When I was offered a free review copy of US author and writing teacher Cindy Rinaman Marsch’s debut novel, I jumped to accept, drawn in by the beautiful cover and the story of the novel’s origin: the imagining of a back-story behind the antique diaries of the character whose name give the book its title: Rosette.
Pressing the Ingalls Wilder Hot Button
My long-standing love of Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s fictionalised memoirs of her childhood as an early American pioneer primed me to enjoy this novel. (For evidence of how deep this love goes, bear in mind that I named my daughter Laura after her, as I explained in this post on my personal blog.)
Like the great LIW, Marsch’s story is based on fact, but obviously not on her own experience, as she’s very much still alive! Instead, it’s based on antique diaries, which were her jumping-off point for the story, wondering why an early entry about how happy Rosette is on her wedding day has lately been altered to suggest the opposite. Marsch has interspersed diary entries within the novel – her own writing is at least 95% of the book, in case you’re wondering about the balance – but she also broadens the scope by writing from other characters’ viewpoints, to create a vivid and absorbing picture of the life of pioneers as they build their own new town, society and country around them in former wilderness.
Authentic Language and Expression
Marsch’s use of language is sublime. She echoes the phraseology of the time without sounding phoney, to the extent that the transcribed diary extracts blend seamlessly with Marsch’s own text. If they weren’t italicised – and if they hadn’t kept any original misspellings – you wouldn’t be able to see the join.
As with LIW’s books, Marsch’s description of daily life in this embryonic society fills one with admiration for the pluck, spirit and determination of its people, while also making them seem very real and easy to relate to for the modern reader.
Not Quite What I Expected – But Still A Great Read
The balance of the novel was not quite as I expected. I had thought there would be more detail about the breakdown of Rosette’s marriage, slowly revealing the mystery of what made her later obliterate her happy wedding day entry. However, her disenchantment is handled relatively quickly towards the end, and quite subtly. I had expected it to be more the core of a novel. However, I enjoyed the novel so much, feeling I’d been picked up and set down in its era and setting, that I didn’t really mind – I just felt slightly wrong-footed.
In short, Cindy Rinaman Marsch’s Rosette is a fascinating and compelling historical novel which I highly recommend.
For more information about Cindy Rinaman Marsch and Rosette, visit her book’s website: www.rosettebook.com.