This was another Kindle first reads book. Again, the title got me. These Kindle first reads authors are great at choosing titles! I’m not a huge cyclist, but have some friends who compete and find the entire premise of long distance cycling to be so intriguing.
Rather than a full history of the Tour de France, Dobkin chose to focus on a single year, 1919. This makes the book less a history and more of a detailed account of the 1919 race.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Dobkin definitely did his research and the book is jam packed with historical facts about France, WWI, cycling and the towns the tour passed through. I learned so much about cycling that I’d never thought of before, like how the riders had to fully self support, carrying their own tubes, food and water. The tidbits of history for each town were also extremely interesting. I would have liked to know more about the types of bikes they road, how much they weighed, etc. It was also interesting to read about all of the cheating that was so rampant during the early Tour de France days. It seems like cheating has always been an integral part of the race!
What’s frustrating is the way Dobkin has put the book together. He follows multiple riders, rather than just a single rider and chapters jump from focusing on the various riders to mini history lessons. These sidebar lessons frequently don’t relate or add much to the story of 1919 Tour de France. The photos included weren’t always applicable either. While the descriptions of each town or pass are quite thorough, the writing get bogged down and you’ve got to slog through a lot it.
Interesting topic, but this book tends to read like a research paper with a minimum word count requirement. Like A Well Read Woman, the author may have been better off diving into historical fiction.
In a Field of Blue by Gemma Liviero was a Kindle first read and despite a confusing and slow start, it was an enjoyable historical romance set in 1922 England. With the slow start of the first few chapters, it felt like Liviero really struggled with finding the voice of her male narrator. Starting out, I thought the main character was female and had to read back a few times in confusion before realizing the narrator was male and named Rudy. That wasn’t a great start. I read a lot and have never encountered a book where the narrator’s gender and name were unclear or confusing. Luckily, Liviero found her footing and I was able to follow the story easily after realizing who Rudy was.
Set in England post WW1, In a Field of Blue swirls around three brothers and their mother. The youngest son, Rudy, and his mother live precariously on the edge waiting for the return of Edgar, the eldest brother whose gone missing during the war and the heir of the family fortune. Their future depends on Edgar’s return, as his death means the entire family estate would be lost to the wildly irresponsible Lawrence, the second born and next in line who wants to sell their home and move on with life. As the third born, Rudy has no claim to anything except the mess his older brothers leave in their wake. When a strange French woman arrives with a small boy in tow, claiming to be Edgar’s widow arriving with his son, the family drama ensues and Rudy begins an investigation into the strange woman, named Mariette, the boy and Edgar.
While In a Field of Blue is classified as Historical Fiction, it definitely teeters closer towards historical romance without every falling into that category. Liviero did a fantastic job bringing forth the emotional trauma of war and presenting it in a way that is both respectful and powerful. This book is worth reading just for Liviero’s approach to mental health. The characters are incredibly well developed, it’s impossible not to fall in love with them, and the backdrop she paints across Europe is beautifully done. The story does flip between four different narrators, and I wish Liviero had stuck to Mariette as her narrator. Her writing was so much stronger and easier to follow with Mariette than the other characters. This book could have also done with some heavy editing, particularly through the first 30% to help with clarity and ease of reading.
Overall, In a Field of Blue was a very enjoyable book, perfect for a winter day snuggled under a blanket. I give this one 3 stars. Incredible characters, beautifully written, needed a lot of help with clarity those first few chapters.