Posts tagged with "Historical Fiction"
Having been awarded a scholarship to study architecture at the Ecole Speciale in Paris in 1937 was no small feat for Andras Levi, a poor Hungarian-Jew from the small Hungarian town of Konyar. He arrived from Budapest with only a single suitcase and a mysterious letter he had promised to deliver to a C. Morgenstern. He makes friends with some fellow Jewish students, allying with them against increasing Nazi threats. He falls in love with C. Morgenstern - Klara - a beautiful Hungarian ballet instructor nine years his senior with a hauntingly dark past. With war threatening, Andras is forced to return to Hungary and Klara insists on coming with him. Andras and his two brothers find themselves pawns in the Nazi chess game of using Hungary to advance their invasion of Russia, sent out in work details for months at a time in labor camps that were little more than concentration camps. By the autumn of 1939, all of Europe erupted in the full-blown catastophe of World War II. Even Hungary, thinking themselves safe in allying with Germany, was been invaded by the Nazis. As in Dr. Zhivago, lovers Andras and Klara cannot escape the horrors of war, but find courage in their love for each other and in their families.
I must admit that I balked a bit at reading a 600 page novel that appeared to be yet another novel about World War II. I was surprised to find myself unable to put it down, taken in by the grandeur of Paris opera houses and the Parisian architecture. Andras' simple yet close family ties in Hungary contrasting with his new life in Paris as student, friend and lover was beautifully portrayed by the author, Julie Orringer. As the inevitable history unfolded with the characters caught up in it, I found myself totally absorbed and caring very much about how they would survive the war. The Invisible Bridge is a novel of epic proportions but so well written that it felt intimate.
The Kingmaker's Daughter is the fourth installment, and possibly the best so far, in Philippa Gregory's popular Cousins' War series. Set in 15th century England, it is the compelling story of the daughters of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick - particularly Anne, his youngest. Warwick was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander who was the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrat of his age, with political connections that went far beyond the country's borders. He was one of the main powerbrokers in the War of the Roses, and was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, which earned him his nickname of "Kingmaker". Since Warwick had no sons and heirs, he of course used his daughters as pawns in his political games of kingmaking.
One of Warwick's grand schemes was to win over the York King Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, possibly with the prospect of installing him on the throne. George was secretly married to Warwick's oldest daughter, Isabel, and joined Warwick in a rebellion against his brother, the king. Eventually he defected back to the York side and realigned with his brother, King Edward. So at the age of fourteen, Anne Neville's father married her off to Edward of Westminster, the son of deposed king Henry VI, in an effort to align himself with the Lancaster cause. Long story short, Warwick and Edward of Westminster were killed in battle against King Edward, thus leaving Anne Neville a widow and without the protection of the wealth and power of her father, the aftermath of which was the struggle of King Edward and George of Clarence to gain control of Warwick's enormous wealth. Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of King Edward. Very conveniently madly in love with Anne, they were married, thus taking care of half that fortune. Richard had ever been loyal to his brother the King. But George was put on trial for treason against his brother, and executed in 1478. Five years later, Edward IV died, and his youngest brother became King Richard III, making Anne Queen of England.
There are several fascinating aspects of this story, one of which is to see her grow from a weak and powerless teenager to a strong and intelligent woman, in spite of her constant vulnerability. Her rise to the pinnacle that her father had envisioned for her was marked by the tragic loss of everyone she loved, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. It seemed as though her father's political ambition had rubbed off on her, however, which enabled her to stand up to the overwhelming power of the royal family and become a player in her own right in the kingmaking game. As always, Philippa Gregory is spot-on with the historical details, creating a vivid picture of these important and turbulent events in British history.
In war-torn Europe of 1940, Frankie Bard, an American broadcast reporter, delivers intense person commentary on the London blitz and the forced evacuation of the Jews elsewhere in Europe. In Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod, newlywed and newly pregnant Emma Trask anxiously awaits the return of her husband, a volunteer doctor stationed in London. Iris James, the single, 40-year-old new postmistress of Franklin, feels an immense responsibility in holding the town’s secrets in her bags of mail. Sarah Blake, the author of The Postmistress expertly weaves together the lives of these three very different women who live in two very different worlds. Frankie’s world is one of devastation, destruction and violence. For Emma and Iris, small-town America is home where its citizens go about their ordinary lives with their heads buried in the sand. As the United States reluctantly edges closer to getting actively involved in this horrible war, the entire country listens to the accounts of Frankie in disbelief, trepidation and horror. The United States at this time in history was trying hard to convince itself that the war in Europe would not touch them. But through the eyes of Frankie, Emma and Iris, the reader sees the tragedies of war that indiscriminately touched the lives of everyone.
This is a very powerful book, written about a very difficult subject in a dreadful time in our nation’s history. But I guarantee that once you pick it and start reading, you won’t be able to put it down! You will care very deeply about the fates of these three women.