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The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi

The Family Greene

by Ann Rinaldi

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An enjoyable young adult historical novel. The book is divided into two sections; the first, the shorter of the two, follows Caty Littlefield from eleven-ish to just after her marriage (in her late teens) to Nathanael Greene. The section focuses on Caty's coming of age, her courtship with Nathanael, and her curiosity about her aunt's supposed affair with Benjamin Franklin. The second section follows Caty's daughter Cornelia (beginning when she is about nine), and primarily focuses on Cornelia's relationship with her Pa (Nathanael) and her confusion and turmoil over the rumor that family friend Anthony Wayne might actually be her father. Together these two sections form an elegant study of the ways women use flirtation and their sexuality to gain power over men (particularly in a time when women had little or no recognized political or legal power), of how such flirtation affects the men who love them, and of how such practices influence the girls growing up around them. While the thematic parallel between the two sections is made very plain, the novel's execution of the premise and the conclusions to which it comes are gentle and subtle. Rinaldi also does an excellent job portraying the struggle Cornelia has in trying to find her way into adulthood and learning to negotiate the relationships between men and women while her childhood is mired in so much confusion about fatherhood and marital loyalty. A recommended read, though I will say that I was confused about what audience the book was aiming for. The sentence-level writing seems appropriate for the 9-11 set, while the subject matter felt more 13+. It's not that there's anything particularly inappropriate for younger readers (there's nothing explicit, or graphic, or even suggestive on the page--beyond a few tame kisses), I just wonder if the complexity of Cornelia's feelings and the subtlety with which they are dealt might leave younger readers thinking they've missed something. ( )
  lycomayflower | Apr 11, 2011 |
Reviewed by Jennifer Rummel for TeensReadToo.com

A mother and daughter attempt to find their place in the world and both women struggle with the same issue - the powers of female persuasion.

As a young woman, Caty moves in with her aunt and uncle to become a properly educated young lady. Her aunt displays the art of flirting. Confused, at first Caty dislikes flirting, but as she comes to understand its powers, she herself employs the art.

Years later, her own daughter questions the same issue when she sees Caty flirting. Will Cornelia begin to understand the powers of flirting and how it can empower women?

THE FAMILY GREENE portrays family life before and after the American Revolution, focusing on the women of the family while also briefly touching upon the issues of slavery and the education of women. ( )
  GeniusJen | Sep 11, 2010 |
In 1764, the year she turns ten years old, Caty Littlefield’s mother dies and her father decides she must leave her home on Block Island to live on the mainland, where she can receive a proper education for a young lady in the home of her aunt and uncle. While living there, she learns of the growing unrest in the colonies that will eventually lead to war. She also meets her future husband, Nathanael Greene. Shortly after their marriage, the American Revolution begins and Caty eventually follows her husband, a general in the American army, to war.

Years later, Caty’s own daughter, Cornelia, who is eight years old when her part of the story begins, is growing up on the Greene family’s plantation in Georgia. Cornelia loves her father, a good man who is kind to his children, and is disturbed by her mother’s behavior, as it appears she may be unfaithful to her husband. Cornelia is even more disturbed when her cruel older sister, Martha, suggests to Cornelia that Nathanael Greene may not be her father, that Cornelia may have been born from her mother’s affair with General Anthony Wayne during the war. Cornelia is desperate to know the truth, but at the same time she is worried that the father who raised her will be deeply hurt by her mother’s behavior and the possibility she may have had a child with another man.

Although not my very favorite book by Ann Rinaldi, I did enjoy reading The Family Greene. I especially liked the historical setting, since I have always enjoyed reading historical fiction set around the time of the American Revolution. Despite Cornelia’s young age when the story begins (and she does seem a bit mature for her age at times, but some of that may be because in the 18th century children were expected to grow up faster), this is definitely a young adult book, due to the themes/plot which younger readers would likely have a hard time understanding. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction set in this time period, or who have read and enjoyed other books by Ann Rinaldi. ( )
  rebecca191 | May 7, 2010 |
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For my son, Ron

Who played the role of General Nathanael Greene for so many years in the Christmas Day Crossing of the Delaware, before he played George Washington. Who loaned me the right books from his extensive library on American history for research, cautioned me against the wrong books, and inspired me to write historical novels in the first place, and ... for always being there.
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The sea was still angry, showing its anger with its white foam spitting at all comers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547260679, Hardcover)

Cornelia Greene is fed up with gossip about her mother. Caty Littlefield Greene was once a beautiful young bride who lifted the troops’ spirits at Valley Forge, but Cornelia knows that rumors of Caty’s past indiscretions hurt Nathanael Greene, Cornelia’s adored father. Yet Caty claims that she’s just a flirt, and that flirting is a female necessity—a woman’s only means of power.

Cornelia’s concern with her mother’s reputation abruptly fades to the background when she learns that Nathanael Greene may not be her father. As she searches for the truth, she makes unexpected discoveries that lead her to a new understanding of love and family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:08 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Follows Caty and her daughter Cornelia through the latter half of the eighteenth century as they mingle with the heroes of the Revolutionary War, discovering that a woman's only means of power, flirting, can cause trouble and confusion.

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