The Excellent Lombards is an enchanting novel about a young girl names Mary Francis Lombard and her life growing up on the Lombard orchard. She knows from a child that she wants to forever work on her family’s land and tries everything to protect that dream. When this dream is threatened, it is shown how thoroughly involved this bestselling author of A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth, really becomes in the new work. Jane Hamilton does a magnificent job of portraying this young character’s heart when it comes to matters of the farm, family, and friendships. Readers can truly relate to the main character.
In addition to this, Hamilton aids the reader into falling in love with the story and the Lombard family. Readers are able to watch this young character, also known as Frankie, grow up and relate to the people around her. Whether it is her relationship with her brother William, her respect for her father’s heart in the business, or trying to understand the complexity of May Hill’s mentality, Hamilton’s fans will say she has done it again. Balancing the time span of Mary Francis’ adolescence to bringing characters to life is a large feat and Hamilton has done it very well. It is evident that Hamilton was careful to write in the perspective of sweet and vivacious Frankie as she grows up and walks through different circumstances in her life. As this novel develops it is very difficult not to be enchanted by eccentric, yet innocent tale.
The novel begins when Mary Francis is only 12 years old. Her innocence and determination to always work on the family farm is her heart’s desire. The family land has receives the titles of ‘Volta’ and ‘Velta’ which divides the land of the two cousins, Jim and Sherwood Lombard. Secretly Mary Francis and her brother William come up with these names to describe the separation of the family that these young hearts perceive. Volta is Mary’s Uncle Sherwood’s land on the manor side and Velta is her safe haven. She lives there with her father, mother, brother, and their Gloria, the family’s helper. Her family raises sheep along with being apple farmers. These extended families of two cousins raise their families on the land and are definitely not free of the hardships and disagreements that face the two heads of households. Even more complex than the relationship between the two cousins, Mary Francis is unsure and frightened of the aunt-like old maid, Mary Hill. The quiet and solemn old maid is even more of a mystery. Though it is not obvious at the beginning, the older pillar of the farm may have more to do with the future of the farm that at first anticipated. As the novel progresses, it keeps the onlookers captivated by what may happen with the family farm.
This novel is definitely one that needs to be read by audiences of all ages. It is evident that readers of many different walks of life will be captivated with this sweet and full of life novel.
Beth Moreno, CALS
An interesting story of farm family dynamics told through the voice of a young girl. When I first started reading it seemed to be set in the 1950's but actually spanned the time of the late 1090's to early 2000's. Not one you'll stay up to read but a good read.
I loved the narrator of this book, Mary Frances/Frankie/Imp/Francie/Marlene/MF. (Everyone seems to see her differently and at least label her differently.) She grabbed my heart like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although they are very different, they were both so real, full of attachment to people they loved along with great frustration and confusion with the adult world.
Jane Hamilton's writing is beautiful.
Mary Frances knows the apple farm where she's growing up is where she belongs: the smell, the trees, the places to hide, the rambling buildings, the wild nature, and seeing her father in his element. However, she constantly worries that the farm will be whisked out from beneath her by one of her farflung relatives. Her fears are understandable; her uncle owns half the orchard, an uncle and older cousin arrive to work on the farm, her beloved brother loses interest in hanging out there with his sister, and her mother pushes Frankie to leave during the summer. Economic issues also become more visible to her over time.
Hamilton obviously understands the feelings of preteen and teenaged girls and their rather contrary actions. She voices Mary Frances perfectly; such strong (not necessarily insightful) views of her parents and great-aunt! I couldn't help but care about everyone in MF's immediate family.
Some readers may have issues with this book. Hamilton leaves us somewhat up in the air, wanting more. (I would have loved to follow MF and her family further into her life, beyond high school. I almost feel like there could be a sequel, although it's not necessary.) This is definitely a character-driven, not plot-driven book, so if you're looking for action or conclusions, this is probably not the book for you. The action happens in MF's head and memory. Like most girls of her age, her narration is not completely reliable and her coming-of-age (maturing) is not straightforward. For me, what was going through her head was enough action, but it may not satisfy everyone.
There are no ages for this title yet.
There are no summaries for this title yet.
There are no notices for this title yet.
There are no quotes for this title yet.