Posts tagged with "Historical Fiction"

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 12/01/11
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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.  


Posted by Auntie Anne. on 11/02/12
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"Spies, poison, and curses surround her . . . Is there anyone she can trust?"

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. 

  

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 02/26/12
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The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in Philippa Gregory's The Cousin's War series, a fictional accounting of the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and the Yorks for the crown of England.  The story of Jacquetta Rivers, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, is an especially compelling one, particularly from the aspect of women's lives of this era.  It was a world completely controlled by men, and the only way that women could control their own destiny was through witchcraft or spirituality.  Said to be a descendant of the river goddess Melusina, Jacquetta was an eye-witness to one of the most important power struggles in British history.  She was the second most powerful woman in England in the early 1400's, and played a key role in the story of the York's and the Lacaster's rule.  Her daughter Elizabeth became the Queen of England when she married Edward IV, and again when she married Henry Tudor, King Henry VII, making Jacquetta Henry VIII's maternal grandmother.

Posted by mingh on 02/27/12
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A new voice in historical fiction. The Little Russian tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow--a life filled with salons, balls, and all the trappings of the Upper Class--very different from her current life as a grocer's daughter in the Jewish townlet of Mosny. So when a mysterious and cultured wheat merchant walks into the grocery, Berta's life is forever altered. She falls in love, unaware that he is a member of the Bund, The Jewish Worker's League, smuggling arms to the shtetls to defend them against the pogroms sweeping the Little Russian countryside. Married and established in the wheat center of Cherkast, Berta has recaptured the life she once had in Moscow. So when a smuggling operation goes awry and her husband must flee the country, Berta makes the vain and foolish choice to stay behind with her children and her finery. As Russia plunges into war, Berta eventually loses everything and must find a new way to sustain the lives and safety of her children. Filled with heart-stopping action, richly drawn characters, and a world seeped in war and violence; The Little Russian is poised to capture readers as one of the hand-selling gems of the season

Posted by dnapravn on 07/14/13
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I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a debut novel as much as I just enjoyed Suzanne Rindell's The Other Typist. This book is the definition of a page-turner and, truth be told, I'm a bit sleepy today because of it.
 
Rose Baker is a police precinct typist in 1920s New York during the height of Prohibition. Raised in an orphanage with few friends or emotional attachments, Rose prides herself in her attention to detail as well as her high moral standards. When the glamorous and mysterious Odalie joins the typing pool, it doesn't take long for Rose to fall under her spell. Flattered by the attention she receives from Odalie, Rose decides this is the female friend she has longed for her whole life and soon becomes Odalie's roommate as well as her nightly companion at various speakeasies.
 
As the story unfolded, I soon began to doubt the reliability of Rose's narration and found myself rereading passages in an effort to not miss a clue. I look forward to Suzanne Rindell's next novel. What an enjoyable summer read this was!

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 08/11/11
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“War happens to people, one by one.  That is really all I have to say, and it seems to me I have been saying it forever.”   - Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War  
 
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. 

Posted by Auntie Anne. on 06/05/11
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She fantasized about living the life of Joan of Arc, championing God's causes on the battlefield and in 15th century Britain's royal court.  From a very early age, Margaret Beaufort focused on her destiny as the heiress to the red rose of the House of Lancaster, convinced that her devotion to God would lead her to a calling of greatness.  Her first big disappointment was her betrothal to Edmund Tudor, the King's half-brother.  Her loveless marriage gives her a son, Henry, but leaves her a widow at the age of 13.  Widowed and powerless, her son is given to the younger Tudor brother, Jasper, as his ward.  Jasper becomes her ally in raising her son, training and educating him to become the future King of England.  As she enters into two more marriages, she see the House of York rise and fall.  As the war of the roses is waged for the throne of England, Margaret spends hours on her knees, waiting and praying for signs from God as outrageous politics and plotting between cousins carry on around her.  As the years pass, and her son George and ally Jasper Tudor are banished from England as enemies to the York throne, Margaret's religious fervor and political ambitions transform her into a cold, calculating powerbroker.  She takes her place in history as the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty when the last Yorkist king, Richard III, is killed in battle by her son, Henry Tudor.  King Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's daughter, thus uniting the two warring houses.  Their son, Henry, becomes King Henry VIII, and the rest is history.
 
For fans of historical fiction, particularly of British regency, this is fascinating reading.  The author allows the reader to get inside of Margaret's head to see what drove her.  The transformation from a powerless little girl who's only role in life was to bear a male heir to the Lancaster line to a ruthless political mastermind is as resolute as her ambitions.  Gregory's picture of her as a stalwart, god-fearing matriarch is in stark contrast to her rival as Henry VIII's other grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen.  One would have to believe Margaret Beaufort was the mother-in-law from hell.

Posted by cclapper on 01/28/11
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England/Wales - 1400's:  Caught in a time of dynamic intrigue, a girl, traded into political marriages, learns to lay her own stratagems, and contrive her own designs to snare earthly power.  Henry VI, Richard III- what a cast!
 
Sounds like Philippa Gregory has done it again... but watch your back!
 
BONUS!  Hey, loyal readers- check out Ultra Violet's big review of The Quickening Maze ... 1800's England- madness, mayhem... and melancholy!  What d'ya think?

Posted by Pam I am on 05/09/13
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If you are looking for an epic novel that spans more than fifty years, then Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper is a must read--it moves between 1941 London during the Blitz, the 1960's, and present day.  This book is part historical fiction, part mystery.  In present day, Laurel remembers a tragic family event from the 1960's and is driven to solve the meaning of this before her aging mother dies.  As she begins to examine her family's past, she uncovers secrets from war-torn London and begins to wonder who her mother really is.  Morton keeps your interest on every page with well developed characters and a rapidly moving plot.  I liked it so much, that I will definitely read Morton's other books.

Posted by mingh on 04/11/12
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The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future. Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them.
 
But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
 
Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker's Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.
 
This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim.