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StaceyHH

StaceyHH

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The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter #1) - Oliver Pötzsch,  Lee Chadeayne (Updated 1.30)1.27.11 (20% read) Having a difficult time with this one. That's what I get for jumping on the popularity bandwagon. So far, the titular character has been on one page. ONE! WTF translators?!! Was this the original title? And it just feels a bit anachronistic, nothing (so far) I can really put a finger on, but I'm wondering if this is "new novelist" or "uninspired translation," or just plain sophomoric writing? Meh. It'll get better, right? I hope... Last time I succumbed to "everybody's reading it," I got shafted with The Historian. Please, Book Gnomes, don't let this be another one of those...1.29.11finished! That wasn't so bad! I still can't figure out why it was called The Hangman's Daughter, since she really played a tertiary role in the storyline. Heck, even the Leper House got more face time than the daughter, Mary Sue, err... I mean, Magdalena. It's not so much that this was poorly written, because it wasn't. Sentences flowed well, dialogue made sense, people did things. It just felt uninspired. There was so much rich history to work with here, and yet, the history turned out to be such a bit player, just a background to the incessant “she's a witch! Let's burn her!” “No, we have to torture a confession out of her first!” vs. “pssst, I know you're not a witch, so imma torture you just a little bit, to buy some time. We still friends?” There's also the basic plot device of a shadowy unidentified villain, who is behind the crime spree that has been pinned on the suspect witch. Even though we get to see the character as part of the story, there's little hint of his motivation. Not surprisingly, this novel has been something of a runaway bestseller. I suppose I shouldn't be perplexed, because it's one of those reads where you don't really have to strain your mind, or even remember anything. It's not quite book club pablum, because there is a story here, but all punches have been pulled, and the story has been watered down to “crowd pleaser.” You beer enthusiasts know exactly what I mean. Think of your FAVORITE brewpub, with the most unusual beers – hoppy, malty, maybe a touch of anise, maybe it's organic, perhaps an imperial – and what is the pub's bestseller? “Amber.” Or Coors Lite. Why is Lipton Tea the most popular tea in American? There are so many wonderful, amazing teas, and it's nearly the exact same preparation method, except instead of “sweepings and fannings,”(the teeny tiny dusty bits they sweep off the tables into teabags,) you get actual leaf. No comparison.Sheeple. Frustration. I can't even load this into my “so bad it pissed me off”category, because it wasn't so bad. It DID piss me off, because it could have been SO MUCH BETTER. But of course, if this book had lived up to its potential, it probably never would have seen publication. (There's cynicism for you.) People want pablum. The vast majority of bestsellers are powdered milk, Coors Lite, Lipton – stories that could-have-been. I did learn a lot about Leprosy, well, not from this book, but because I was skeptical that leprosy had played such a large role in medieval Europe. Interestingly, I discovered that it was indeed epidemic around the 11th through the 13th centuries, and was probably spread as a result of soldiers returning from the Crusades. It's estimated that there were as many as 20,000 leper houses spread throughout Europe by the late 12th century (thank you public library librarian.) Unfortunately for the historicity of this novel, which suggests that every city has its own leper house, the events are occurring in the mid 17th century, by which time leprosy was mostly a non-starter, with only a few isolated cases/isolated sanatoriums which housed the relatively few sufferers. (Wikipedia tells me that Norway had an epidemic in the early 19th century, notable for it's exception.) All of this creates a time problem. For the leprosy to be period-correct, the story would have to be staged over 300 years earlier. But witch burning in Europe reached a peak in the mid- 16th century, which makes it time-correct for the setting of this novel. One or the other critical story element has to be anachronistic if the author is determined to keep both elements. These issues did not exist in equal import simultaneously in Europe. Witch hunts are an incredible and unbelievable viewing scope into religious intolerance, hysteria, misconception and suspicion. Here again, we get barely the framework of a story. Here again, we have something that could have been so much more. And here again, we have something that, had it been so much more, might not have been marketable. Which is why, ultimately, the story frustrated me. I learned some fascinating things because of questions sparked by the novel, but I didn't learn them from the novel. I don't expect stories I read to become textbooks – in fact, I don't want them to be. But historical novels can be so much more than simply mindless entertainment. They can give us a backward look at where we came from, and insight into our modern trajectory. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana