- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1287 KB
- Print Length: 312 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: B. J. Robinson; 1 edition (2 Dec. 2013)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00H8XZLCE
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,584,664 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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River Oaks Plantation Kindle Edition
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Wind and water soon begin to wreak havoc and while Cammie is exploring her late grandmother’s house, water is creeping ever higher and closer to the house. Finally told to gather personal belongings by Noah Gautreaux, (trusted plantation manager), Cammie isn’t about to argue. After all, he’s an old flame, and he’s already ignited a spark that could all too easily blaze out of control: if only the Louisiana sun was shining. He though, is more concerned with getting her and two dogs safely to dry land, and what transpires is terrifying, heart-rending and requires heroic deeds by both. But, in a scary moment alone with just the dogs for company, Cammie seeks comfort from a diary found in the house: anything to take her mind off what is happening all around her.
In the aftermath of Katrina, life resumes, but how long will it take to rebuild what is lost or refurbish properties that miraculously survived? With River Oaks still standing, Cammie vows to restore it to its former glory, and with Noah’s help, she does just that. But, if not for a diary penned in the 1800s and all that it reveals, she might never have known about its hidden secrets and of those who survived the American Civil War.
Maggie and Danny (her ancestors) become as real to Cammie as though they are ghosts guiding her, allowing her to step back in time to see for herself their home and that of Maggie’s gardens: the gardens Maggie created. Semblance of those gardens still exist, though other aspects of the past have long since vanished. But the myth that all southern plantation owners mistreated their slaves is blown apart by the heroic gesture of Danny’s secret and deadly venture. And, whilst Cammie reads of Maggie and Danny building a life together beginning with 1805, she and Noah begin building theirs in the 21st century.
River Oaks Plantation in Cammie’s time zone is heart-rending for many reasons. But, as soon as a reader takes a step through the portal by way of Maggie’s diary, there are equally happy, thrilling and tragic tear-jerking moments to contend with. Ms Robinson has taken great care with her research. I highly recommend this to lovers of American history, and to those who may have preconceived ideas that all slave owners in the Deep South were despicably brutish.
There are so many things wrong with this book that I had difficulty choosing what to highlight, and how many of the plethora of examples to cite. We have blatant historical inaccuracies, anachronisms and anachronistic language, truly awful dialogue, cardboard characters behaving in wildly improbable ways, a ridiculous and totally unrealistic plot for both time periods, and generally bad writing throughout.
I nearly threw my beloved Kindle against the wall when on the very first page, empty-headed Heroine Number One, Maggie Turnrow, "in a trance...sat spellbound" as "the home of her dreams" "took her breath away." I didn't believe so many clichés could be used in two consecutive sentences, but this was just the beginning of an amazingly endless parade of clichés, one right after the other, from that first page until the very last one. What makes this example especially egregious is that when empty-headed Heroine Number Two, the improbably named Amaryllis Camilla O'Brian, shows up at River Oaks, she uses exactly the same trite, stale, and hackneyed words and phrases--the very same.
But wait, there's more! Maggie also refers to River Oaks as the "two-story antebellum home...[that] made her heart flutter." I can overlook yet another cliché, but did no one point out exactly what antebellum means--before the war--and in 1856 there was no war? Maggie talks about "The Civil War" in 1859, when anyone past middle school knows the conflict between 1861 and 1865 was not so named until after its end, and definitely not in 1859. More egregious, if possible, Maggie squeals about a cross burning in the front yard of River Oaks also in 1859. The Klan didn't form until Reconstruction, and cross-burnings were not part of their activities until after 1905. These examples and more like them demonstrate the obvious lack of any meaningful historical research. Oh, there is the obvious--and risible--copying from Gone with the Wind, and a couple of word-for-word info dumps from Wikipedia on quadroons and the quadroon balls, if that sort of sloppiness counts as "research."
Not only are the few facts mangled and ignored, or worse, invented, there is no convincing sense whatever of the real life, culture, ambience, or anything else that effectively recreates the historic River Road for any discerning reader. Instead we get this travesty of a fourth-rate rip-off from Gone with the Wind, complete with an atrocious depiction of slaves and their lives at River Oaks, to include the implausible interaction between the slaves and their putative owners, Hero and Heroine Number One, who often don't even know what to call them or how to treat them. The alleged dialect of these slaves is also so awful--and completely unbelievable--that it literally defies my ability to describe it. Let's just say I spent a lot of time laughing, and not in a good way. We get the blatantly plagiarized kind, waddling Mammy and the equally kind, large Big Sam--both iconic characters in Mitchell's book. The worst example, of course, is the brief scene with the deathless words uttered by Maggie to Mammy, "River Oaks Plantation shall rise again. After all, next year is a new one." Somehow that tripe simply fails to resonate like Scarlett O'Hara's "After all, tomorrow is another day.' At this point, I had to put my Kindle down and walk away for a while before I actually did some damage to it.
There are many other examples--I counted more than 30 separate instances of historical inaccuracies and jolting anachronisms. Because no one else has actually cited any of these examples, I will be happy to so no one accuses me of making this up out of whole cloth. Hero Number One, Danny, whose nickname is another implausibility for the time, uses words and phrases such as "okay," "skeleton crew," "Take it easy," and "Love you." Maggie chimes right in with "That coffee is strong enough to knock your socks off," thinks her husband makes love to her as if she "was his one and only," and accuses Eliza of "showing attitude." No one living on a plantation in 1856 Vacharie, Louisiana, would ever talk as these two do throughout this novel. Unfortunately, Danny and Maggie have all the depth and likeability and believability of Ken and Barbie wearing cut-rate antebellum costumes. And how about the fact that Maggie isn't too sure about her husband's physical characteristics? She's got the six foot two part down, because we hear about that ad nauseam, but she calls him her "blue-eyed handsome man" in the third--yes, the third!--word-for-word repetition of their arrival at River Oaks, while two pages later, in their bedroom, she refers to his "caramel puppy-dog eyes lit with love." Did no one bother to edit this book at least once?
And because I can't let these two caricatures go quite yet, how about Maggie, Mammy, and Danny referring to "N'Awlins" coffee and cooking? I expect they thought that was a special bit of real historical flavor. Actually, "N'Awlins" is a pure product of the mid-20th century tourist industry, a word never used by a native or anyone living anywhere near New Orleans. Ever. Same thing for the canned milk that Maggie uses in her "N'Awlins coffee"--since Borden didn't receive the patent for canned condensed milk until 1856, and it didn't go into production until two years later, so much for that bit of historical detail. Finally, it seems to me that if one is going to live on a plantation, one would understand the proper terminology. Maggie refers to the house as a plantation, as in thinking "how much there was to do inside of the plantation itself," and later Cammie will refer to the house as the plantation. A small thing to some, perhaps, but just more examples of carelessness, ignorance, and terrible writing.
Moving on to 2005 now--who exactly is Amaryllis Camilla O'Brian, or empty-headed Heroine Number Two? For the first couple of chapters, I don't think even she knows. First she is Amaryllis, and then Cammie, and then Amaryllis, and then...oh, who cares? It was like watching a fast-paced tennis match at Wimbledon, snapping back and forth between names. But after an agonizing chapter or three with What's-Her-Name in her asinine turquoise pencil skirt and stiletto heels, the fatuous encounter with Noah, and then the amazingly sophomoric behavior of both Cammie and Noah during Katrina, I sincerely hoped she at least would just wash off the hood of that dump truck and we'd never have to hear from her again. Of course, I thought the same about Noah, who was as flat, silly, and useless a character as Cammie. I was very fond of the two dogs, though, and wished them well.
The plot had holes as big as Lake Pontchartrain, and was dumber than a pile of good Mississippi delta dirt. Although they had allegedly been so deeply in love with each other growing up, the failure of Cammie and Noah to recognize each other after a mere ten-year absence, then falling into true, syrupy, ever-after love again in about a nanosecond made me laugh. Who really believes this sort of fluff and nonsense? And then they get married a week later because they loved each other so much and oh, by the way, they had to be married to adopt the conveniently orphaned Tommy--all this reeks of a 1950s-era amateur hour. As for Noah, wasn't he at home in the 1950s, with all his little Ward Cleaver remarks to Cammie, and his father's statement that it "Looks like your little woman is learning to cook?" No one in 2005 spoke like that, and had Cammie been a real person, she would have hit Noah--and his father--over the head with a frying pan. Cammie further showed her stuff during the entire Katrina flooding, as did Noah, and both were equally ridiculous on so many levels that I find it difficult to believe anyone could give them the slightest credence. Lying on the hood of a truck reading what should be your great-great grandmother's diary--not your grandmother, and not your great-grandmother, unless you have no sense of time--as the water "gushes" around you and "clutches" at trees defies credibility. And so does the fate of that diary, stuck into the waistband of Heroine Number Two's capris as she swims and swims and swims--with nary a bit of damage to its ancient pages. I mention that Heroine Number One also lurks upstairs in her "antebellum home" with not a care in the world as the water rises downstairs. Pity the waters didn't rise to the second level and wash her away as well.
At this point, I don't think it matters that there is scarcely an original word in this entire book, that it is littered with clichés, inundated with repeated words and phrases like "boiling Louisiana sun"--that one pops up sixteen times--and variations of rain drumming on the roof, also a frequent flier through the book, and on and on and on. I also don't think it matters that the so-called Christian element is as subtle--and as realistic--as the depiction of anything else in the book, because it is, quite simply, as ham-fisted and amateurish as the rest. Good Christian fiction does not rely on the sorts of inane "prayers" these characters say, regardless of whether they are in the 1850s or in 2005, and believe me, the words and styles of these prayers would be--and most certainly were--different. No one in 1858, for example, would use the same prayer, or language of a prayer, as someone in 2005. Further, most of the plantation families along the River Road were of Creole Catholic heritage, so they would not by any stretch of the imagination sound like a 2005 evangelical. But then, did I really expect to find anything else? No.
Judging from the number of enthusiastic and "gushing" reviews this book has received, I expect to see the fangirls line up, attack my review, and claim I don't know what I'm talking about. Fine. Go ahead--I don't care. But no one can say my review isn't thorough, no can say I didn't read the entire book, no one can say I didn't buy it, and no one can say I am not entitled to my opinion of this book.
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