historical fiction

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Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea

Based on the real-life Lizzie Burns, Irish rebel and helpmeet to philospher Frederick Engels, Mrs. Engels is a fascinating work of historical fiction. Gavin McCrea gives life to this little-known historical figure, portraying how an illiterate cotton mill worker became an influential figure in Engels’ and Karl Marx’s political circle. Lizzie’s wit and intelligence serve her well as she works her way up from the mills of Manchester to London society, and readers will enjoy Lizzie’s wry observations and no-nonsense voice in this first-person narrative.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

We first meet Marie-Laure and Werner as youngsters in pre-war France and Germany. Marie Laure lives with her father, master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and loses her sight at age six. Werner and his sister are growing up with limited prospects in a poor orphanage in the coal mining town where their parents died.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

Do you like thick (809 p.) inter-generational family stories full of historical details and drama? Read on - this novel is for you. In his research the author discovered fantastic historical street maps, drawings, paintings and models of the city of Paris in the Carnavalet Museum in the Marais and photographs from the Museum of Montmarte. He made use of these details to create an intimacy between the reader and this most beautiful and romantic of all European cities. We see Paris through the eyes of the noble family, the deCygnes and the revolutionists Le Sourds.

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

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