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.
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.
There are all kinds of angels. There are the sort that make grand pronouncements from God—bright, shining beings that are meant to be obeyed. They usually say their piece, and then they’re gone, leaving humans to make the best they can of the situation. That wasn’t the kind of angel that followed Henry Bright home from the Great War. No. This was the kind of angel who hung around and made suggestions, pretty much constantly.
Edward Rutherfurd’s New York is an intriguing saga of immigrant families spanning four centuries.
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A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry: "A portrait of India featuring four characters. Two are tailors who are forcibly sterilized, one is a student who emigrates, and the fourth is a widowed seamstress who decides to hang on." (Book description).
Animal’s People by Indra Sinha
Ever since That Night, the residents of Khaufpur have lived a perilous existence. Their world is poisoned. Nobody has received compensation or help for the chemical leak, least of all Animal, as he is known, whose spine twisted at a young age, leaving him to walk on all fours. (catalog description)
A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi
In December of 1984 in Bhopal, India, Anjali survives a catastrophic gas leak but her marriage to her army officer husband does not. Years later, she is remarried with an ill son when her first husband suddenly reappears in her life. She is forced to reconcile her roles of wife, ex-wife, working woman, and mother. (catalog description)
Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost is a story of love and perseverance set in Depression-era Seattle.