My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cord and Anne are my favourite fictional couple. Their relationship is serious #lifegoals for me. I’ve searched high and low for a book that is as gripping, as warm, as pulsing with life as this one, but Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold remains my only find in this genre that I can read a hundred times and still feel the tug of a dozen emotions as if I’m reading every scene for the first time.
What I love about Ellen O’Connell’s writing is how she humanizes her heroes and heroines without ever resorting to genre tropes. Yes they may have tragic backstories that fuel their present, but in O’Connell’s hands those stories aren’t individual incidences of injustice or an accident to drive character growth. Back stories are woven carefully into the tapestry of the past to show their subtle effects on the present. All their character growth happens on page, right in front of us.
As Cord and Anne learn to know and understand each other, we see them shift and change and adjust and heal. Their love for each other is a slow growing thing, and trust comes in careful steps, but before all else they become friends and partners. I’ve read so few books where the lead pair’s partnership is actually that of equals. Cord is not just different for his time, but for ours too in that he doesn’t dismiss Anne’s willingness to help with hard labour, to truly share his burden and ease his workload as partners do. Their growth in the hard life they live together, never resenting the difficulties because they have each other, is beautiful. And of course when they defeat social/financial obstacles together it’s something worth cheering for.
I particularly love the way O’Connell threaded in the subconscious racism that existed in those times. Not just in the “haters” as Cord’s white family calls them but in the members of his own family who have known Cord all his life, who love him and protect him, yet often fail to trust the man because of prejudices they are barely aware of. I love how it’s not a matter of a single incidence that affects their relationship or heals what is broken. Realization comes in tiny moments of self-awareness in these people who never really meant to let the words of others affect how they saw Cord, but it happened anyway.
I like that Ellen underlines that these are good people. That they don’t hate on a person because of their ethnicity. That they try their best to be objective. Yet racism is often woven into culture so deep that a perspective becomes skewed if you see anything slightly alien in the one you’re trying not to be racist against. Then every difference suddenly seems to spring from that something alien. It was really well done. Especially the fact that despite the wrongs done to both Cord and Anne by family and friends, community still played a part in bringing about their happily ever after. This is a gem. No pair has ever been this badass just by standing together and going about their ordinary live, defending and supporting each other when no one else would. I’ve found my OTP.