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Historical Fiction

  • Transit of Venus

    The Transit of Venusby Shirley Hazzard. “You may have read Hazzard’s The Great Fire a few years back, but this 1980 book is even better, richer, more ambitious. It’s the story of two orphaned sisters that spans more than next forty years. Like The Great Fire, it’s a love story at its heart. Read the last chapters carefully to discover how perfectly and intricately plotted the story is. Hazzard’s writing is painterly, incandescent, and her wisdom and knowledge light up every page.”

  • Under Heaven

    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay “A complex fiction set in 6th Century China, this book weaves multiple story lines and numerous characters together fantastically. An assuming young man is gifted 250 very special horses by a neighboring enemy state, which immediately shines a spotlight on him, giving him both great power and great enemies. How he can safely get word of the horses to the emperor and decide how to play within a warring court, determine who are his friends and foes, and the impact that small decisions can make in a larger history play out in the novel.”

  • Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. "Won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and countless other prizes - and deserves it. Whitehead retells the hero's journey in this book, and the unlikely hero is an escaped slave named Cora. She runs from her abusive master and her broken kinspeople and discovers that the vaunted Underground Railroad is actually a real railroad, built underground by hands unknown. On her journey, she experiences the varied treatment of African Americans - the violence of her home in Georgia and the dark municipal experiments of South Carolina. The lily whitewash of North Carolina. The unmet promise of Indiana. Like Odysseus, she encounters white people who are ogres and white people who are kind, and hears the siren song of black activists and the laments of blacks who have given up to the oppressive system of slavery. The writing is elegaic at times, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like at others. It's an important, thoughtful book, and I'm glad I read it." 

  • Unlikely Spy

    The Unlikely Spy and other titles by Dan Silva. “These are great beach reads if you like fast-paced, historical mysteries. My husband and I both read them – but honestly we’ve read them a few times and are always surprised (again) by the ending. They don’t stick, but they are good.”

  • Unnecessary Woman

    An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. “A book lover's book! This is about a reclusive woman in Beirut who translates her favorite books into Arabic. It provides wonderful musings on literature and the time period gives us a great historical look at the Lebanese Civil war. Excellent book club book but I read it at the beach and loved it.”

  • White Queen

    The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins' War)by Phillippa Gregory. "If you like this genre, this is a quick, fun read about Queen Elizabeth and Tudors v Yorks ('War of the Roses' or the 'Cousins Wars.') A summer Harlequin in that British royal history kind of way."

  • Wolf Hall

    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  Winner of the Booker prize, a novel about Thomas Cromwell, the villain of "A Man for all Seasons" (but not of Wolf Hall). "Lovely tempo and atmospheric style of writing in an historical setting. Quite a successful combination." "Who knew one could feel sympathy towards Oliver Cromwell?  If you love the Tudor age and no detail is too much, this is the book for you.  The writing style bugged friends of mine, I think they found it pompous, but it didn't bother me.  I loved the book and enjoyed the different twist on an old and well-known storyline.”  (Ed: It is indeed brilliant, but like many readers, I was beyond annoyed by Mantel’s ambiguous use of the pronoun "he." A hint to increase your enjoyment: If she says "he," she generally means Cromwell.  She did better with this in the sequel.)

  • World Without End

    World Without End by Ken Follett. The sequel to the Pillars of the Earth.  From Amazon:  Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England that centered on the building of a cathedral and the men, women, and children whose lives it changed forever. Now, two centuries after the townspeople of Kingsbridge finished building the exquisite edifice, four children slip into the forest and witness a killing-an event that will bind them all by ambition, love, greed, and revenge...

  • Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

    The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani.  “The book takes the read with 15 year-old Thea to a privileged all-girls riding camp and school in 1930, as much of the country is falling into the Depression. But Thea is sent there as a punishment for a scandal, away from her 1000 acre farm in Florida, her beloved pony and her twin brother. We slowly learn about Thea’s life and transgressions in her isolated farm world as Thea learns what it’s like to be surrounded by other girls her own age, care about what people think, how she looks and how much money has insulated her and those around her.  She grows to love the camp and learn about herself and her parents, and the faults that parents cannot place on their children.  Though she makes some horrible decisions, she is a sympathetic character and a thoughtful narrator.”

  • Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

    Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler.  “Zelda’s side of the story.”  Entertainment Weekly says:  “Fowler expertly depicts the rapture of the couple’s early love, and later, the bullying and sickness that drove them apart…Z zips along addictively.” —Entertainment Weekly