novels, however, this one sounds too biographical for me; more of one person's story rather than an era. Great Job!

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Post by MarisaRose » 30 Dec 2016, 19:14

This is a wonderfully written and insightful review!! I think the book sounds interesting; I really like that the author added pictures to help bring the narrative to life. Great job on the review :)
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Post by NadineTimes10 » 31 Dec 2016, 05:57

Silvermoon wrote:A nice and thorough review that is well balanced. I love historical novels, however, this one sounds too biographical for me; more of one person's story rather than an era. Great Job!
Thank you! I was mildly "tricked" into picking up this book, as historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I read far more novels than I do biographies. But once I got into this one, well, I just kept going. :D

-- Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:00 am --
MarisaRose wrote:This is a wonderfully written and insightful review!! I think the book sounds interesting; I really like that the author added pictures to help bring the narrative to life. Great job on the review :)
Thanks, and yes, I'm a big fan of pictures! This doesn't always happen to me, but once I saw the first picture of Margaret Ann, she looked almost exactly like I'd seen her in my head. :)

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Post by kimmyschemy06 » 04 Jan 2017, 05:39

Wow! Sounds like one great book and Margaret Ann seems like a formidable and very interesting character. Great job on the review.

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Post by NadineTimes10 » 04 Jan 2017, 05:47

kimmyschemy06 wrote:Wow! Sounds like one great book and Margaret Ann seems like a formidable and very interesting character. Great job on the review.
Thank you! I can only imagine what it must have been like for the author, depicting Margaret Ann and the others who are actually a part of her, her history.

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Post by Timbets » 04 Jan 2017, 21:32

I agree it sounds too biographical. I don't mind them sometimes but they are not my first pick. Very well written review. Thank you for sharing.

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Post by NadineTimes10 » 04 Jan 2017, 21:47

Timbets wrote:I agree it sounds too biographical. I don't mind them sometimes but they are not my first pick. Very well written review. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you and you're welcome. :)

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Post by Insightsintobooks » 18 Jan 2017, 11:17

I love historical fiction and biographies. So, this book might just be right up my alley as it's biography masked as fiction it seems. Thank you for the review.

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Post by NadineTimes10 » 18 Jan 2017, 14:19

Insightsintobooks wrote:I love historical fiction and biographies. So, this book might just be right up my alley as it's biography masked as fiction it seems. Thank you for the review.
You're quite welcome! :)

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Post by CatInTheHat » 18 Jan 2017, 22:09

I think that by looking at the cover, I would have thought non-fiction too. It does sound like an interesting story, and I do enjoy the use of photos to tell a story.
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Post by NadineTimes10 » 19 Jan 2017, 00:34

CatInTheHat wrote:I think that by looking at the cover, I would have thought non-fiction too. It does sound like an interesting story, and I do enjoy the use of photos to tell a story.
I actually wish more novels for adults had pictures, like many of the books I read when I was younger. Not in the graphic novel sense, though those are fun too, and not like picture books, but just some illustrations here and there to go along with the stories. I've seen just a few novels like that and enjoyed them that much more on account of their pictures. :)

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Post by CatInTheHat » 19 Jan 2017, 08:18

NadineTimes10 wrote: I actually wish more novels for adults had pictures, like many of the books I read when I was younger. Not in the graphic novel sense, though those are fun too, and not like picture books, but just some illustrations here and there to go along with the stories. I've seen just a few novels like that and enjoyed them that much more on account of their pictures. :)

I would have to agree. Visualizations can really help me get into a story.
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Post by mewsmash » 21 Jan 2017, 21:49

I've never been a biography or historical fan, but the way you described the book even made me want to read it. Great job!

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Post by NadineTimes10 » 21 Jan 2017, 22:30

mewsmash wrote:I've never been a biography or historical fan, but the way you described the book even made me want to read it. Great job!
Hahahaha, thanks! I love historical fiction. Biographies--not usually. But I do enjoy the occasional book or two from genres I don't particularly favor.

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