Tablo Publishing (2019)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (07/2020)
“Lily Fairchild,” by Don Gutteridge, is perfect for readers who like to see strong women featured in historical novels. Set in Ontario in the mid-1800s, but spanning one woman’s long life, this book tells the life, loves, hardships, and historical milestones of Lily, who is nuanced and tenacious, yet prizes love above all things. Since Lily lives to a ripe old age, she sees history unfold before her eyes, and is actually part of it in the making. She struggles with what most women of that time struggled with – adversity, family, and characters from all walks of life, but her unique personality helps her get through it all. In this sense, this is more than just a historical novel. It’s a studied character piece.
The reader may have read, learned or heard about some of the historical plot points that Gutteridge writes about – the building of railroads, finding oil, the coming of war, and the pandemic of 1918 (also known as The Spanish Flu), but the author brings these events to life in a visceral and detailed way, giving the reading audience a tactile experience that is hard to match.
In this story, Lily Fairchild is the standout character. She’s the glue that holds the book, and the historical events, together. History is interesting on its own, but when it can be illustrated in the life of one person and how she/he experiences it, it comes alive for the audience and we get a better understanding, as well as a great deal of entertainment.
Gutteridge writes with a beautiful style. The rich scenes he poetically describes draw you in, and you live them along with the characters. You wonder what you would do in the same situation. You root for Lily to succeed, you hurt when she hurts, you rejoice when she rejoices, and you find yourself admiring her and the attributes she possesses. My favorite thing about Lily is that, although she is strong, she is modest, and doesn’t really realize how capable she is. She has quirks and shortcomings, and her thoughts, behaviors, and choices seem original, ordinary, and unique to her personality. Gutteridge doesn’t stereotype the “strong” woman as a caricature. This is a mark of a masterful writer. “Lily Fairchild” is a well-rounded human being that grows into her innate strength by the historical forces that shape her.