Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Namesake by Sue MacLeod

Namesake by Sue MacLeod 
Series: Standalone
Published: May 1st, 2013
Publisher: Pajama Press 
230 pages (paperback)
Genre: Young adult contemporary fiction/historic fiction
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
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It started with a history project. Mr. Gregor assigned a research paper on a figure from the Tudor era, and of course Jane Grey had to pick her namesake—Lady Jane Grey, the fifteen-year-old girl whose parents schemed to place her on the throne of England, then abandoned her to face the executioner. The project is engrossing from the start, but when Jane opens a mysterious prayer book and finds herself in the Tower of London in 1553, she ends up literally drawn into her namesake’s story. Soon, Jane is slipping into the past whenever the present becomes too unbearable, avoiding her mother’s demands, her best friend’s fickleness, her crush’s indifference. In the Tower she plays chess with the imprisoned Lady Jane, awed by her new friend’s strength and courage. And it is in the Tower, keeping vigil as the day of the execution draws near, that Jane learns that she, too, must have the courage to fight for her own happiness.

In modern day Halifax, Nova Scotia (yay for books set in Canada!), Jane Grey begins a project for history class. During her research of her namesake, Lady Jane Grey, she is transported through time to the Tower of London, where Lady Jane is being held prisoner, awaiting news of her fate.

Lady Jane enters Jane's life at exactly the right time, and her friendship is invaluable. Jane's best friend is making new friends, which makes it seem like she and Jane are growing apart. Between that, Jane’s horrible mother (I won’t say too much because it would get into spoiler territory), and Jane’s confusing crush, Jane desperately needs the escape of Lady Jane’s friendship, and to be able to concentrate on someone else’s problems rather than her own. Jane draws strength from Lady Jane; the former queen’s fate is set in stone, but Jane’s isn’t, and through Jane she finds the courage to do something about her awful home situation.

I thought MacLeod did a really good job of weaving the past together with the present. I always worry that books like this will get confusing with the back and forth, but I had no trouble keeping up with Namesake. I enjoyed watching Jane’s life in the present, and I eagerly anticipated each of her visits to the past, since I’ve always been fascinated with Tudor era England.

I appreciated that Namesake was more than just a novel about time travel. Like any good contemporary YA, it had real life issues - friends changing and growing up, family issues, school, relationships. It was also interesting to see the issues that Lady Jane faced in the past, and what her life - and death - was like. I also liked that it spotlighted a valuable lesson: people aren’t always what they appear.

I was dreading the ending, knowing what happens to Lady Jane, but I thought it was so well done. It was kind of bittersweet and had me smiling even as I teared up, but overall it left me feeling hopeful, and Jane’s present-day resolution left me completely satisfied. 

Namesake is a captivating story that is sure to please fans of contemporary young adult and historic fiction alike.
 3.75 stars

Have you read Namesake? What did you think? Do you like historic fiction? Are you as fascinated with Tudor era England as I am?


  1. Lovely review Marie! I have been wondering whether or not to give this a go-- as I am wary of time travel/back and forth stories-- but I think I will give it a go! :)

  2. This is one I will definitely read! I love the tudor era and know the Lady Jane Grey story very well. That is my favorite time period. Thanks for such a great review!

  3. This sounds like a great book. The cover is gorgeous, and it's good to know the story lives up to it.


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