RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Through a Glass Darkly, by Karleen Koen and Rosalyn Landor (Narrator)


Through a Glass Darkly

The nice thing about historical fiction is that it's, forgive the pun, timeless. Through a Glass Darkly has seduced and enchanted readers since its publication in 1988. Now, thanks to audio books, multi-tasking commuters and road trippers can also immerse themselves in the 18th-century world of Barbara Montgeoffrey. Married at 15 to the wealthy, handsome 46-year-old Roger Devane, Barbara learns to navigate both the English and the French courts. There she indulges in her girlish fantasy of captivating her husband the way she enchants the people around her. However, the dashing Roger harbors a dark secret that drives Barbara back to the protective household of her domineering, but loving grandmother, The Duchess of Tamworth.

This book is peopled by a diverse society of family, friends and servants. Koen creates characters who support Barbara as she confronts harsh realities such as death, disease, betrayal, disgrace, and poverty, but ultimately, Barbara relies on her own strengths to survive her troubles. Not all the characters are supportive, however. The term dysfunctional comes to mind in describing Barbara's mother and her mercenary, egocentric treatment of her seven children. What makes this audio book so special, though, is the reading by Rosalyn Landor. Her reading of the book is a theatrical performance worthy of several curtain calls. The characters' conversations and ruminations are mesmerizing when delivered by such a skilled actress.

This is a good book for anyone with an interest in the economics, politics, and culture of 18th-century Europe as experienced by privileged men and women. Koen weaves the plot in and out around the villains and victims of the South Seas Bubble, otherwise known as the English Enron. If that weren't of enough historical interest, in a subplot, Barbara's enterprising grandmother researches the possibility of developing property in the newly formed colony of Virginia. Vivid descriptions of sailing ships and seedy waterfront taverns indicate that sailing to the New World, an exotic adventure at the time, wasn't a luxury cruise. It's easy to recommend a book that is so richly packed with fascinating events and beguiling characters.

Ruth Mormon

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