(Review) Alina: A Song for the Telling by Malve von Hassell

Publisher and Publication Date: BHC Press. August 27, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Coming of age story. Middle ages.
Pages: 232.
Source: I received a paperback copy of the title from the author/publisher for the purpose of an honest review.  I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Audience: Middle grade readers. Historical fiction readers.
Rating: Very good.

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Malve von Hassell

About the Author:
Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph. D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published several books and journal articles, in particular, The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. She has published a children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (Mill City Press, 2012), and completed a manuscript for a historical fiction book set in the 13th century for young adults, Falconello. She is working on a historical fiction novel set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades.

Summary:
Alina: A Song for the Telling is the coming-of-age story of a young woman from Provence in the 12th century who travels to Jerusalem, where she is embroiled in political intrigue, theft, murder, and finds her voice.

“You should be grateful, my girl. You have no dowry, and I am doing everything I can to get you settled. You are hardly any man’s dream.”

Alina’s brother Milos pulled his face into a perfect copy of Aunt Marci’s sour expression, primly pursing his mouth. He got her querulous tone just right. Maybe Alina’s aunt was right. She could not possibly hope to become a musician, a trobairitz—impoverished as she was and without the status of a good marriage. But Alina refuses to accept the life her aunt wants to impose on her.

At the first opportunity, she and her brother embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to pray for their father’s soul and to escape from their aunt and uncle’s strictures. Their journey east takes them through the Byzantine Empire all the way to Jerusalem, where Alina is embroiled in political intrigue, theft, and murder.

Forced by a manipulative, powerful lord at court into acting as an informer, Alina tries to protect her wayward brother, while coming to terms with her attraction to a French knight.

My Thoughts:
Reasons why I like this story!
~Alina is a mature 14 year old. Her brother Milo is a year younger. I feel Hassell portrayed both as young people on the cusp of figuring out who they are and what they want in life. Alina has a desire to be a woman troubadour. This is an occupation and career during an era when females married and had children. She has strong character traits that only develop as the story continues. So, I feel her character evolves and transforms.
~Alina and Milo are typical brother and sister. They tease, give each other a hard time, and boss one another. However, they are devoted to one another, and this shows by their compassion and faithfulness. I love this about the brother and sister and it makes the story endearing.
~I had not read another story about pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Some of my questions were answered because of the story.
~The King of Jerusalem and his family were not people I’ve studied. This story gave me (even thought it’s historical fiction) a better idea of who they were.
~The story was descriptive whether it is a market place, palace, Jewish home, or scenery along the way to the Holy Land.
~There is a strong teaching element at the conclusion of the story. I found other places where the story reveals a lesson learned.

Themes in the story: ambition, loyalty, family love, perseverance, maturity, gratitude, courage, and compassion.

3 thoughts on “(Review) Alina: A Song for the Telling by Malve von Hassell

  1. Pingback: Malve von Hassell on tour: Alina, A Song For the Telling | France Book Tours

  2. Pingback: Alina, A Song For the Telling: tour quotations | France Book Tours

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