Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: "The Paradise Tree" by Elena Maria Vidal

The Paradise Tree Elena Maria Vidal
Published: October 2014
ISBN: 9781500590628
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

In every Eden, there dwells a serpent...

The year is 1887 in Leeds County, Ontario.  The O'Connor clan is gathering to mourn the loss of its patriarch Daniel O'Conner, an Irish immigrant.  The story of Daniel and his wife Brigit is one of great hardships, including illness, ill-starred romances, war and political upheavals, as well as undying love and persevering faith.  As Daniel is laid to rest, his grandson Fergus receives a piercing insight into what his own calling in life will be.

My Thoughts:
There are two ways of looking at this book: as a family history and as a historical novel.  As a family history, I found this a fascinating book.  Daniel O'Conner was the author's great-great-great-grandfather and Vidal does an admirable job of illustrating his life, and the lives of his descendants.  There are some fascinating stories here--Daniel's early life in Ireland and starting a new life in Canada, meeting his wife, their children.

I also liked how Vidal emphasized the importance of faith for the family.  I'm not Catholic, but Vidal was able to write about devout Catholicism in a way that Protestants and other non-Catholics could follow.  As faith was so important to the family, this was a vital part of the book.

However, as a novel, this book was not as successful.  There are so many interesting stories contained in these pages that it causes two problems.  First, I felt like there was too much going on in this book.  Secondly, Vidal rarely went as deep into these stories as I would have liked.  Reading this book was somewhat like being a stone that someone is skipping across the lake--you touch in here and there, but rarely go below the surface.  Honestly, if each of the stories in this book were developed into a full-length novel, I would read the entire series.

I admit the problem is mine and many others would not have an issues with the novel aspect of this book.  Ultimately, I did enjoy the book, even though it left me wanting more.

About the Author:
 Elena Maria Vidal grew up in the countryside outside of Frederick, Maryland, “fair as the garden of the Lord” as the poet Whittier said of it. As a child she read so many books that her mother had to put restrictions on her hours of reading. During her teenage years, she spent a great deal of her free time writing stories and short novels.

Elena graduated in 1984 from Hood College in Frederick with a BA in Psychology, and in 1985 from the State University of New York at Albany with an MA in Modern European History. In 1986, she joined the Secular Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Elena taught at the Frederick Visitation Academy and worked as a private tutor as well as teaching children’s etiquette classes. During a trip to Austria in 1995 she visited the tomb of Empress Maria Theresa in the Capuchin crypt in Vienna. Afterwords she decided to finish a novel about Marie-Antoinette she had started writing ten years before but had put aside. In 1997 her first historical novel TRIANON was published by St. Michaels Press. In 2000, the sequel MADAME ROYALE was published, as well as the second edition of TRIANON, by The Neumann Press. Both books quickly found an international following which continues to this day. In 2010, the third edition of TRIANON and the second edition of MADAME ROYALE were released.

In November 2009, THE NIGHT’S DARK SHADE: A NOVEL OF THE CATHARS was published by Mayapple Books. The new historical novel deals with the controversial Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. Elena has been a contributor to Canticle Magazine, Touchstone Magazine, The National Observer, and The American Conservative. In April 2009 she was a speaker at the Eucharistic Convention in Auckland, New Zealand. In August 2010 Elena spoke at The Catholc Writers Conference in Valley Forge, PA. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She currently lives in Maryland with her family.

For more information please visit Elena’s website and blog.  You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

Want to know what other readers thought?  Check out some of the other stops on this tour (link goes to the blog, not the specific review):

Saturday, October 4
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Sunday, October 5
Guest Post at Susan Heim on Writing

Monday, October 6
Review at Savvy Verse & Wit
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, October 7
Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, October 9
Review & Interview at Back Porchervations

Friday, October 10
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Saturday, October 11
Interview at Supremacy & Survival

Sunday, October 12
Spotlight at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, October 13
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Tuesday, October 14
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, October 15
Review at A Book Geek
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Thursday, October 16
Review at Book Nerd
Spotlight at She is Too Fond of Books

Friday, October 17
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog

Saturday, October 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 20
Review at Book Drunkard

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