Rummanah Aasi
    Sue Macleod's Namesake is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story grabbed me right away. If you are in the mood for a well written and suspenseful historical fiction read, be sure to check this book out! I'm also doing a giveaway of the book so if you're interested, be sure to check out the giveaway information at the end of this post.

Description: It started with a history project. Mr. Gregor assigned a research paper on a figure from the Tudor era, and of course Jane Grey had to pick her namesake—Lady Jane Grey, the fifteen-year-old girl whose parents schemed to place her on the throne of England, then abandoned her to face the executioner. The project is engrossing from the start, but when Jane opens a mysterious prayer book and finds herself in the Tower of London in 1553, she ends up literally drawn into her namesake’s story. Soon, Jane is slipping into the past whenever the present becomes too unbearable, avoiding her mother’s demands, her best friend’s fickleness, her crush’s indifference. In the Tower she plays chess with the imprisoned Lady Jane, awed by her new friend’s strength and courage. And it is in the Tower, keeping vigil as the day of the execution draws near, that Jane learns that she, too, must have the courage to fight for her own happiness.

Review: Namesake is an absorbing read that combines the excitement of time traveling, realistic fiction, and historical fiction. In the present day, our heroine Jane Grey is dealing with her own tenuous situation at home. Her father has passed away and her mother seeks solace by drinking heavily, leaving Jane in the dark with her wild mood swings. At school Jane is wrapped up in an assignment for her history class, detailing the life of Lady Jane Grey who was the Queen of England for just nine days until she saw her horrible end.
  I really liked present day Jane, she is an ordinary girl who has insecurities and doubts just like all of us, but by no means is she boring. Jane is sympathetic to Lady Jane's dilemma, recognizing the similarity in the extent of their dire circumstances and inability to change them. Jane is ashamed of her mother's drinking habit and would like to get help but doesn't want to exacerbate her mother's wild mood swings. Not surprising that Jane has concerns when her history group must meet at each other's homes for study and editing sessions. And with best friend Megan hanging out with the tactless, arty Crisco and wrapped up in a boyfriend situation, Jane is feeling more and more isolated and unable to find support. For Jane, slipping back into 1553 gives her an opportunity to exert some control.
  The way the time traveling works is very interesting. Lady Jane's Book of Prayers is Jane's portal back to time. While Namesake may be initially seen as a standard time-slip novel, with a contemporary character going back in time to learn something which she could apply to her own life, the book goes beyond trope by having both Janes interact and take active roles in each other's lives, even to the point of altering history if that could save their friendship. Jane educates Lady Jane on the vernacular and popular culture of her Halifax and Canada. And while Lady Jane does begin to try to wrap her head around the modern vernacular, I like how the author chose Lady Jane to use it as a foreign language instead of jumping back to modern language. Lady Jane's voice is authentic and learning modern English provides for some much-needed humor in a dark story. Her voice is true and melodic, never wavering from that of a sixteenth-century young woman. I really think you get a sense of who Lady Jane was as as person, a girl who died for her beliefs and who couldn't fight to changer her fate.    I'm really glad that the author chose a figure in the Tudor history who isn't necessarily scandalous and who isn't all that removed from the main character's age, to share their lives and their stories, and developing their new friendship which both of them needed desperately. Though the ending of Lady Jane's story is heartbreaking, it sparks a change in present day Jane and delivers a light romance along with a hopeful open ending. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language in the book and there are allusions to the mother's alcoholism. Recommended for strong Grade 6 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Anastasia Secret by Susan Dunlap


Due to the generosity of Pajama Press, the publisher for Namesake, I have 2 copies of the book to giveaway to 2 readers in the U.S. and/or Canada. The giveaway will last until Saturday, October 5th at 12:00 PM EST. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment with your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. The winners of the giveaway will be announced on the blog on Sunday, October 6th. Good luck!
3 Responses
  1. Not the most original concept, but on the other hand, it's exactly the type of book I'd enjoy. Sounds great. (And Revolution is the first book that came to my mind).
    alisoncanread at gmail dot com

  2. Presend day Jane's life sounds like a very painful, heartbreaking story. I love how you described the time travel, and I love that language plays such an important part in this one. I want to read it for that, if nothing else.
    But even the rest sounds different and lovely.
    Great review!

  3. Rummanah, I don't know much about Lady Jane, but this sounds like a promising novel. I really like that both Janes are able to affect each other's lives and think it's awesome that modern Jane comes from Canada :)

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