Category Archives: based on a true story

Reading: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

1st September 2015

girlwaitswithgun*I requested this book for review via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A collision between the Kopp sisters’ wagon and a dangerous silk factory owner’s automobile sets in motion much more than these secluded, secretive sisters bargained for. Shocked and appalled by Mr. Kaufman’s failure to assist, apologize to, or compensate she and her sisters, Constance Kopp confronts the man in his place of business. His response is months upon months of threats, sinister letters, and damaged property.

Unwilling to move her troupe to her brother’s family’s house in town, Constance takes it upon herself to defend her family and their property, by any means necessary, accepting and learning to use a gun at the urging of the local sheriff and even involving the press, earning a headline in the papers: Girl Waits With Gun. Along the way, the sheriff comes to respect Constance for her determination and can-do spirit.

Based on a true story, Girl Waits With Gun is great fun, though the ever-present danger the Kopp sisters face gives the book an edge I hadn’t quite expected. I either hadn’t remembered or didn’t know the book was based on a true story, and learning that, along with the real v. embellished factoids at the end, was enjoyable.

My only real complaint is that the way Constance’s story ends (I won’t spoil it, even though if you read anything about this book you’ll likely find out), I was even more interested in her future endeavors, as well as those of Fleurette, a naive, effervescent young woman, and their sister Norma, whose tough demeanor and handling of carrier pigeons made me curious as to her own story.

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Review: The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson

22nd January 2013

Via Goodreads

*I received this book from the publisher Soho Press in exchange for an honest review.

When her father dies, Sari Arany stays motionless, “soaking in the impossibility that she could still be living while her father was dead” and stays there until she feels his presence gone. As she says, “It was all right for her to leave him then.” An outcast in her rural Hungarian village, Sari is the daughter of a táltos, a Wise Man, and with her odd personality and direct stare, is feared as a witch.

Before his death, though, Sari’s father extracted a promise from Sari’s cousin Ferenc, that he will marry her when she is of age. Until then, she lives with Judit, the midwife, furthering the village’s suspicions. When World War I breaks out, the men leave, and the women are left to fend for themselves, and life for Suri changes. Though still different, she has friends for the first time when the hardships of war bring the women in the community together. They receive little news from the men, and for some, life is better without their drunken, abusive husbands.

When a prisoner of war camp full of Italian men moves into Ferenc’s family home, the women, excited and nervous, line up for work and to catch a glimpse of men after such a long time without a male presence. As the rules become more lax, the women enjoy the men, many even having affairs and falling in love.

Once the war is over, this idyllic (though hedonistic) scene is shattered. Ferenc returns sullen and abusive, as do many of the war-shocked men. Fearful and angry, Sari plans to take the life of Ferenc, only realizing her mistake when other women line up at the door, begging Sari and Judit to help them with their own husbands.

Based on a true story, The Angel Makers is the almost unbelievable story of the women of Nagyrév, who poisoned over 40 people between 1914 and 1929 (though the rumored number is much higher: 300). Gregson sets the crimes up well, giving the women a taste of freedom and love so irresistible that they cannot return to the ways of life before the war. The abuse is shocking and intense so that the reader completely understands when Sari administers the first dose of poison to Ferenc. However, as woman after woman asks, begs, or bargains for help, the reader questions not only their choices but Sari’s as well.

Though I wished for an end as lyrical as the rest of The Angel Makers and a bit more depth in the female cast of characters, Gregson’s debut novel is an artful, compassionate, and darkly humorous look at the angel makers of Nagyrév.

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