This week we'll be posting the judges' decisions for the second round of the 2nd Annual Dubuque Tournament of Books. To see an overview of the judges and contestants, check out this blog post. To see why Megan selected Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini in the first round, click here. To see why Bob selected The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman in the first round, click here.
Just as it was difficult for me to choose my two first-round reads, Orphan Train and Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, it was equally
difficult for me to compare the latter with The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane
were such contrasting books in terms of genre alone, it seemed unfair to
place one over the other.
Yet, while I adored Jennifer Chiaverini's historic depiction of an
unlikely friendship in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, I found the imagery
and almost other-worldliness of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane entrancing a thrill to lose myself
in. It was a very difficult book to put down, and parts of it stayed
with me for days after reading it. It was so cleverly crafted. You just
had to discover what was going to happen next, as each new fantasy
unraveled as you continued on the journey.
My favorite part about it was that it truly was a book that sparked
your imagination. And, the more daring the imaginer, the more the story
seemed to come alive through its various illusions.
This was a no brainer for me. In the first round The Ocean at the End of the Lane was paired up with a book of short stories and in round two it is paired up with another novel. It would seem to be a little easier to compare. These two books are from different genres so; it does get a little dicey.
A few things made my vote for The Ocean at the End of the Lane quite easy.
I am a Lincoln nut and I have been since I was in grammar school. Abe, along with most of the characterizations came off very flat. They were not well rounded three dimensional characters to me and I would have thought that it would have taken some doing to make Abe Lincoln seem wooden.
The historical parts of the book were written in such a way that they called to mind other books that covered the events surrounding the Civil War in the Lincoln family much better than Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.
The Dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, from the title of the book, should have been the major character in the novel. As it was the book should have been called “Mrs. Lincoln Uses A Dressmaker.” The book was much more about Mrs. Lincoln than Mrs. Keckley.
For me that last nail in the coffin was how much Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker took from a memoir that Mrs. Keckley wrote and published in 1868. The Memoir is available on Amazon for free [Librarian's note: Carnegie-Stout also has copies of her memoir available in print and eBook form]. I downloaded it and read it alongside Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. I was appalled how much was taken from the memoir and included in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. Whole pages at a time were copied verbatim. Now, the memoir is, indeed, in the Public Domain. In short that means it is out of copyright protection so what the author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker did was not illegal but I have to call into question her ethics. The Memoir, itself, was riveting. If you feel like investigating the dressmaker that worked for Mrs. Lincoln, read Elizabeth Keckley's memoir, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House, instead.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane wins hands down.