historical fiction

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Longbourn by Jo Baker

Did you ever wonder who scraped the mud off Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes, and boiled the mud stains out of her petticoats, after her tromp through the fields to visit her ailing sister Jane over at the Bingley’s house? No, probably not (I didn’t either, even though I’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice many times). Turns out it was Sarah, the Bennets’ young housemaid who toils away washing the young ladies’ linens and hauling water while dreaming of a life of her own beyond the visible horizon, perhaps even in London.

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

It’s 1913 Vienna and Lysander Reif, a young English actor, is in town seeking psychotherapy for a very private sort of ailment. He ends up enmeshed in a passionate affair with an enigmatic woman he meets at his therapist’s office. When his lover’s live-in boyfriend finds out and becomes enraged, she accuses Lysander of rape and the story gallops away from there. Upon his return to London on the cusp of war, Lysander finds it difficult to return to normal life, breaks up with his English fiancé, joins up and gets pulled into the dangerous world of wartime spying.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I've wanted to read this book ever since I first saw the cover and it was just as good, better even, then I thought it would be based on that skimpy criteria.  This is the kind of book I love.  Lots of intertwined characters jumping  back and forth through time from 1960's Italy to present day Hollywood.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Thinking this would be a light, fun, fluffy read, I brought this along on vacation. It was the perfect beach read, but it turned out to be much more than fluff. This fantastic novel changed gears each time I thought I had it figured out, and in the end I was left with a witty but deep-feeling novel about a loving, eccentric, slightly dysfunctional family. Like P. G. Wodehouse's more biting cousin, The Uninvited Guests is highly recommended.

The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield

Although the subtitle is “A Novel of Golf & the Game of Life” you don’t have to know, or play, or even like golf (I don’t) to thoroughly enjoy this wonderful book (I did.)  There was no way I would feel motivated to read a book "about golf." However as a reader who thinks Steven Pressfield is one of our great living thinkers and writers, I was more than ready to accept that this was more than a "sports book." This book is a meditation on what it means to be a man and a human.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston

An unusual format, a fully illustrated scrapbook, makes this period romance unique.  Frankie Pratt receives a scrapbook, her father's old typewriter and a letter of acceptance to Vassar for her high school graduation in 1920 and begins to record her world.  Caroline Preston does a remarkable job creating Frankie's voice through the small snippets of conversation and captions she uses on each scrapbook page.   True to the way one really keeps a scrapbook it only hits the highlights, an almost disasterous romance before college gets a few gushing pages, the first tough year a

Emily Hudson by Melissa Jones

Emily Hudson, a penniless orphan who lost her family to consumption and fever, is forced to accept the grudging hospitality of her aunt and uncle.  Emily does not fit into the dour straitlaced Cornford household where the least show of enthusiasm is deemed inappropriate.  Her cousin William, a novelist,  takes an interest in her watching every emotion and reaction as if thinking about how he would write the scene in a novel, even going so far as to interfere in events to create situations to observe.   Ultimately the novel is about how Emily learns to stand up for

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

In this Dickensian tale Jaffy, a fearless street urchin, is almost eaten by a Bengal tiger. Saved by the titular Jamrach, a jovial dealer in exotic animals who, impressed by his fearlessnes, hires him as a trainer, Jaffy meets slick talking Tim, another Jamrach protege, and his twin sister Ishbel. Tim and Jaffy become best friends. Which does not mean that their relationship is uncomplicated. The fact that Jaffy's heart is captured by Ishbel makes that a given.

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

Local author Andrew Krivak tells the story Jozef Vinich, who begins life in a bleak 19th century Colorado mining town, only to end up fighting for the Kaiser in World War One.  Krivak’s debut novel offers the story of a man returning to the roots of his ancestors, finding new family along the way, only to have the horrors of war disrupt all that he had come to take for granted.  Krivak packs a lot of emotion into the rather small book. 

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