Charles Todd’s The Murder Stone is an enjoyable gothic mystery with a touch of romance set during the Great War. Francesca Hatton, a nurse on the home front, is called to tend to her dying grandfather at his English estate. What was for her a place of wonderful childhood memories is now all in shadows, not only because of her grandfather’s impending death, but also because the war has taken the lives of her beloved boy cousins.
In 1950s London, women of a certain social set have a pattern to their lives. They attend glittering parties where everyone jockeys for social prominence whilst pretending to a vapid joy in an environment of sheer ennui, enlivened by scandals and the occasional backstabbing, husband-stealing hostess.
Eduardo and Ciro watched their beautiful, bereft mother leave them behind, not looking back once. Surely, they were now orphans. Abandoned to be raised at a nunnery in the Italian Alps, they would grow into good if very different young men with only one hope—to see their mother again.
Brooklyn is a tough place to grow up in the early part of the 20th century. It’s made of immigrant families struggling to get by. Young Francie Nolan, half German and half Irish, adores her handsome father, the sometime singing waiter, and her more hard-minded mother who scrubs floors and does much to give her kids a better life. But, uneducated as her parents are, they have few choices and huge problems that a bright girl like Francie can certainly see.
Karleen Koen’s Before Versailles is a splendidly rich story of romantic intrigue set in the early days of the Sun King’s rule. Louis XIV is a very young and handsome king. Newly-married to a virtuous if plain Spanish princess, he is determined to be true to his vows, but the ladies at court have other ideas—particularly his brother’s wife.
Young in years but not so much in worldly cares, Rose Meadows is set adrift when her wayward father abandons her permanently and her handsome, caretaking distant cousin takes up with the local Bolshevik crowd. But, in Cynthia Ozick’s historical novel Heir to the Glimmering World, Rose doesn’t give up. She takes matters into her own hands and answers an advertisement for a research assistant in a town miles away.
I’m not sure I’ve read a book as simultaneously uplifting and horrifying as The Book Thief. Perhaps this is not too surprising as it’s narrated by Death himself.
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Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle: "Countercultural clash: a Seventies commune tries out Alaska, where it encounters hostile homesteaders." (catalog description) The library has print and audio versions.
If you like Drop City, you may also find these stories of folks living outside of society are appealing:
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Follows the fortunes of Bit and the commune his parents helped to create. A group of like-minded folks comes together to create a utopia in Arcadia. Despite everyone’s best intentions, the commune falls apart under the strain of privation and a self-serving leader who can’t live up to his own ideals. Bit is ill-prepared for the real world, but manages to make his way until a flu pandemic threatens the human race.
Flower Children by Maxine Swann
A woman and her siblings share an unstructured childhood on a Pennsylvania farm in the 70’s and each of them faces difficulties adjusting to adulthood and life off the farm.
Even before World War I became such a popular topic for books, movies, and articles, I was reading and watching anything on the subject I could get my hands on. World War I has always fascinated me since it set many of the events of the 20th century in motion. It was known as The Great War or The War to End All Wars because it had been so horrifying.