Sunflowers: loyalty, adoration, happy flowers, and unwavering faith all lead to one very pleasant read. Plus, you get two wonderful stories in one that flow together very nicely.
The Secret Life of Sunflowers (2022) by Marta Molnar opens in present day where you will meet Emsley Wilson. She is a celebrity auctioneer in Hollywood. Her business has taken a bit of a downturn. She and her boyfriend Trey make a trip to New York City for the purpose of helping her Grandma Violet who is recovering from a stroke and needs to move from her huge brownstone.
Violet is very well known in NYC, especially due to being an art gallery owner. She is also known for her elaborate parties for the rich and famous which are often the talk of the town.
Emsley has taken on the job of sorting out her grandma’s brownstone and getting it ready for sale. Of course, Emsley is not only finding lots of memories amongst her grandma’s things. Emsley comes across an old diary. She immediately begins to read it thinking she would find some juicy tidbits about Violet.
Turns out the diary belonged to one Johanna Bonger. So, just who is this Johanna Bonger? You will take a step back to the 1800s with Emsley to find out who she is and why Violet has her diary. Keep reading on as did Emsley, you will find the connection.
First off you will learn that at 28 years of age, Johanna had not only lost her husband Theo, but was also a mother, along with a baby. She is living in Paris, speaks little French, and has no way of supporting herself and child. But she did have Vincent’s paintings.
Reading Johanna’s diary proved an inspiration for Emsley since her life in California was falling apart. Her business is showing signs of failure, plus secrets from her own family are coming to life. Those long held secrets may just be the answer in the long run.
As usual, much more is between the pages of this dual time line novel based on the story of the very real Johanna Bonger. Several other characters, important to both Johanna and Emsley, do their part to add to this tale of both the present and the past.
NB: Johanna was a very real person. “If not for Johanna van Gogh-Bonger not one would know Vincent van Gogh!” (Mardenartgallery.com). Just search her name online.
Another equally interesting read about a strong woman in a man’s world would be Lady Clementine (2020) by Marie Benedict. This may be a story of another strong woman from days gone by, but can be easily related to happenings of today.
As the reader you will get to know and admire Lady Clementine who was married to Winston Churchill. It may be a fictionalized telling but very powerful and worth the reading.
The story of Lady Churchill opens when a younger Clementine discovers her trunk of clothing has not yet arrived. A housemaid in the home where she is staying comes to her rescue. Clementine hurries out and hops a bus. The driver gives her a curious look. She assures him that she is exactly where she means to be. Arriving safely at her beloved sister Nellie’s home, Clementine is greeted with “What on earth are you doing Clementine?”
From that point on Clementine, you will meet one of the most influential persons during both WWI and WWII, will not only surprise those around her with her actions, but you as a reader. How did she turn into a formidable and influential wife of a prime minister in a time when women were looked upon with different eyes? Would Winston have been as strong and successful without her? So, sit back and get to know Lady Clementine.
As an example of her personality and determination of her place is shown in this example of a conversation with a from the book: “You are an unusual woman in that regard. I suppose ma’am, that is because your husband is prime minister,” he concedes dismissively.” Clementine’s reply, “You would be mistaken if you believe the only reason I am well versed in politics and military development is because of my husband’s position. Every single citizen… women included…has necessarily become immersed in this war. And winning this war will require every single citizen of this country, women included.”
Before reading this book, I could not have told you one thing about Clementine. I was very aware on the name Winston Churchill ever since a young person, but had no idea that he had a wife and children. That has all changed.
Reading Lady Clementine will open your eyes to one very interesting woman. The family story of her life, as a child and as a parent herself are both quite interesting. Several layers between those years give you a glimpse of her as a child, a wife, a mother, and one of the most important women of WWI and WWII as she stood alongside Winston Churchill.
Often looked upon by others in power as overstepping her bounds as a woman. Clementine did her part to help through her work to shape the outcome of the war and those living through it. Lady Clementine deserves a place in history.