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Mary Lee Settle (1918–2005)

Forfatter af The Story of Flight

27+ Works 1,422 Members 17 Reviews 3 Favorited

Om forfatteren

Historical fiction novelist Mary Lee Settle was born in Charleston, West Virginia on July 29, 1918. She attended Sweet Briar College in Virginia for two years, before becoming a fashion model. During World War II, she volunteered for service in the women's auxiliary arm of the Royal Air Force. vis mere After the war, she briefly worked as a magazine editor before deciding to become a full-time writer. She was also an associate professor at Bard College from 1965 to 1976 and taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Settle's experiences as the only American in a barracks full of British women is recalled in the book All the Brave Promises: Memories of Aircraft Woman 2nd Class 214391. Her massive work, The Beulah Quintet, tells the story of the state of West Virginia from 1754 to the present and begins with the journey of former English prisoners to West Virginia's Kanawha Valley. She won the National Book Award in 1978 for Blood Tie, which is the story of American and British expatriates in Turkey and was written while she was living there. A prevailing theme throughout all her novels is the struggle for freedom at all levels, including intimately, domestically, and historically. Settle died on September 27, 2005, at the age of 87, from lung cancer. (Bowker Author Biography) vis mindre


Værker af Mary Lee Settle

The Story of Flight (1967) 246 eksemplarer
Blood Tie (1977) 115 eksemplarer
I, Roger Williams (2001) 103 eksemplarer
Celebration (1986) 83 eksemplarer
Choices (1995) 77 eksemplarer
Prisons (1973) 72 eksemplarer
O Beulah Land (1965) 62 eksemplarer
The Scapegoat (1980) 61 eksemplarer
The Killing Ground (1996) 60 eksemplarer
Addie: A Memoir (1998) 55 eksemplarer
Know Nothing (1981) 41 eksemplarer
Charley Bland (1989) — Forfatter — 35 eksemplarer

Associated Works

Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers (1993) — Bidragyder — 192 eksemplarer
The Best American Essays 1988 (1988) — Bidragyder — 98 eksemplarer
Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers (1998) — Bidragyder — 46 eksemplarer
Nancy Hale: On the Life & Work of a Lost American Master (2012) — Bidragyder — 1 eksemplar

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AnkaraLibrary | Feb 23, 2024 |
I'm normally very skeptical of historical fiction, because half of the genre is dominated by pretentious stuffed shirts who know their history well and have a snooze-inducing narrative voice, while the other half is populated by people who know next to nothing about history at all and appear determined to display that ignorance proudly with little time spent constructing a story. I also tend to be suspicious of any series of novels longer than three books because that is usually a pretty good sign the author's just writing whatever crap will sell without regard to crafting a quality story. Even worse, I tend to be profoundly reticent to invest any time in a story that crosses generations. There are exceptions to each of these cases where the trend is that I find only poorly written pablum, but to combine all three served to make me put off reading this book for a full year.

On Christmas, several of us gathered around the tree gave each other used booksas gifts, in addition to the usual gift-giving. The idea was to help each other broaden our reading horizons so we wouldn't fall into reading ruts to try new things. Prisons was one of the books I got. After struggling halfway through DH Lawrence's purple novel of spite and dull melodrama, Women In Love, before giving up on it, I was not motivated to touch Prisons. Finally, after the next year's Christmas gathering was put on hold for weather, I decided to try reading Prisons before our delayed gathering. I'm glad I did.

Early on I became even more skeptical of my likely enjoyment of the book, because the first half of it heavily uses a literary technique that is usually terribly abused and does nothing for a story: flashbacks. In fact, at first, the entire story was taking place in flashbacks. I was, however, slightly encouraged by the authenticity of the "present" events that framed the flashbacks -- the plodding life of a soldier on the road, strikingly familiar to me as an ex-soldier myself. A bit more encouragement came in the form of the evocative tone of the flashback text, the depth of characters, and eventually the way all the various threads started to come together to be woven into a well-crafted first-person narrative. The fact it unapologetically makes use of a first-person perspective inside the character's head rather than tritely justifying by way of letters or journal entries the way lesser period novels often do (such as The Illusionist) helped keep it from foundering as well.

By the time I was halfway through the book, I had realized I was reading something quite remarkable in its craftsmanship. I don't want to go into details of the story, but it is moving, comprehensive in its attention to the salient details of the story and its protagonist's life, and deeply philosophical without preaching or falling into self-conscious pretensions. Even the villains of the piece are thoroughly humanized in shocking clarity, in some cases long before there is any hint of their antagonistic place in the plot.

One might be tempted to assign a moral to the story, identifying it as a parable illustrating any of half a dozen or so oft-repeated clichés that we've all heard -- "power corrupts", for instance -- but doing so will only lend a superficial character to the story that it doesn't deserve. Take it as it comes, rather than trying to impose your own sense of what it is (or should be) about. Find out what it means for you after you have read the thing and it has time to sink in. Then, like me, push it on your friends and relatives, because it's an excellent book, and my only complaint is to myself for waiting so long to read it.

EDIT: I read the first quarter of O Beulah Land, the second book in the series, and it was so awful I had to stop reading it and write a very negative one-star review. As I said in my final line of that review, "Screw it. I have better things to do with my time. I still heartily recommend Prisons, but would warn any curious readers away from O Beulah Land." The contrast in quality between these two books is shockingly stark, though I can see the hints of the two works being produced by the same author. As it happens, the second book in the series was written seventeen years before the first book -- this book -- and what I can only assume is the growth and maturing of the author's "voice" really shows.
… (mere)
apotheon | Dec 14, 2020 |
The truth is that I did not read the whole book. I did not even read most of it.

I read the first book in the Beulah Quintet, Prisons, first. A member of my Significant Other's family picked up a used copy of it and gave it to me in a book exchange; I don't remember what book I gave her. It took me most of a year to get around to reading it, but once I started it I ended up getting completely absorbed in what turned out to be an amazing piece of literature. I decided I needed to read the rest of the Beulah Quintet based on the strength of that one book, and thought that Mary Lee Settle must be an incredibly talented author. O Beulah Land is the second book in the quintet, so of course that book would come next in the series.

I finally got around to picking up O Beulah Land. It was difficult to get into the book. The language was overwrought at first, purple and ponderously cryptic. The floweriness of it eventually started to recede, but the crypticness of the narrative style only increased. The author's style in this book lent itself to utterly failing to convey information necessary to understand character motivations, chains of causation, or why the reader picked up the book in the first place. Where Prisons managed to use the oft-fumbled literary device of flashbacks to establish and enrich a deeply involving story with a masterful touch, O Beulah Land basically just feels like a jumble of events hacked together in the order in which the author imagined them without any particular sense of chronology or relevance. I'm reasonably sure she manages to tie things together by the end of the book, but frankly I do not feel particularly motivated to find out. It is already an interminable slog under a hundred pages into the book (about a quarter of the way through), and I know for a fact there are far better books waiting in my reading list for my attention.

I thought I would give this thing another couple chapters before giving up on it, but then my Significant Other and I started scouring the web for reviews of the five books in the series. I began to get a hint of how this book could seem so much worse than Prisons when we pieced together when these books were written. It turns out that the order in which the author wrote the five books in the quintet was Part 2 (this book), Part 3, Part 1, Part 4, and Part 5. On closer inspection, we found that O Beulah Land was written about seventeen years before Prisons. Seventeen years is a long time. It seems the author, Mary Lee Settle, matured a heckuva lot as an author in those seventeen years.

Adding to my understanding of what I am or am not likely to enjoy about these books is the fact that, looking at the subject matter of the various books, Prisons is an aberration in the series. Parts two through five are about somewhat distant generations of descendants linked to a particular patch of land in the United States southeast, from before the American Revolution up to the twentieth century (though the information about the actual setting and plot of part five of the series, The Killing Ground, is maddenly scant on the Internet -- to the point that I wonder if more than fifty people have ever read that novel). Prisons, meanwhile, is the fictionally very personal perspective of a single "everyman" soldier on the treacherous events central to the final disposition of Cromwell's war against monarchy in seventheenth century England, carrying both a deeply authentic feel for the circumstances of the protagonist and an emerging philosophical understanding of how the dramatic acts of Great Men force troubling weight upon the lives of those unrecognized in our historical records.

In short, where Prisons seems a valuable, thoughtful, impressive work of literary genius, the first quarter of O Beulah Land comes across as a fatuous, self-indulgent exercise in the trite pursuit of writing some stereotypical Great American Novel, falling well short of that mark in large part because of its trite hubris. The fact Prisons appears to have been written as little more than a way to provide some kind of background context, or bookending prelude, to the rest of this seemingly self-conscious attempt to produce an epic generational saga seems to have spared it the overblown feel of O Beulah Land. I rather suspect the third book in the series, itself about thirteen years older than Prisons, would likewise be relatively awful, serving as the final nail in the coffin for my interest in finishing O Beulah Land, because I am uninterested in finishing one bad book just to read another that might aspire to the dizzying heights of mere mediocrity. It is possible the fourth and fifth books are better, but I will not hold my breath, nor read two books that are likely intolerably dull and frustrating to read to get there, and haven't much interest in skipping forty percent of a series just to see if the last forty percent is any good.

Screw it. I have better things to do with my time. I still heartily recommend Prisons, but would warn any curious readers away from O Beulah Land.
… (mere)
apotheon | Dec 14, 2020 |
very interesting. wish I had visited Spain.
mahallett | 1 anden anmeldelse | Jan 15, 2020 |



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