Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Forgotten Daughter, by Caroline Dale Snedeker

When I realized that this one was written by the author of my most favorite Newbery book ever, I was really excited to read it! Her young female protagonist has much of the same charm as Dencey, but manages to keep out of trouble a bit better.
Chloé is a young girl who is a slave on a large Roman estate, along with Melissa, her caretaker. The two have quite an interesting history. Melissa, with her best friend (also named Chloé, confusingly) lived happily on the Greek island of Lesbos, but were taken captive when Roman soldiers invaded. Chloé's stoicism and strength charm her captor, and over their journey together they fall in love and marry in a Greek ceremony. Lævinus installs her as the lady of his estate and they live there happily, with Melissa as a servant, for some time. However, their happiness is interrupted when Chloé miscarries a son. In his grief, Lævinus leaves the estate and never returns. Chloé, after delivering her daughter, hears that he has married another woman in the city according to Roman tradition. She dies in her grief, and Melissa, fearing that Davus (the slave foreman) has orders to kill the baby, flees with little Chloé to a cave on another part of the estate and keeps her hidden.
Chloé has lived as a slave ever since, often abused by Davus, her life confined to the estate grounds and most of her time occupied in weaving. Her life improves somewhat when a new foreman is enstated, but her life is generally kept small, with the exception of the fantastic songs and stories of her homeland that Melissa teaches her. The only break in her routine is watching Aulus, the handsome son at a neighboring estate, show off on his horses.
Time passes, and the perspective changes to Aulus' own. After an auspicious start in the Roman army, he returns to the city to support his friend Tiberius. Tiberius has grand plans for reforming laws for the good of the common people, and rises quickly on their support. However, the Senate resents that he is chiseling away at their privilege. They eventually stage an assassination of Tiberius, and Aulus is injured trying to defend him. He escapes back to his country estate but in the ensuing chaos, hundreds of Tiberius' political supporters are killed in Rome. Aulus' own mother also dies from distress.
Barely escaping with his life, Aulus becomes morose and depressed, but eventually he finds strength in studying the ancient philosophers. One day as he is out walking in the woods, he falls into a snare and his arm is broken. He is discovered and set free by none other than Chloé! She brings him to Melissa, who is skilled at mending broken bones, and the three of them form a fast friendship that brings happiness to all of them. The inevitable happens, of course, but more secrets are eventually revealed which I will *not* share here since I've given everything else away already. Although Chloé is no Dencey, still a very enjoyable book!

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