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Historical Fiction

  • 11/23/63

    11/22/63 by Stephen King. “I kept hearing that this book was about traveling back in time to save President Kennedy - and that definitely was the driving force of the narrative - but I actually enjoyed all the other plot lines so much more! At one point in the middle of the book I just wanted to say ‘Forget Kennedy! The world will be fine. Let's just get back to the high school and Sadie!! Put on another show! Dancing is life!’ I didn't care that Oswald met with other Russian immigrants or even that he beat his wife one minute and charmed her the next. But I realize that all of these little pieces are what make the whole so much more fulfilling. George experiences little harmonies - residue of his time travel that keep raising flags. We really need to experience all of these events with him to understand and appreciate the final outcome. By the end of the book I felt like I knew these people, this town - I wanted them as friends and neighbors. It takes 700+ pages to bring so much to life so clearly and it was worth the investment to read every page.”

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns

    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini No surprise here, I guess. Here are your reviews: "Follow-up to The Kite Runner. Challenging life of women in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule." … "I am enjoying it, though it's depressing! I preferred Kite Runner I think but am only half way through and it's picking up... it's a good read if you are interested in the plight of women in Afghanistan...not light summer reading!" … "I started reading this one, and it's a page- turner. It' got a historic backdrop of some 30 years of Afghanistan turmoil." … "Unbelievably sad yet uplifting, this story centers on two women in modern Afghanistan and the men who love or abuse them. Not for the faint of heart -- I cried like a baby."

  • All That Is

    All That Isby James Salter. From Amazon: “From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.”

  • All the King's Men

    All the King’s Menby Robert Penn Warren. “An American classic. Just so, so good. Originally published in 1946, it won the Pulitzer Prize the following year and remains one of the best novels about politics ever written. It's the story of Willie Stark, a character loosely based on Louisiana Governor Huey Long. All The King's Men is set in swampy Louisiana back in the 1930s, but the dirty politics and back-room scheming will ring true to anybody who follows the ways of Washington in the 21st century.”

  • Along the Infinite Sea

    Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams. "I've loved all of Beatriz Williams books; they have the same cast of characters floating in and out of all of them, but I can never remember any of the back stories and they are not necessary to enjoy each book on its own.  This novel centers on a troubled woman who buys an old Mercedes and becomes involved with the old woman who had previously owned it.  The story goes back and forth between present day and the woman's past during WWII with a Nazi husband and a Jewish lover.  Lots of twists and turns to the story - a fun, quick read."

  • America's First Daughter

    America’s First Daughter, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie.  "Excellent! It’s historical fiction, written from the POV of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha 'Patsy' Jefferson Randall. It begins with the family’s flight from the British after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and ends a few years after his death, when Patsy assumed the duties of first lady to bachelor Andrew Jackson.  Filled with family drama, politics (of both the American and French Revolutions), romance and LOTS of kids (scary to think of life before birth control!), it also provides wonderful insight into Jefferson, the man, champion for liberty and the slaveholder.  (Sally Hemmings is featured throughout the book, although the authors acknowledge literary license was employed to link together well-hidden facts.)  Both fascinating and charming – I highly recommend!"

  • At the Edge of the Orchard

    At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier. “A gripping account of a what life was like for early Americans who had to literally saw down and enormous trees and dig out the trunks to be able to plant food to eat.  Tough life but the son, Robert Goodenough (like the name?) makes it out of the Ohio swamp and all the way across the country.  His journey shows what grit and determination can do for you.  And in the process of reading this very enjoyable book, you learn so much about trees and nature and the life of American pioneers.”

  • At the Water's Edge

    At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen. "A woman and her disgraced high-society husband leave the US, along with his best friend, during WWII to search for the Loch Ness monster. The trio is ill-equipped to deal with the deprivations of wartime Scotland.  The woman ends up befriending the house maids and falling in love with the inn-keeper, while her husband and his friend make fools of themselves and enemies of those around them."

  • Away

    Awayby Amy Bloom. From Amazon: “The epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom’s work–her humor and wit, her elegant and irreverent language, her unflinching understanding of passion and the human heart–come together in the embrace of this brilliant novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable.”

  • Beneath the Marble Sky

    Beneath the Marble Sky by John Shors. "a love story of the building of the Taj Mahal.....most excellent read."

  • Blood and Beauty

    Blood and Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant.  “Despite the frothy title, this is actually a beautifully written and researched novel of the notorious Borgia family in 15th century Rome. The characters are so vividly sketched that it reminded me of of Hilary Mantel's Cromwell trilogy ("Wolf Hall," etc.) Definitely superior to Dunant's earlier novels set in Florence. And the best news:  Dunant says a sequel is coming soon.”

  • Bloodletter's Daughter

    The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty - This is a historical fiction novel set in the 1600's in Austria that was inspired by a real-life murder that threatened to end the Hapsburg Dynasty. It follows King Rudolf's illegitimate son, Don Julius and his descent into madness and obsession with the daughter of the town barber/bloodletter. This book utterly fascinated me. It is dark, definitely depraved at times, but not without hope and redemption.

  • Brooklyn

    Brooklyn Coim Toibin.  This was on the 2012 New Fiction list. It was bumped up this year on the strength of additional enthusiastic reviews.  Eilis Lacey grew up in a small town in Ireland after World War II.  When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in America, she decides she must go, leaving behind her fragile mother and vivacious sister.  “I loved the tone and the voice of the narrator, the way the story was sparsely told and yet so full of life.  Toibin shows us so much about the time and experience of Irish immigrants in the years after World War II without telling us explicitly."  (Great interview with author here: BBC)

  • Chaperone

    The Chaperoneby Laura Moriarty. “A fast beach read with a vivid 1920's backdrop, this is the story of Louise Brooks (who became a famous silent film star) and the chaperone accompanying her to NY where she will attend dance school. To borrow from Wicked lyrics, both women are not sure they were changed for the better, but because they knew each other they were changed for good...”

  • Circling the Sun

    Circling the Sun by Paula McClain – coming this July.  Early reviews on Goodreads are very positive about this book by the author of The Paris Wife.  “Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife, takes readers into the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun tells the story of the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer, and aviator Beryl Markham, from her childhood in British East Africa to her relationship with hunter Denys Finch Hatton and rivalry with Out of Africa author Karen Blixen—a notorious love triangle that changed the course of Beryl’s life.”

  • Commoner

    The Commonerby John Burnham Schwartz. “Interesting fictional account of the life of Empress Michiko. I love this type of story, romance, contemporary and historical fiction of a fascinating culture all in one. Well written too!”

  • Death of the Heart and The House in Paris

    The Death of the Heart and The House in Paris. By Elizabeth Bowen. “Re-reviewed in the Post as must-reads & look delicious (in the Somerset Maugham-kind of tradition I think).”

  • Distant Land of my Father

    The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell. “…Really great history of Shanghai and redemptive father-daughter story.”

  • Edenbrooke

    Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. "For those who like romantic Austen-esque novels set in the early 19th century, this is a charming alternative to the trashy ones that dominate the genre. A young woman, bored and trying to avoid an unwanted suitor in Bath, England, joins her social climbing twin sister at a house party in the English countryside. Shenanigans and romance ensue. Fluff, but much better written and not as pornographic than the usual fare."

  • Edge of Eternity Trilogy

    The Edge of Eternity Trilogy: Fall of Giants (1), Winter of the World (2), Edge of Eternity (3)  by Ken Follett. “ Starting in the run-up to World War I and concluding in modern day, this trilogy examines the forces that shaped the last century. The characters are well-conceived and the strong pace continues through all of the books. My main complaint is that characters who led the first book were marginalized in the second, and this was repeated in the third. I cared about those people! And I would have appreciated more depth of understanding as they approached the end of their lives. Other than that, a good, historical read.”