Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

While I've been resting up after my stint in hospital I've been doing a fair bit of reading. I generally read a lot, but it has been a while since I've felt compelled to share my excitement about a new find.

Yesterday I started reading (and finished this afternoon) Jacqueline Kelly's debut novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. A physician and a lawyer (and a writer! - where does she find the time?) Kelly was born in New Zealand and raised in Canada. She now lives in Texas - no doubt this inspired the setting of her novel which is set in Texas at the turn of the century (1899).

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is an YA historical novel, written in the first person and narrated by Calpurnia herself. I loved this book!

I was instantly drawn to this quirky and delightful "almost twelve-year-old" girl with her avid curiosity and her fascination in the natural world. There are many episodes in this story that brought a smile to my face and a few that had me laughing out loud.

One of my favourite episodes involves a grand moment of truth ... with hilarious results.
It is time to sample Granddaddy's attempt to distill alcohol from pecans:

"Ah." he said, "here comes the the real test." He saluted me with the glass and said, "To your good health, Calpurnia, my companion in sailing uncharted waters." He took a good mouthful.
I still remember the look on his face as if it were yesterday. The spasm of surprise. Followed by a long, contemplative gaze fixed somewhere in the middle distance. Then, a slow smile.
"Well," he said at last. "I have done an amazing thing."
"What, Granddaddy, what?" I breathed.
"I doubt that any other man alive can make this claim."
"Oh, what?" I wailed.
Calmly, Granddaddy said, "I have managed to take perfectly good pecans and ferment them into something approximating cat piss."
"Should I write it in the log?" I said. "Cat piss, I mean."
He chortled. "A good idea. We must be honest in our observations. Take up the pen and kindly do the honors, my girl."

As Callie (Calpurnia) explores the world around her, she develops a close relationship with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

This is a truly delightful story about a girl on the verge of becoming a woman in turn of the century Texas. I highly recommend it. 5 Stars from me!

1 comment: