Historical Fiction

10/22/2013 - 3:01am
Cover to Life after Life

I love a book with an inventive narrative structure and, like Scheherazade, Kate Atkinson has 1,001 plots in her novel, Life after Life. Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in 1910 to banker Hugh Todd and his aristocratic wife Sylvie dies and lives--over and over again.  But this is a novel not just about reincarnation but also about how a writer writes and makes choices. The chapters reveal the choices a writer--or a human being--makes and how it changes the path a life takes.

09/25/2013 - 6:09am
The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics

Author Gideon Defoe has established a successful micro-franchise with his comedic novels about the misadventures of the dim-witted yet lovable Pirate Captain, beginning with The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists and continuing throughout the 2000s and 2010s to the latest installment, The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics. Defoe’s ridiculous tales are dominated by the presence of the Pirate Captain, a man who never found a boast too ridiculous to make, a ham too large to eat, or an amount of money too large to spend. It is this last attribute that forces him and his bizarre crew into their latest adventure. Deeply in debt, they decide to take some wealthy intellectuals on an “authentic” pirate adventure in hopes of making some quick money. Unfortunately for them, those intellectuals turn out to be Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Godwin, and a variety of bizarre, hilarious events ensue.

09/17/2013 - 3:02am
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The game's afoot!"

Eleven of the Great Detective's finest cases are brought together in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. From his Baker Street digs, a bored Sherlock sorts through newspapers, puffs on his pipe, and makes tea with his less-than-scrubbed chemistry set until the next puzzle presents itself. His chronicler Watson passes on the questionable tea but is only too happy to take a little time away from his doctor's practice to assist his old friend on adventure after adventure.

08/14/2013 - 1:29pm
Cover to A Simple Murder

Widower William Rees drove his wagon into town like a man possessed. Normally an easy-going, itinerant weaver, Rees has just discovered that his kinfolk have cheated him, and his son has run away to be with the Shaker religious community. In 18th-century, rural Maine, it is not so easy to retrieve a teenager who hates you, get your land back, or solve A Simple Murder.

08/07/2013 - 3:02am
A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley

In A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley, Margaret of Ashbury is a rather ordinary albeit quite pretty woman—ordinary that is, except for the Voice she sometimes hears and the visions she sometimes sees. One day, the Voice tells Margaret that she should write a book about the extraordinary things that have happened to her. She argues with the Voice… she is a woman so who would listen to her, and what is more, like nearly everybody, she does not know how to write. And further, she has not done any great deeds worth writing about.

The Voice answered:

“Put in it what you have seen. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, and doing ordinary things. Sometimes small deeds can show big ideas.  As for writing, do as others do: get someone to write it for you.”

“Voice,” I said, “how do I know you are from God, and not the Devil, tempting me into something foolish?”

“Margaret,” answered the Voice, “isn’t it a good idea? God never gives bad ones.”

07/26/2013 - 8:28am

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: "Raised by a loving family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder is sheltered from the worst of the seamy Victorian underworld until it becomes her turn to make her clan's fortune. She must help a professional rogue named Gentleman marry an heiress and then steal the poor girl's inheritance by declaring her insane. Sue wants to please her adoptive mother and friends and persuades herself that she can do the job, but once she's confronted with the seemingly hapless victim, Maud, she begins to have doubts. Sue and Maud's connection is just one reason the scam quickly falls apart. Each clearly drawn character is ensnared by secrets and lies that force his or her actions, and everyone is both a predator and a victim." (Library Journal)

If you like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, especially the Victorian time period and the gripping suspense of the novel, you may also like these titles:
 
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.
 
 
 
 
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Abandoned on a 1913 voyage to Australia, Nell is raised by a dock master and his wife who do not tell her until she is an adult that she is not their child, leading Nell to return to England and eventually hand down her quest for answers to her granddaughter.
 
 
 
 
06/11/2013 - 6:42am
Great Maria by Cecelia Holland

As Cecilia Holland’s historical romance Great Maria opens, our young and pretty heroine is doing what any well-bred medieval girl might be about on a blustery afternoon: visiting a religious shrine some miles from home and contemplating a life in the convent. Guarded as she is by a handful of her father’s knights, she cannot help noticing that one of them is extremely young and handsome... and that he has noticed her. But when a sudden vicious attack leaves her in dire peril, it is an older knight with cool gray eyes who defends her and brings her back to her father’s castle.

05/08/2013 - 3:30am
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

Enough with the zombies, already! Before the undead purportedly trod the moors of Georgian England, it was a relatively pleasant, safe place—albeit humming with an occasional murder and talk of international intrigue. Certainly that should be quite enough to keep a heroine’s attention.  Indeed when Jane Austen’s friend Isobel becomes a friend in need upon the suspicious death of her new though elderly husband, it is up to quick-witted Jane to save her life—and reputation!-- in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, by Stephanie Barron.

04/16/2013 - 9:58am
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich

The Ojibwa trappers had come to trade with the villagers on Spirit Island, but what they saw caused them to turn their boats around and head for home as quickly as they could.  The entire island seemed empty of life. Smallpox, the terrible illness for which the Native Americans had little immunity, had wiped out everyone. Well, almost everyone. Still alive and crawling through the ruins was a baby girl, all alone.

Omakayas, or Little Frog, was soon adopted into another Ojibwa family on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island.  Her life is as rich and full as that of another beloved book character, Laura Ingalls, and there are many similarities between the stories, including the children’s delight in nature and wild creatures.. Omakayas’ family’s everyday activities and celebrations and tragedies are carefully set down, from season to season.  The Birchbark House is foremost a very well-written story with believable, lovable and intriguing characters, including Omakayas’ annoyingly greedy little brother and beautiful but sometimes cold-hearted big sister.  Older generations are also well-represented.  The grandmother, a gifted healer, shares stories of long-ago, and her dreams are filled with omens of things to come and solutions to real-life problems given by the spirit world.

04/04/2013 - 10:47am
The Aviator's Wife

I admit that I have not read this book, but one of my customers just called to say that he enjoyed The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin, so much that he couldn’t put it down. It is the story of Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  I was given Gift From the Sea, by Ann Morrow Lindbergh, as a Christmas present and was struck by the beauty of this wonderful, little book. I was immediately impressed by the tremendous intelligence and fierce independence of this famous woman. How could anyone not admire such an incredible woman who struggled to maintain her own identity with such a famous husband?

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