Friday, March 16, 2012

The Saddler's Legacy by Rosslyn Elliott

I've just completed Rosslyn Elliott's book series, The Saddler's Legacy. The two volumes, Fairer Than Morning and Sweeter Than Birdsong, tell the story of the Hanbys, an actual 19th century family in Ohio.

In Fairer Than Morning we meet Ann Miller, the eldest daughter of Samuel Miller, itinerate preacher and saddle maker. We also meet Will Hanby, an orphaned teen who has signed on as an apprentice to another saddler, Master Good. As we get to know them we are confronted with both evil and beauty in the pages of this story.

With great attention to historical detail, Elliott weaves a story that is full of action, justice and grace. It is beautifully written, drawing the reader into the hearts of the characters and setting us down in a time so well described that we feel we are watching the action unfold with our own eyes.

The Hanby family saga continues in Sweeter Than Birdsong, with Ben, son of Will Hanby, filled with an urgency to help slaves find their way to freedom. He is particularly intent on finding Nellie Gray, the wife of a slave whom he had watched die several years earlier. Ben is equally intent on winning the heart of Kate Winter, a painfully shy,beautiful young woman with an exquisite voice. Through this equally well-written book we get a glimpse into the issue of slavery and how it threatened to divide our nation.

It was Kevin Austin, a modern day abolitionist with Not For Sale, who put me on to these books. Slavery, whether through injustice toward the apprentice that bound him to a cruel master or through men and women being owned by others, is clearly a major theme in both these books. As Kevin and others working to set people free in our day would tell you, slaveryis still a very real issue.

Throughout Sweeter Than Birdsong, Ben struggled to compose a song in honor of Nellie Gray. In real life, Ben Hanby published Darling Nellie Gray in 1856 and it became popular throughout the country, helping set the stage for abolition. I think you'll enjoy this video of Ben's song.

1 comment:

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Ginger, what a beautifully-written review--one of the best I've seen, and especially interesting because you read both books in quick succession. I am so glad that Kevin of Not for Sale referred the books to you. This review means a lot for that reason as well as your gracious words.