Friday, December 3, 2010

The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

It's been so long that I actually wrote a book review that I'm afraid I've forgotten how.  Between school, and traveling, and illness, I'm way behind in my reviews.  Let's hope this review ends my blogging slump.

Nevertheless, here's an interesting historical fiction book that I recently read while on vacation. I specifically brought it because I'm trying so hard to read more of the books I own, not just library books.    One of my goals has been to clear of those to-read shelves, which are becoming more and more crowded.  Must. Stop. Buying. More. Books!!!!

Anyhoo.  The Wives of Henry Oades starts out as a pretty straightforward historical fiction book.  The story begins in England in the late 1800s, and Henry Oades has been given a promotion in his job, one which will involve him uprooting his wife and children and moving to wild New Zealand, much to the chagrin of his wife Margaret.  Still, like a good Victorian wife, Margaret bears the difficulty of the long voyage, seasickness, etc., and makes a good start of a new life in a tough situation.

Then something bad happens.  I don't want to spoil this, but it's pretty awful.  And again, not trying to spoil [the title of this book is The Wives of Henry Oades, isn't it?] but due to terrible circumstances, poor Henry believes his wife is dead.  After much grieving, he moves on, going to far as to leave New Zealand to make a new start as a farmer in California.   Henry meets a young widow with a baby, and takes a liking to her.  They marry.  And that's when things get really interesting. . . highlight for the little hint. . . the first wife shows up, very much alive!  What would you do?

This book brings up all kinds of moral and ethical dilemmas, and what made it even more interesting to me was this is based on an actual family!   I do get really tired of writers lifting plots and characters from real life, but this is so intriguing I absolutely understand why the author was compelled to fictionalize it.  I really wish my library had enough copies so I could suggest it as a book for our discussion group.

My only complaint is that I wish there had been more back story on some of the characters -- I would have liked a little more character development for some of the family members as well.  But overall I really enjoyed it.

And many thanks to Suey, since I won this book in her giveaway last spring.  Amazingly, the publisher somehow sent me TWO copies of this book, so I was able to give one to my mother, who really liked it.  She was very happy to receive it as she's actually been to New Zealand.  It's so fun to give someone a book that they really enjoy.  Thank you Suey!


  1. Okay this is going to sound stupid, but there was an NCIS episode that explored this same concept and it just sounds so heartrending for everyone. Perhaps I ought to give this one a try!

  2. It was pretty heartwrenching, and there was no good solution. I was wondering if there could be some kind of modern equivalent. You'll have to tell me about the NCIS episode, sounds interesting. I must start watching that show.

  3. This does sound like an intriguing plot. And very interesting that it was based on a real family! I think I would probably enjoy this one.

  4. Thanks for the great review - what an intriguing story. I love the time period and the twists and turns - I will have to read this one. You might also enjoy another historical novel that just came out by Michele Marie Tate called, Blood, Money, Power. The book is an epic political saga of wealth and greed that leads to murder and follows three generations of one family starting in 1920. I was completely absorbed into the characters and the story. I did not want it to end!

  5. I actually know what happens because I read it in another review but it still sounds like a fascinating book.

  6. Helen -- yes, this was a real court case! The author's mother was originally researching it to write short fiction but never did. She was so intrigued she did the book herself, which in itself is kinda cool.

    Audrey -- that sounds really interesting, I hadn't heard of it. I'll definitely look for it.

    Jenners -- I hope that won't spoil it for you. I was trying not to be too cryptic but I didn't want to give too much away.


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