Historical Fiction Book Club
A monthly read within the genre of historical fiction, leaning towards the more literary end of the spectrum but aiming for an eclectic mix of authors, styles, periods, etc. Book discussion opens on the first of each month; selections are announced well in advance to provide reading time.
Posts for this club should be tagged: historicalfictionbook_club.
Book: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.
You will be unhappily wed. You will be widowed. You will be queen. "When Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher was a girl in Martinique, a voodoo priestess predicted that she would be unhappily married, would then be widowed, and would become queen. With the profits from her father's sugar plantation spent largely on his gambling and drinking, the final prediction seems unlikely. An arranged marriage takes Rose to France, where she finds herself woefully uneducated and unprepared for high society. But in 1779 no one is prepared for the bloody upheaval that will convulse France for years. Rose endures her husband's infidelity and abandonment before his execution leaves her a widow. Combining charm, intelligence, empathy, and luck, she copes with poverty and prison, surviving the revolution with her children. " -- Library Journal [more inside]
Book: Forever Amber
"Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England—that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary—and extraordinary—men and women, Amber experiences it all." (amazon) [more inside]
Hello historical fiction book clubbies! We have just two books left ... do we want to keep going? If so, what do you want to read? [more inside]
Book: The Chaperone
"Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. ... [W]hile what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. " -Amazon.com [more inside]
Book: The Signature of All Things
"[Elizabeth] Gilbert, the author of the phenomenally successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love (2006), returns to fiction with her first novel in 13 years, and what a novel it is! Taking her sweet time and digressing at will into areas ranging from botany to spiritualism to illustration, she tells the rich, highly satisfying story of scholar Alma Whittaker. Born to Henry Whittaker, “the richest man in Philadelphia,” who rose from his station as the son of a lowly gardener to an import tycoon, Alma has the benefit of wealth and books, spending hours learning Latin and Greek and studying the natural world. But her plain appearance and erudition seem to foretell a lonely life until she meets gifted artist Ambrose Pike. Their intense intellectual connection results in marriage, but Ambrose’s deep but unorthodox spiritual beliefs prevent them from truly connecting. Alma, who has never traveled out of Philadelphia, embarks on an odyssey that takes her from Tahiti to Holland, during which she learns much about the ways of the world and her own complicated nature. Gilbert, in supreme command of her material, effortlessly invokes the questing spirit of the nineteenth century, when amateur explorers, naturalists, and enthusiasts were making major contributions to progress. Beautifully written and imbued with a reverence for science and for learning, this is a must-read." - Booklist [more inside]
Book: The Wake
In 1066, the world ended.
"when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when there seems no end to its deopness."[more inside]
Book: Wolf Hall
"England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage." -- Amazon summary [more inside]
Book: Pioneer Girl
"Hill presents a detailed annotated version of Wilder's autobiography, written between 1929 and 1930, which served as the basis for the ever-popular and successful "Little House" books. A successful columnist and editor, Wilder chronicled 16 years of the Ingalls family's moves through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakota Territory in the late 19th century, offering vivid descriptions of the land and people as well as the ups and downs of frontier life. Though daughter Rose Wilder Lane heavily edited the manuscript, it was never accepted for publication. Wilder eventually fictionalized many of the incidents described here for her "Little House" series and strove to portray the spirit of the time and to illustrate the courage and adaptability of the people who settled the frontier. Using census data, newspapers, and other primary documents, this volume is heavily annotated and puts into perspective the original autobiography and how that manuscript evolved into the fictional stories. ... "Little House" devotees will appreciate Hill's thorough examination of Wilder's life and times." -- School Library Journal [more inside]
"Just after a failed suicide attempt, Andrew Bankson, English anthropologist studying the Kiona tribe in the territory of New Guinea, meets a pair of fellow anthropologists fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe down river. Nell Stone is controversial and well respected. Her rough Australian husband, Fen, is envious of her fame and determined to outshine her. Bankson helps them find a new tribe to study, the artistic, female-dominated Tam. Nell’s quiet assurance and love of the work, and Fen’s easy familiarity, pull Bankson back from the brink. But it is the growing fire between him and Nell that they cannot do anything about. Layered on top of that is Nell’s grasp of the nuances of the Tam, which makes it clear that she will once again surpass Fen. Set between the First and Second World Wars, the story is loosely based on events in the life of Margaret Mead." -- Booklist [more inside]
Historical Fiction Book Club
Welcome to Historical Fiction book club! I've chosen nine months of books, touching on a variety of historical periods, tending towards the more literary end of the historical fiction spectrum but trying to include a variety of styles. We will discuss each book over the course of a month; on the first day of the month spoilers are permitted, be forewarned. The major selection criterion for the initial set of books is that I've read them in the last calendar year and so remember enough about them to discuss them, and I think they'll appeal to MeFites. (If I left out your recent favorite, I probably just haven't read it yet, and I'm happy to do so!) Within, find out our upcoming books! [more inside]