Teen Books That Have Something to Say
A True and Faithful Narrative
A True and Faithful Narrative
by Katherine Sturtevant
Farrar, Straus and Giroux,(April 2006)
I saw that this was the chance I had been dreaming after day and night. "Can it not be written over, by someone with greater art?" I asked. "I know that sometimes you have put the stories of others into your own words."
"I have not the time," he said, but he began to chew more slowly, as though he was thinking it over.
I judged the moment rip. "Then let me do it, Father! You know I'm forever busy with my quill. I will fix the muddle."
--A True and Faithful Narrative, Katherine Sturtevant, p. 5.
Imagine if the thing you wanted to do most in the world was forbidden to you because of your sex. That's what sixteen-year-old Meg faces in seventeeth-century England. She loves to read books, and to write them. It's what makes her feel alive. But women in her time period are not supposed to write.
It's easy to see why Meg dreams of writing; she's grown up in a bookstore, and learned to love books by reading them. Although her father, who she must obey, believes in the social norms for young girls, he encourages her love of reading. And she is a spunky girl, not one to demurely follow orders.
Yet Meg is coming of an age where she is expected to marry. And once a girl marries, she must follow the orders of her husband. One of her suitors is Will, a controlling young man who is apprentice of her father's. The other is her best friend's brother, Edward, who proposes to her just before he sets off on a trip. Meg refuses him, and, feeling uncomfortable, jests that she wishes he were kidnapped and put into slavery, so that he might bring her back a tale.
To her horror, this is exactly what happens. Edward is kidnapped. Meg feverishly works to raise the ransom to free Edward. Once he returns, her guilt makes it hard to face him. But Edward wants Meg to write his story....
The beginning starts off slowly, and may feel hard to stick with for readers who are used to a quick pace and fast action. But we come to care about Meg, most especially because we see what she is up against. There is a slow pace throughout the novel, which may fit with the historical setting.
Meg is a likable main character--she is a brave, strong, determined girl, in a time when girls were frowned on for being so. She knows her own mind, and is not afraid to say what she thinks or feels, or to stand up for herself. All of this helps us to root for her. At times it seemed that Meg did not act true to character, such as when she was drawn to Will, who would clearly not allow her to follow her dreams. The reader may also wonder if Meg is a little too spunky for the times she lives in--but Meg's strength can help readers identify with her and like her.
There is a good tension between Meg's love interests, and the choices she will make, and her dream of being published. This tension is enhanced by one suitor clearly being wrong for Meg, but Meg not realizing it; the reader may want to urge Meg to see clearly, and to do what is best for her.
There is a great sense of time and place in this novel, with details mostly deftly woven into the story (such as eating cold sparrow pie). Even the dialogue gives a sense of the period, while still being readable for today's reader. However, there are a few places where the details stop the forward movement of the story, or where they feel placed there simply to explain something or to educate the reader. But for the most part, the details enrich the story, and make the setting come to life.
There are moments of good feeling and of triumph, when Meg stands up for herself and gains things that she needs, even though there is so much stacked against her. A True and Faithful Narrative can give readers a greater understanding of what it may have been like to be born female in seventeenth-century England.
This novel reinforces the message that we need to be who we are, and to follow our dreams. And the uplifting ending helps give the reader an emotional payoff for hanging in there.
This novel may be of special interest to readers who like to write, or who like to read about writers. And if you like historical fiction, or tales of strong girls, you may really enjoy this book.
This is a sequel to At the Sign of the Star.
-Added March 2006
Want more books?
Go back to Outside It All: Fiction About Not Fitting In to find great Teen Books That Have Something to Say.
Or, go to Teen Books That Have Something to Say to see all of the books.