Hallo, Hallo dear hearts,
I have a lovely conversation to share with you this afternoon which is wicked brilliant as it comes shortly after I had the pleasure of reading The Girl from Oto – the first installment of an EPIC saga of Historical Fiction from the imagination & heart of Amy Maroney! This is a story which not only intrigued me but it is so dearly lush in descriptive narrative with a keen emotionally driven plotting that you will find yourself unable to extract yourself from its grip until you’ve concluded reading its chapters! I postively loved my experience within this realm – where I was slipping through time between the past and the present, eagerly awaiting word from both centuries to check-in on the characters who became so very dear to me and feeling pinges of worriment over how their lives would resolve!
If you’ve missed my ruminative thoughts earlier in the week during my #HistoricalMondays showcase(s) here is an excerpt from my musings about what anchoured me into Ms Maroney’s vision for her series:
I became entranced as soon as I read the Prologue – to be caught inside Zari’s footsteps during an electrical storm is one surefire way to feel rooted inside the opening pages of The Girl from Oto! There is something quite disconcerting about how lightning storms pop and sizzle through the skies – if your out in the thick of them, I’d much prefer a car than boots in a rain sodden meadow, however, you can respectfully understand why Zari is here and why this is an important moment for her to be in an area where she can verify a mystery.
When it comes to the children who can’t stay amongst their families and the people they have become bourne was an interesting turning of the tides; especially to see Mira was carted off into an abbey if only to keep her safe whilst she grew far away from her biological relations. There was a hinting of a a reason towards this end – of how her twin brother would be the preferred choice to stay with their parents and how getting her out as quick as a horse can canter was the best course of action for her own life. It is here we first find Elena – of whom is focused on in the prequel novella The Promise. Elena has the difficult job of having to handle the curiously hard situation where a daughter has to be secreted away from her family – an act of bravery on her part, as it is hinted at how her life is not as readily secured anymore than the infant in her keep. It was only after she reached her destination that we realised just how perilous this act was for her to take-on and how much is looming at stake over the choice to separate Mira from her family. The details were not yet readily known but there is enough psychological suspense in the under-threads of the narrative to elude to the fact this was the only way in which to ensure Mira would be ‘kept safe’ and in a place where she could thrive.
Beatrice struck me as a quite remarkable woman – at first I couldn’t get a good read on her person, not until we learnt more about her father and how she came to be set-up at the abbey itself. It was here where we find a sister (as her two sisters were wed at very young ages) who had a chance at freedom in a manner of speaking that her own sisters would never know themselves. She was meant to live her life amongst the nuns and although their spiritual home (the abbey) was protected there was a part of her nature which was non-conforming and non-traditional. She did as she pleased for reasons which made logical sense – not just to her but to anyone looking in on her life.
As Maroney re-settled us into the life and heart of Mira’s mother, Marguerite – we find a woman whose strength and resolve goes back to her childhood when she was a young girl of nine years taken from her family and brought to the Oto stronghold. She was destined to wed and to have children but her life was not her own. In some ways, I had wondered if this is partially why she had sent Mira away – to give her a chance she hadn’t had herself and to try to reset parts of the past she wasn’t able to resolve until now. There is a passage which explains the seashell and the importance of this necklace – it is an inheritance of its own right and the significance of its presence in her life is a remarkable one of faith.
Marguerite isn’t a woman who backed down when bad things happened; if anything she was re-inspired to dig deeper and to find a way to step outside the adversity to live for tomorrow. Not everyone around her was this strong in spirit nor in mind; she had to be the one others could look up towards when the unthinkable started to alight at her door. The fortitude it would have taken to deal with that at hand and to keep her wits about her as well when you could tell she wanted to wilt under the pressure of what that moment would mean for her and how it would change her life.
In this series, we are anchoured in the present by Zari, in the past with Mira and Elena. The ability to seek out the story through the voices of their characters is quite delightful as you are immediately drawn to Zari due to how adventurous she is in seeking out the truth and the proof of what was once thriving in the past but in the present is only a fluttering of a memory. As you enter Elena’s life as a mountain woman who finds comfort in her healing practices and being a midwife, you also start to see the complications of being a woman in her generation. She has to walk a fine line between her independence and the life which is expected of her to give to a kingdom which is quite unforgiving round the edges. And, then, there is Mira who was an innocent babe in this story – a daughter who was not wanted, an heir of the wrong gender and a twin bourne in secret where only her brother was the celebrated birth.
There is a lot riding the coattails of their lives – especially if you bring into the fray Beatrice who is a nun at an abbey which needs to find a way to financially stablise itself and the arrival of Mira was a welcoming grace as she brought with her a dowry they could not have hoped to have received otherwise. Elena I felt was the most changed by Mira’s birth and Zari is someone we are getting to know in smaller periods of revelation in the opening chapters of the story – to where, Mira’s young life is the central focus to help us align ourselves into their lives and better understand their motivations.
It isn’t often you find a story which stands out from others – by the way it was written, how it was assembled if it were a series and also, what makes it uniquely original. For me, as I read The Girl from Oto – I found a wonderfully Feminist driven plot, strong female leads and an atmosphere of introspective intuitiveness from the past. I found her style not just sophisticated in its scope but multi-layered as she tucked you close to the footsteps of her characters. You didn’t just re-live their lives as they are being depicted but you took a very emotionally connective journey with them.
-quoted from my review of The Girl from Oto
As you can see, there is a lot of layering to her style of Historical Fiction – she writes a fiercely passionate story with wicked brilliant Feminist Historical Fiction insight into the past whilst she encourages you to take this journey with Mira, Elena, Beatrice and Zari – for me, the story had five fierecely strong women inside it if you include Marguerite (Mira’s Mum) who in their own individual ways are leaving pieces of themselves imprinted on your memory.
I was thrilled to bits I could ask Ms Maroney questions about this story and the series as it is evolving whilst tucking close to the heart of her writing life and the process in which the stories alight in her heart to be written.
As your reading our convo I hope it will spark a keen interest in seeking out this series and if you’ve perchanced already started reading either the novella “The Promise” and/or have read “The Girl from Oto” – I would love to hear your reactions, thoughts and comments in the threads below this conversation! Let me know what drew you to this saga and why you love Historical Fiction series like this one – as it is champion to find fellow readers who are attracted to similar story-lines! Remember – brew your favourite cuppa before you begin!
The Girl From Oto
by Amy Maroney
A Renaissance-era woman artist and an American scholar. Linked by a 500-year-old mystery…
The secrets of the past are irresistible—and dangerous.
1500: Born during a time wracked by war and plague, Renaissance-era artist Mira grows up in a Pyrenees convent believing she is an orphan. When tragedy strikes, Mira learns the devastating truth about her own origins. But does she have the strength to face those who would destroy her?
2015: Centuries later, art scholar Zari unearths traces of a mysterious young woman named Mira in two 16th-century portraits. Obsessed, Zari tracks Mira through the great cities of Europe to the pilgrim’s route of Camino de Santiago—and is stunned by what she finds. Will her discovery be enough to bring Mira’s story to life?
Places to find the book:
Published by Artelan Press
on 20th September, 2016
Published by: Artelan Press
The Miramode Series:
The Promise (prequel) novella – about Elena (mountain healer, midwife)
The Girl from Oto (book one) } see also review
– where we are introduced to Zari, Elena & Mira
Mira’s Way (book two)
Ideally, I would have preferred to rad “The Promise” ahead of the first installment as I love reading series in order of sequence. Except it is not yet released into print and/or audio
– I loved Elena instantly in “book one”.
Converse via: ##TheGirlfromOto + #HistFic or #HistNov
as well as #TimeShift and #HistoricalFiction