Connecting with the Past: A Review of Namesake by Sue MacLeod

Namesake by Sue MacLeod

From Pajama Press: 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.

Jane Grey wants to escape her life. The boy she likes is into her best friend; her best friend seems to have found a new best friend; and she never knows which mom she is going to come home to—the Everything’s-Fine-and-I-Want-to-be-Your-Buddy Mom, or the Bite-Your-Head-Off-Just-‘Cause-I’m-Drunk Mom. To escape it all, she immerses herself in her history project about Lady Jane Grey… And suddenly finds herself in Tudor England face-to-face with her namesake. Detained in the Tower of London, the young Lady Jane is awaiting her release…or her execution. These two very different girls connected through time and space form a friendship that might just be able to save them both.

Namesake by Sue MacLeod (Pajama Press) is one of those rare time-travel books that doesn’t fall into the common pit-falls associated the time-travel genre. MacLeod manages to weave together these two very different stories, one from the present and one from the 16th century, without the story being bogged down by questionable logistics. The “portal”, a prayer book that once belonged to the ill-fated queen, is a simple and effective tool that binds the two girls together and allows the focus to be on how the girls stories affect one another.

You would think that a book involving two characters with the same name would get confusing, but that just wasn’t the case with this one. Jane and Lady Jane are easily distinguishable both in voice and character. I admit I was drawn more to Lady Jane’s story than Jane’s contemporary one, but the way the two girls feed off each other is quite compelling. It is a pleasure to step back in time and be introduced to Tudor England through Lady Jane with her odd speech and customs. I particularly like that this book teaches about the time period through Jane’s interactions with her classmates and Lady Jane, without feeling pedantic.

Another nice touch is that each chapter begins with a word from the period and its definition hinting at the chapter’s contents. The reader doesn’t need to know Lady Jane’s story at the beginning to enjoy Namesake or follow along, but hopefully by the end the reader is a little bit wiser about this interesting teenager from English history.

Well-crafted and interesting, Namesake doubles as a pleasure-read, and also as a book that would be perfect for a school book report. Fans of Beverley Brenna and historical YA will not by disappointed. Jane sought escape from her world by visiting Lady Jane; Namesake offers its readers that little bit of escape, as well. Who knows? You might just end up back in Tudor England, too.

PS. Isn’t that Namesake cover just gorgeous?!

♥♥♥ ½ (3.5/5 hearts)

Find out more about the Namesake Blog Tour here.

Also check out this special guest post from author Sue MacLeod!

This book was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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3 thoughts on “Connecting with the Past: A Review of Namesake by Sue MacLeod

  1. Pingback: {Guest Post} Author Sue MacLeod Shares Joys and Challenges of Writing Namesake | Bookish Notions

  2. Pingback: Recap: Word on the Street Toronto 2013 | Bookish Notions

  3. Pingback: Bookish Notions connects with the past through Namesake | Pajama Press

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