Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth

Constance
Constance

Constance, what best could be described as historical romance for the middle-grade or young adult market, is a fabulous book about the hardships and times of early Colonial America. Here, we follow Constance Hopkins (a real passenger on the Mayflower) on her journey to the unknown New World. She has fears like everyone else of the unknown but she not only overcomes them but she thrives.

As one of the few girls/women to survive the first hard winter of Plymouth, MA, (where half the passengers died), she is very popular amongst the boys/men for a wife. She herself is unsure of what even love is. John Cooke is the first passenger to express an interest but she never really has one in him. She flirts with two men who are her father’s indentured servants who end up in a quarrel over her. But her heart doesn’t truly begin to feel until the arrival of the Fortune, the second ship to Plymouth, bringing a red-headed, strong-willed, nineteen-year-old Stephen Deane to shore. He stays with the Hopkins family for a spell while houses are being built and Constance likes him but is unsure–he is a flirt.

The next ship, the Anne, brings a one Nicholas Snow whom she quarrels with right off the bat. Yet he intrigues her. Soon, both men become serious in her and begin courting her. Stephen is the first to ask for her hand and she accepts. She thinks she is happy but is unsure. Both men depart on a hunting expedition for two weeks, which is accompanied by powerful storms. Only then does she realize she loves Nicholas.

In the end, he confesses his love for her and vice-versa and all live happily ever after.

Good quotes from the book I liked:

P. 102 “I am beginning to learn that the things one fears rarely come to pass.”

P. 158 “Any man who owes money to another is a slave!” This references the debt the colonists owed their sponsors of the voyage.

P. 218 “There is much to be done in this new world, and a man and a wife working together are the best people to do it.” I liked this for its truth today as much as yesterday.

Written in 1968 by Patricia Clapp, this novel has withstood the test of time as it remains every bit the classic today as it was then.

This book goes beyond just the original passengers on the Mayflower and one begins to understand how the settlement and the population grew as we learn more and more ships arrived, bringing more and more colonists.  So often we just read about the first winter and the first Thanksgiving and it seems history stops there; but it doesn’t.  There is so much more to the growth of the original colonies and this book does an excellent job of showing that growth.  One truly begins to see how the Native Americans were pushed back and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of immigrants arriving from the Old World.

Good historical accuracy. Great tidbits thrown in of the hardships and the sickness one had to endure. Great survival story and a story of thriving. Good emphasis on God and how important He was to the Pilgrims. Good portrayalship of the Native Americans. An overall good read and our favorite of the summer. Recommended for ages 10 and up but my son enjoyed the story as well and he’s six.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare follows a sixteen year-old girl who leaves her native Barbados for the colony of Connecticut in 1687.  Her parents and grandfather have all died and she only has one aunt on her mother’s side.  She arrives unannounced and it is apparent from the beginning she does not fit in in this Puritan town.  She can swim for one thing and she is unused to hard labor and small towns having an aristocratic background.

She is immediately courted by the most eligible bachelor (and the richest) in town, William Ashby.  She helps her cousin, Mercy, with the school and teaches a girl named Prudence how to read when her mother refuses to send her to school.  She meets an elderly woman named Hannah who has been accused of witchcraft mainly because she lives alone and is a Quaker.

Kit is drawn to Hannah and they develop a secret friendship.  Hannah offers worldly wisdom, telling her “The answer is in thy heart.  Thee can always hear it if thee listens for it.”

Hannah’s magic cure for everything:  Blueberry cake and a kitten.

Prudence asks why people say she’s a witch.  Kit says cause people are afraid of things they don’t understand.

Hannah says there is no escape if love is not there.

Kit is attracted to Nat Eaton, a ship captain’s son, who helps Hannah as well.

A sickness develops and the Puritan colony blames Hannah the witch for cursing them.  They try to run her out of town but Kit along with Nat’s help warns her in time.  With Hannah gone to live in a neighboring town, the townspeople turn on Kit, claiming she is a witch as well.  No evidence exists and with Prudence’s help who proves she can read and write and has not been infected by witchcraft, Kit is set free.  Kit ends her courtship with William who did not come to her defense at her trial and plans to return to Barbados when winter ends.

She sees Nat in early spring who now has his own ketch, and he immediately asks her uncle for her hand in marriage.

A wonderful book with happy endings for all involved.  All the love stories end up fulfilled and justice does prevail along with stereotypes being broken down.  Great story of standing up for others when it’s the right thing to do even when your life is threatened.  Great historical depiction of life in the early American colonies and Puritan life.  Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1959.  A classic of literature not to be missed.