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Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane

Postby Michy » Wed July 28th, 2010, 3:34 pm

I am always in search of a new author to love; unfortunately, most of the time when I try a new-to-me author I end up disappointed. But Dawn's Early Light was an immensely enjoyable book; if this is typical of Elswyth Thane's writing then I have struck gold!

Dawn's Early Light is set in Williamsburg, Virginia during the Revolutionary War. The book begins the day that Julian Day steps off the ship from England, and ends the day that the British surrender at Yorktown. In between is a delightful story of five young people whose lives and affections are crossed and intertwined.

Thane's writing is evocative; she is particularly effective at creating a sense of place. She can almost make you smell the roses in the hot, dusty Virginia summers, or see the fireflies in the twilight. Her battlefield scenes depict the sights and smells and the awful hardship that was war in 18th century America, especially for the ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-armed Colonial forces. She also creates a strong sense of the feel of the times. One particular passage that stood out to me was early in the book, as Julian ponders the vast unknown wilderness of the American continent at that time. He is almost overwhelmed by the huge, wild unknown that lies just beyond the mountains. In this day and age it is hard for us to imagine that feeling, but Thane conveys it well. I like that her writing is poignant, but never sentimental or maudlin and never too deeply sad, either; there are places where the book brings a pang to your heart, but it doesn't make you cry.

The greatest strength of this book is the characterizations. Thane has created a cast of 5 young adults who occupy center stage throughout the story, and their personalities are distinct, well-drawn and engaging. She also weaves into the plot the famous people of the day -- Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette and others-- in a way that is perfectly seamless. She even gives her imagined characters numerous personal encounters with the great men, and manages to do it in a way that is absolutely plausible.

I highly recommend this book. I look forward to reading more by Elswyth Thane and am glad she was so prolific, and that her works are so easily available through Amazon and the library.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed July 28th, 2010, 10:07 pm

This was good. Loved the loved Julianne and Tibby. Still waiting for *someone* to return Yankee Stranger to the library so I can read it :mad:
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed July 28th, 2010, 11:36 pm

Thanks. I started to go into more depth about each of the characters -- Julian's endearing denseness, for example -- but decided that would make the review toooo long.

At the rate it's going, I just might end up reading Yankee Stranger before you do! :p

traveldog
Scribbler
Location: Upstate New York

Postby traveldog » Mon August 2nd, 2010, 9:34 pm

Oh, I envy you! --- I have to wait for enough years to pass so I'm not practically reciting from memory as I go along before I can re-read the Williamsburg novels.

My girlfriends and I discovered them when we were 16 or thereabouts and the Day-Sprague families have been part of *our* families ever since. Pets have been named for various ones -- and a child's name or two seriously considered or championed. (I couldn't get my dad to agree to Tibby [Dawn's Early Light] for my much-younger sibling-to-be ... but fortunately turned out to be a boy so I was able to convince him to go for Jeff [Homing].)

I couldn't possibly give an impartial, adult assessment of these books -- they are just simply beloved. But I wish you half as much joy of them as we have had.

I enjoyed but never 'connected' with her other books quite as much, except for Tryst.

Hmm - it's been about 10 years since I read through the series -- it may be about time for another go. Thanks to the online book sources, I now have handsome hardbacks of all of them.

(She had a very interesting life also -- and I once read that she'd never been to Williamsburg when she wrote the books).

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Mon August 2nd, 2010, 9:56 pm

Pets have been named for various ones -


Oh thanks for that. Tibby would be a wonderful name for a kitty, wouldn't it?
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

traveldog
Scribbler
Location: Upstate New York

Postby traveldog » Mon August 2nd, 2010, 10:33 pm

Hmmm -- actually that's what my stepmother said when I suggested it for her expected child ..... and, sadly, she didn't like cats.

My cat, by the way, is a handsome, bright, brave but still thoughtful boy with a touch of sadness in his background named Bracken (Ever After, 3rd in the series).

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Mon August 2nd, 2010, 11:56 pm

I will have to wait longer to find out about Bracken. Still waiting for Yankee Stranger which was due 7/21 and no sign of it yet on my hold list :mad:
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue August 3rd, 2010, 12:09 am

I submitted my library request for Yankee Stranger over the weekend, and it is on its way to me now. :) I read somewhere that it starts when Tibby is 100, so that is disappointing already, since it means all the other characters from DEL are dead. :( I wish she would have written a book set in-between DEL and YS -- the War of 1812 would have been a good setting, I wonder why she didn't? Could have worked Dolly Madison and Andrew Jackson in somewhere, they were certainly interesting enough people!! Oh, well......

Traveldog, if I continue to enjoy the rest of the series as much as I did DEL, I just may purchase hard copies for keeps via Amazon. It looks like all of them are in stock new. Do you have all of her books, or just the Williamsburg series? I just read Riders of the Wind, which was her first book and quite different from DEL. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much. I will probably still read the sequel, anyway, just to find out what happens to the characters.
Last edited by Michy on Tue August 3rd, 2010, 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

traveldog
Scribbler
Location: Upstate New York

Postby traveldog » Fri August 6th, 2010, 10:48 pm

Interesting! Who is this Buccaneer Books who seems to have reprinted them in 1996?? They weren't out there when I discovered Amazon's used books and auction books (which, at the time, was made up private individuals with comparatively small numbers of books) and accumulated -- slowly -- my set of the Williamsburg series. No book looks like the other and a couple are library binding -- but they are MINE!!!! <g> Took the longest time to find Kissing Kin and The Light Heart, as I recall.

The other book of hers that I'd read several times (and now have in hardback) is Tryst. Back in the dark ages, when I was reading these, you didn't have many ways to get non-new books if your library didn't have them, so I don't think I read many. Never even saw the Riders of the Wind that you mention. I think I liked Queen's Folly but not as much as the Williamsburg ones. (Well, that's not hard - I've liked very few books as much as I did the Williamsburg series. I must have encountered them just when I 'needed' a family like that or something.)

And yes, Yankee Stranger begins when Tibby is 100. I wasn't prepared for that -- expected, as you say, the War of 1812 or thereabouts. I recall (remember, I'm 16 at this point, okay?), putting the book down, turning my back on it, and spending a few days of deep "mourning" because I was never going to get to 'spend time with' Julian or St. John or Dorothea again. I was so angry/disappointed that I almost didn't want to read Yankee Stranger .... but of course I did, eventually.

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Sat August 7th, 2010, 4:17 am

Fortunately, my library system has many of Elswyth Thane's books -- the entire Williamsburg series plus many more. Although I am thinking I may very well end up buying them, as I think these are going to be books I'll want to re-read. There are a select few books -- Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and a couple of others -- that I re-read every few years. Comfort books, I guess. The Williamsburg books feel like they could become that for me.

I am really enjoying Yankee Stranger -- once I, too, got over the initial disappointment that everyone but Tibby from DEL was gone! I really like Thane's style -- understated, I would say. She manages to convey a strong sense of time and place and the subtleties of her characters, but without going into long descriptive passages. Just a few words, or a sentence or two, and you've got it. I love writers who can do that -- Anya Seton's style was similar, which is I think why I enjoyed her books so much, also. Thane's books are really easy for me to "settle into" -- which isn't always the case, since I tend to distract easily.

This copy of Yankee Stranger doesn't have the family tree on the endpapers. Which on the one hand is nice because it doesn't give anything away. But by now the Days and Spragues are so intermarried that I have a hard time keeping everyone straight and the family tree would be helpful!


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