1950s -- fiction

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Sisters Pearl and May Chin are “Beautiful Girls”—artists’ models in 1930s Shanghai. They live in amazing times in a modern city, dancing at nightclubs, dining at expensive restaurants, buying new outfits, and having lots of admirers. Neither college-graduate Pearl nor everyone’s darling May give much thought to their futures.  They think they can go on like this forever, marrying as they choose, if they choose. Unfortunately for these Shanghai Girls, they are quite mistaken.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a war hero and rising star in the MGB--Stalin’s state security force, is proud of his country. Yes, he has to do some unpleasant things, such as supervising the torture of suspected persons—and there are many suspected persons, the list growing daily. But all of that is surely necessary to protect post-World War II’s Russia in Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44.

The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers

The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers

“We laugh and we cry.”

In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.

Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

In Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough, it’s 1958, and Cora and her small sister Mimi have been taken from their London home and dumped in the middle of the English marshes where something is waiting for them.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old genius with a flair for chemistry, lives a lonely but intriguing life in the crumbling family mansion. Her lovely older sisters delight in tormenting her, and she returns the favor with diabolical brattiness. What one can do with certain itchy plant extracts and a tube of one’s sister’s favorite lipstick! The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by C. Alan Bradley, is set in post-World War II England. It’s a simpler time in many respects though things get rather more complicated when Father’s annoying visitor turns up dead in the garden by moonlight.

A Season of Gifts

By Richard Peck

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Relates the surprising gifts bestowed on Bob Barnhart and his family, who have recently moved to a small Illinois town in 1958, by their larger-than-life neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel.
A companion novel to A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Gemma Hardy’s story parallels Jane Eyre’s experiences—both have an evil aunt and have to work for their educations at boarding school as charity girls.  Both girls are bullied and treated unfairly by family, school staff, and students. Both girls have disappointments with men who have secrets.  If you enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s gothic tales or Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, you will love The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Set in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Scotland and Iceland, the author uses the imagery of birds and flight to underscore Gemma’s journey.

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

“How glorious!”

Beginning-to-be-eleven-year-old Portia and her little brother Foster are excited to be visiting their relatives in the countryside for the summer in Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Besides seeing their favorite aunt and uncle, there is Katy the boxer dog who has just had a litter of puppies “with flat faces like pansies, and ears that felt like pieces of silk, and claws like the tips of knitting needles”—but best of all for Portia is having time to hang out with her cousin Julian, he of the hundred-thousand freckles. Closer than a friend and nicer than a brother is how she thinks of him. Julian is interesting and interested in everything that goes on around him.

Little America

By Henry Bromell

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"Little America opens in Boston today and tells the story of a man in search of the truth about his father’s past, a past locked away in the C.I.A.’s code of silence. Terry Hooper’s father—-Quaker-raised, Yale-educated, a sometime poet, now a retired (is he?) State Department veteran—was, in the 1950s, the C.I.A. station chief in Kurash, a small, newly constituted Middle Eastern country, a country caught in the grip of cold war politics, a country of beautiful and frightening Otherness (Arab women hidden behind their veils, scar-faced men on horseback with curved sabers, and streets that melted in the heat), 90 percent Muslim, lodged like a walnut between Syria and Iraq. Mack Hooper’s assignment: to win the confidence of the King of Kurash, an enigmatic, British-educated desert aristocrat to whom no one, not even the U.S. Ambassador, had been able to get close. In a narrative that moves backward and forward in time, Terry puts together the pieces of the puzzle that has haunted him. Is his father a good man? Was he a friend to the young King, or a diplomat-seducer sent to betray him?"
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The Meaning of Consuelo

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

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"La nina seria, the serious child. That's how Consuelo's mother has cast her pensive, book-loving daughter, while Consuelo's younger sister Mili, is seen as vivacious--a ray of tropical sunshine. Two daughters: one dark, one light; one to offer comfort and consolation, the other to charm and delight. But something is not right in this Puerto Rican family. Set in the 1950s, a time when American influence is diluting Puerto Rico's rich island culture, Consuelo watches her own family's downward spiral. It is Consuelo who notices as her beautiful sister Mili's vivaciousness turns into mysterious bouts of hysteria and her playful invented language shift into an incomprehensible and chilling 'language of birds.'

"Ultimately Consuelo must choose: will she fulfill the expectations of her family--offering consolation as their tragedy unfolds? Or will she risk becoming la fulana, the outsider, like the harlequin figure of her neighbor, Mario/Maria Sereno, who flaunts his tight red pedal pushers and empty brassiere as he refuses the traditional macho role of his culture. This affecting novel is a lively celebration of Puerto Rico as well as an archetypal story of loss, the loss each of us experiences on our journey from the island of childhood to the uncharted territory of adulthood."

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