I champion, recommend and devour books on a regular basis. My appetite for reading makes it hard to pick favorites, but last night I finished one that surpasses much of what I’ve read in the past year.
Billed as his life’s work, Selden Edwards’ “The Little Book” seized my imagination, boosted my interest in reading more historical fiction and captivated me with a total mastery of craft.
I’m a fan of Audrey Niffenegger and a reader and re-reader of “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” so when I realized the book I had purchased on a whim at Powell’s had to do with time travel, specifically 1897 Vienna, I was prepared to compare the two authors’ efforts. While some of the themes are similar, and both books offer convincingly gorgeous romances, Edwards has created something that’s all his own. After the first chapter, I quit trying to compare and just kept reading. And reading.
Edwards mixes a lush landscape set in the past with a present-tense anchor of the life Wheeler Burden left behind when he time traveled to Vienna. Then the author investigates how morals and standards of behavior have changed through the decades, the richness of family secrets and a host of other themes. It’s a multi-generational epic of the grandest scale, and I hope it becomes a classic. For sure it’s on my “Read This Book!” recommendation list.
As I’m working on creating my own historical reality, set in mid- to late-19th century America, Edwards’ depiction of the clothes, habits, social turmoil and famous figures sets the bar high. Very, very high. I’ve found my own way into my material, through an omniscient historic but snarky narrator, but there’s a whole lot more world-building to do. Edwards’ masterpiece took 30-some years. I’m aiming to complete a draft of my novel in two years. Hmm. We’ll see.