Posts tagged with "Historical Fiction"

Posted by Ultra Violet on 08/08/11
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At her full adult height Lavinia Warren Bump was 2 feet, 8 inches tall, yet she was a proportional dwarf, meaning she was a "perfect woman in miniature". Melanie Benjamin was inspired by her appearance in the E. L. Doctorow masterwork, Ragtime, to write Lavinia's fictionalized autobiography.
 
The book traces her life from the Massachusetts farm where she lived a protected life with her family, to her achievement of becoming a school teacher, to her disheartening and sometimes shocking life on a Mississippi riverboat as a performer. Lavinia maintained her dignity and grace through it all. It was her most distinguishing characteristic. She returns home to find that she misses the lime-light, and approaches P. T. Barnum with a business offer. Barnum takes her into his troupe and Lavinia Warren becomes a household name. With a bit of manipulation from Barnum, Lavinia meets and marries the famous General Tom Thumb, who is only a few inches taller than her. The wedding of the tiny people was the event of the year. It even bumped the news of the Civil War off of the front page of the New York Times. They travelled the world together and amassed a fortune. Nonetheless, Lavinia had many hardships to endure.
 
Any reader interested in P. T. Barnum, or Gilded Age America will enjoy this historical treat. It is rich with detail about the period, including clothes, customs and lifestyles of the rich and famous, such as the Astors and Vanderbilts.

Posted by Ultra Violet on 08/05/11
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Crossing back and forth from Holland, Berlin, and Los Angeles, this book tells the parallel tales of a boy and a girl both born the day the Berlin Wall came down. Although this is tagged as Christian fiction, it is spiritual without knocking the reader over the head with an ideology. A sweet story of hope.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 03/24/12
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April 15th marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  So Kate Alcott's new novel The Dressmaker is very timely.  Not to minimize the seriousness of the subject, this book could be described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Titanic, with a little Daniel Steel drama thrown in for good measure.  You very well could envision Kate Winslett in the part of our protagonist, Tess Collins, the dressmaker.  Leonardo Di Caprio could play the part of any male in the story since he seems to be so versatile.  But this only speaks to the many layers of this book.

The backbone of the story was derived from the actual transcripts of the Senate hearings that took place to investigate the tragedy.  Alcott's novel humanizes the tragedy, fictionalizing what happened to the real survivors of lifeboat #1 after the ship sank.  Why were there only 12 people in that lifeboat, when it could have held 50-60?  Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, who in the early years of the twentieth century was the one of the top names in the fashion world, was actually in lifeboat #1, along with her husband Cosmo.  In real life, Lady Duff, as she was commonly referred to, was a driven, nasty, tough woman.  Alcott gives her this persona in The Dressmaker, but with a hidden softer side as well.  She hires Tess Collins as her apprentice seamstress just before they board the Titanic. In the aftermath, Tess stands firm against Madame Lucille's pressure, manipulations and lies about what actually happened, determined to be a success in the U.S. and make it on her own talent.  With the Senate hearings conducted by Senator William Alden Smith as a backdrop, The Dressmaker examines the choices people make when faced with a life-threatening situation and how they live with those choices afterward. The impressive caste of characters also makes this believable and intriguing history - the "Unsinkable Molly Brown;" Pinky Wade, the indominable New York Times reporter; Tess's two suitors, Jim and Jack, who also survived the disaster; and Elinor Glyn, Lady Duff's sister, a real-life famous actress and author.    


Posted by Ultra Violet on 04/13/11
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Kau is a fierce pygmy warrior. His family and his entire village have been destroyed by the Ota tribesman. Five years after Kau is enslaved and sent to America, he escapes and embarks on a journey through the unspoiled lands of early nineteenth century Florida.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/16/11
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In 1944, at the age of 23, Marshall Stone was a cocky young U.S. Army pilot with nine successful missions to brag about when his B-17 bomber was shot down in a Belgian field, near the French border.  With German troops closing in to capture him and his fellow downed crewmates, he fled into the nearby woods. Miraculously, he was found right away by nearby villagers who hid him from the Germans.  The people who helped him were part of a network of French citizens, from all walks of life, who formed the Resistance, sheltering and moving downed Allied airmen through covert routes to return them to their airbases in England.  To these brave people Marshall owed his life.
 
Forty years later, newly widowed and retired, Marshall Stone returned to that crash site in Belgium.  The overwhelming memories from that experience drove him to stay in France and try to find the people who helped him, especially a vivacious young girl in a blue beret.  In his odyssey, he finds many of those people, all of whom had their own terrifying experiences during the war.  But none more horrific than the story of the young French girl who helped him and so many other airmen to escape the German soldiers.  His journey becomes a life-changing experience, helping him to find closure and a second chance at life.
 
Based on the true wartime experiences of her late father-in-law, author Bobbie Ann Mason writes a very authentic account of the French Resistance during WWII. The details and vivid narratives bring history alive for the reader.

Posted by mingh on 04/18/12
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1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.

Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, saving every dollar and shilling in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this untested police force. And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.

One night while returning from his rounds, heartsick and defeated, Timothy runs into a little slip of a girl --a girl not more than ten years--dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.

Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.


Posted by Ultra Violet on 05/24/13
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It's the last part of the 19th Century, and an evil Jewish mystic creates an incomparable golem who ends up lost and alone in New York City. Blending in to the human population is hard enough for Chava, but getting involved with Ahmad, a Jinni who has been cruelly trapped in human form thousands of years ago, causes even more complications. Their uneasy alliance stems from their shared situations, but their natures are so far from each other that they are constantly butting heads.When Chava's creator comes to America, Ahmad and Chava must fight for their lives and try and outwit a mastermind with no conscience.
 
The Golem and the Jinni is a fun, fast read with great details of 19th century New York, particularly the Jewish and Syrian neighborhoods and lifestyles. The Jewish tradition of the golem and the Middle Eastern stories of the jinni add a delightful twist.

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 04/26/12
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In Paris, France in the 1860's, Emperor Napoleon III ordered the vitual destruction of his city.  Neighborhoods full of history and nostalgia, charmingly winding their way through Paris were to be razed to make way for long straight boulevards designed by Baron Georges Haussman to modernize the city.
 
Rose Bazelet lived in her husband's family home on Rue Childebert since there were married.  Her beloved husband has been dead 10 years, but Rose still clings to cherished memories of home, family and friends.  She feels a strong loyalty not only to the house itself but to its tenants, neighbors, and friends. So much so that she writes letters to to her deceased husband, relating the destruction of their city, reflecting on their life together, and revealing an occasional secret that she has kept all these years.  Rose dedicates herself to saving the house and quietly takes a stand, moves to the basement,  refusing to leave, preparing for the eventual demolition.
 
The premise of this book may sound rather depressing, but it is beautifully and lovely written as only De Rosnay can write about her Paris. The House I Loved is really a love letter, not only to a dead husband but also to a Paris of 150 years ago.   This Victorian era Paris comes to life through the rich details of the book's characters and livestyles as well as of the streets of the city itself.  If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love this book. 

Posted by roseh on 05/18/12
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Helen Allston and her daughter Eulah are enjoying all the perks their first-class passage affords aboard the Titanic.
 
Fast forward three years to Boston where Sibyl, the eldest daughter of Helen and Harlan Allston, and reluctant matriarch of the family, is attending an annual seance. This secret and somber affair is dedicated to communicating with departed loved ones lost on the Titanic.
 
Flashback to 1868 Shanghai where Harlan is a novice sailor trying to make a name for himself. 
 
From seedy back alleys and opium dens to the lavish lifestyles of the privileged upper class, this novel brings together three distinct settings to produce a vivid snapshot of life during the turn of the century.

Posted by Kelley M on 04/18/14
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“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”
 
This book is loosely based on the real lives of two abolitionist sisters, Sarah & Nina Grimke.  Sarah & Nina grew up in Charleston, South Carolina during the decline of the plantation era.  The novel spans over 35 years & tells the story of not just Sarah & Nina, but also the slaves that their family owned.  We watch as Sarah, Nina, and Hetty “Handful” Grimke (their slave) move past the social barriers placed upon them (the Invention of Wings), being ostracized along the way.

The author, Sue Monk Kidd, adds fictional dimensions to the history of the Grimkes.  Through these fictional accounts, we learn a lot about actual history.  We become acquainted with the relationships between children slaves & plantation owners’ children, religious dynamics of the era, family relationships, the lives of slaves and the abolitionist movement as the story progresses.  The plot, while slow to start, really picks up momentum about halfway through. 

If you liked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom or Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini, you might want to give this read a try…