Saturday, April 24, 2010

Discovering Anya Seton

For Christmas this year, I received a copy of Anya Seton's historical novel, "The Winthrop Woman." I was expecting the book to be the literary equivalent of bran cereal--dull but good for me--but instead it turned out to be a truffle. Instead of being a stodgy dated example of 1950s historical fiction, it was a marvelously well researched and written page-turner. For those unfamiliar with the work, it is a novelization of the life of Elizabeth Winthrop, an early Puritan settler whose independence and self-will often clashes with the patriarchs of her influential family. Epic in scope, it follows her through two continents, three husbands and more than 50 years. It also gave me a new perspective on religious freedom among the early settlers. At least as portrayed by Seton, the Puritans who emigrated to America wanted religious freedom for themselves, but promptly turn to oppressing others as soon as they arrived here. The culture clash between the relatively liberal early Dutch colonies and oppressive British colonies was fascinating as well. I can't wait to dive into more Seton: "Katherine" is next on my TBR pile.

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