Author: Jane Nickerson
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2013
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)
When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.
Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tal
Fairy tale retellings are a sure way to get me to read a book. I also like it when an author tries to make the fairy tale work in real life, no magic or fairy godmothers. In Strands of Bronze and Gold, the author uses the antebellum south and a plantation as a way of retelling the tale of Bluebeard.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Bluebeard married several times and kept a room locked. He always told the wives that the room was off limits. They could do as they liked, but not go in there. The wife would steal the key, open the door, and find out the other wives had been murdered in the room. Once they found this out, he kills them. The last wife gets smart, and begs for time to say prayers until her brothers, coming to visit, get there. She locks herself in a tower, the brothers come and kill the evil husband. That’s the quick and dirty version, anyway. If you want to read the full version, click HERE. I’m sure the message was something about feminine curiosity and whatnot, but it always seemed like a strange fairy tale to me.
This book takes that theme and makes it into a mystery, which I really enjoyed. You know something is going on, but you aren’t sure what. I might have liked it better had I not known it was based on Bluebeard, just because it immediately gives some things away. (You know the basic bones of the past, etc)
The main character, however, I felt a bit confused by. Sophie starts off very young and acts like it. Her reasons for going to de Cressac, who is her godfather, make sense for the time. Even so, it’s a little ick-inducing once you get farther into the story and realize de Cressac’s love of strawberry blondes. Sophie does make a significant change and matures quite a bit before the end of the book, and does so in a plausible way that I really liked. But she felt so much older at the end that she might even have matured too much, considering her age. Its a minor complaint, but when you go back and read a few pages at the beginning, the character is drastically different. At the same time, it is an appropriate change, considering everything that happens to her.
The author’s take on de Cressac is also well done. She paints the older man well, and despite Sophie’s immature crush at the beginning, she does make the whole thing believable, especially considering the social norms of the time. I also enjoyed the ending, which I won’t give away, and de Cressac’s part in it. The housekeeper’s blind eye was a bit hard to believe, but I suppose when the villan is supposed to be so charismatic, you can almost ignore that.
My biggest complaint is the strange undercurrent of social commentary that the author placed in the novel. In the midst of the gothic, creepy feel of the novel she tries to insert bits about abolition and slavery. While the time period if correct, and Sophie may very well have had the opinions she did as someone from the North coming South, it seemed jarring. At times it worked, and at other times it took me out of the story. It isn’t necessarily badly done, its just odd for the novel, for me.
Overall, the book is a good retelling of a less popular fairy tale. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, I would recommend it.
Where to Find the Book
Book was purchased by reviewer.