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A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: "This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the "Plague Village", in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, a tainted bolt of cloth from London carries bubonic infection to this isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners. A visionary young preacher convinces the villagers to seal themselves off in a deadly quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. The story is told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, as she confronts the loss of her family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna emerges as an unlikely and courageous heroine in the village's desperate fight to save itself."
If you like A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, you may like these books as well:
Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons
In this enveloping tale of marital strife and female resilience, Gibbons considers conflicts between blacks and whites and men and women within the context of the First World War and the Spanish influenza epidemic. (Booklist)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th-century English village, despite a host of misgivings on the part of her unofficial tutor. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st-century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but to 1348--right into the path of the Black Death. (Publisher's Weekly)
Lisa See's Shanghai Girls is a riveting book about two sisters who are "beautiful girl" models in pre-war 1930s Shanghai. When the Japanese invade, the sisters' lives are turned upside down and they are forced into arranged marriages and flee their homeland for America.
Watch Lisa See talk about the inspiration for her novel in this interview. The sequel to Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, is recently published and on the bestseller list.
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is based on the true story of a man from Martha's Vineyard who became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard - in 1665!
Brooks, now a resident of Martha's Vineyard, talks about her inspiration and research for this book.
He watched as the mob killed his father slowly and perfectly legally. Mr. Proctor sat in the stocks day after day as neighbors spat on him and pitched rotten fruit and rocks and his body broke down but never his spirit. What was the villain’s crime? He was a printer who dared to publish a tract that angered the local authorities. It was enough to doom him and change his young son’s destiny. In Bruce Alexander‘s Blind Justice, thirteen-year-old Jeremy heeds his dying father’s last words to flee to safety.
The first time I read one of Janette Oke’s books I was around twelve years old, and since then, whenever I pick up a book written or co-written by her, I know I am in for a captivating story that has a good plot, romance, and an uplifting message. The Centurion’s Wife, which Oke co-wrote with Davis Bunn, is no exception.
The story takes place in Jerusalem and in the surrounding Judean provinces immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and during its controversial aftermath: his burial, resurrection, and appearances before his disciples. The reader experiences all this through the perspectives of two people: Leah and Alban.
In An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro gracefully explores the experiences and memories of a disgraced artist living in post-war Japan. The novel is seductive and haunting, but I was also impressed by its substance and depth.
Mansuji Ono, the novel’s protagonist, was once a great artist whose paintings commanded respect throughout Japan. Following the end of World War II, however, Ono experiences a surreal displacement. From Ono’s perspective, the former order he was a part of has not only been abandoned, it has been rejected and renounced as the epitome of disaster. Instead of enjoying the power and prestige that accompanied his former reputation, Ono finds himself adrift, an aging man who wanders through a crumbling house, where all traces of his past life have been “tidied away.”
Rupert Holmes’ Swing has more than a touch of noir—and its own soundtrack. Set in San Francisco in 1940, vagabond jazz musician Ray Sherwood has been made a very interesting proposition. A beautiful, young Berkley music student wants him in a most peculiar way. She’s won an international contest for composers, and her piece needs to premiere at the Golden Gate Exposition in just a few weeks. What she needs from Ray are his talents to orchestrate her music for many instruments. Ray is enchanted by Gail’s breezy joie de vivre and her snappy patter even as his own troubled past makes him hesitate. But the tenor veers from sweet romance to dangerous liaison when a lovely woman plunges to her death mere feet from the happy couple, changing this composition’s theme from serenade to police siren.
Berlin, 1931. A grim police station hallway, lined with photographs of unidentified victims of murder, accidental or unattended deaths. This is the Hall of the Unnamed Dead, and where crime reporter Hannah Vogel is horrified to discover a picture of her brother, Ernst. Delving into his murder, Hannah discovers that her cross-dressing, cabaret singer brother had a complicated and secret life involving high-level Nazis, stolen treasures – and a 5-year-old orphan who insists that Hannah is his mother.
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell reads like a black and white movie, but explores every shade of gray. Trains and fog and endless cigarettes cast a pall of smoke over everything. It evokes the shifting loyalties, fears and grim weariness of every day Germans trying to keep their heads down as the Nazis rise to power.
As Hannah digs deeper into her brother's death, she is pulled into a web of lies, deceit, and deadly secrets.
Paris retains an eternal allure for the creative. And the gifted expatriates who flocked to the City of Lights in the 1920s often felt the hallowed pursuit of their individual muses justified unconventional personal behavior. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain chronicles the courtship and subsequent marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway—a relationship strained and eventually damaged by their friends’ hedonistic lifestyles.
Hadley, who was seven years his senior, met her future husband in Chicago. Although quite the ladies’ man, Hemingway was immediately drawn to her wholesome beauty, even temperament, and courage. Hadley’s unconditional support bolstered Hemingway, a man already plagued by multiple demons, and gave him the companionship he needed to wholeheartedly pursue his writing.
When you read a book at night until it unnerves you so much that you have to put it down to go sleep and then you dream about it, you know you have a great book! The Cypress House takes place in 1935 and focuses on Arlen Wagner. As a veteran of World War I, he develops the ability to tell when someone was about to die.
After the war, he is working as a CCC worker and is asked to take a train down to the Florida Keys to help build the bridge out to Key West. Unfortunately, when the train reaches Florida, Arlen can tell that everyone on that train is about to die. He attempts to convince everyone on the train to get off, but the only one who listens to him is a teenage boy, Paul Brickhill, who has been traveling with him.