Author: Linda Ulleseit
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: 2014
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Under the Almond Trees is the story of my family – three ordinary women in California who lived extraordinary lives. It started with a falling tree branch that killed Ellen VanValkenburgh’s husband in 1862, forcing her to assume leadership of his paper mill, something women weren’t allowed to do. Women weren’t allowed to vote yet, either. Ellen decided that had to change, and became a suffragette. In 1901, Emily Williams , Ellen’s daughter-in-law, became an architect – very much against her family’s wishes. No one would hire a woman, but Emily would not be deterred. She and her life partner Lillian set out to build homes themselves. By the 1930’s women enjoyed more freedom, including the vote. Even so, Ellen’s granddaughter Eva VanValkenburgh chose a traditional life of marriage and children, even closing her photography business at her husband’s insistence. When he later refused to pay for their daughter’s college education, Eva followed the example of her Aunt Emily and reopened her photography business. I am proud to call these women family and honored to share their story.
My Review: Under the Almond Trees tells the story of three California women who were for women’s rights. Each of these women, a suffragist, an architect, and a woman who opens up her own business, struggled to give women the same opportunities as a man. They believed that women should be allowed to choose their path of happiness despite the pressure of their society. This novel shows us their trials and triumphs as well as their accomplishments to women’s rights in California.
The novel is told in first person, and the first person to be introduced is Ellen Van Valkenburg. She is a suffragist, who wants women to be allowed to vote. The second person is Emily Williams, who decided to follow a man’s career as an architect. What is interesting about Emily is that she wasn’t fighting for women’s rights until later on. She just wanted to pursue her dreams. The third person is Ellen Van Valkenburg's granddaughter, Eva, who wants to open up a photography business. Each of these women are strong. They tend to make the best out of their situations. They were often faced with setbacks and criticisms. Yet, they never give up, and they find ways to be successful.
I found that this novel gave an interesting history of women’s suffrage. In this novel, we get to meet Susan B. Anthony, and it also mentions Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the famous architect, Julia Morgan. I didn’t know that California was one of the six states that allowed women to vote before the 19th amendment. I also didn’t know that Ellen Van Valkenburg, Emily Williams, and Eva Van Valkenburgh had contributed a lot to women’s rights. It is because of them and to other women suffragists that have helped give women many opportunities in the U.S. that had been closed in their era. They did this so that women could be free to follow their dreams.
Overall, this book is about family, love, courage, perseverance, and the ability to make choices. The message of the book is that people should be allowed to follow their heart and to pursue their dreams. It also means that parents and family should be strong role models and to help them keep their dreams alive. The novel is very well-written. It can be slow at times. However I admire these women and their determination not to give up even when they are met with obstacles. We readers will rejoice in their triumphs and empathize with their pain. I recommend this to anyone interested in women’s suffrage and strong positive role models.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
About the Author:
Linda Ulleseit was born and raised in Saratoga, California, and has taught elementary school in San Jose since 1996. She enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Someday Linda hopes to see books written by former students alongside hers in bookstores.
Her first novel, ON A WING AND A DARE, was published in 2012. It is a Young Adult fantasy set in medieval Wales, complete with flying horses, a love triangle, and treachery. It’s sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, was released March, 2013. The focus of that book is the misty past of a groom and the murky future of a rider. The last book in the trilogy is UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, May 2014. It follows a brother and sister, new to High Meadow, who become involved in a plot to steal flying horses.
As a child, Linda always loved to write. She took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007. At that time, she gave the first draft of a flying horse book to a teacher colleague to read. ON A WING AND A DARE began as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2009. It was revised with the help of reviewers on thenextbigwriter.com over the next two years. For NaNo 2011, Linda drafted the sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER. NaNoWriMo 2012 brought the first draft of UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, and NaNoWriMo 2013 saw the completion of UNDER THE ALMOND TREES. This last is a historical fiction that follows three women who struggle for women’s rights in early California.
Linda has also written a novella titled WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON, released as an ebook in Fall 2013. It follows the story of Hoel and Neste, parents of a main character in ON A WING AND A DARE.
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