I enjoy good historical fiction if it pulls you right in – to the time period, to the conflict, to the characters. Aside from learning historic facts and geographical details, I love being made to feel as if I am there, experiencing in real time what the protagonist is. Here are a few of my recent reads.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (342 pages, published 2017) – It sounds like this was a big bestseller last year among lovers of historical fiction. I liked it but didn’t love it. It is based on an evil woman in the 1930’s in Memphis who basically stole babies and children and re-sold them. The story is told in mystery-format, with current-day Avery trying to figure out details about the early life of her grandmother who has dementia. Avery’s story is interspersed with that of a young girl named Rill who in the 1930’s endured abduction from her parents. Good…. It is entertaining and a page-turner, though you can kind of figure out what’s going to happen. Happy to lend, I have the hardcover edition.
Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton (319 pages, published in 2017) – Written in diary form by a young Quaker woman in the late 1800’s in Philadelphia and its suburbs. Lilli must cope with her mother’s passing and then pregnancy as an unmarried woman. The book describes in great detail the obstacles women faced, especially poor unwed women. This book pulls you in quickly and is a great read until the end when it starts to drag a little bit. Great! Even with the dragging I recommend it for highlighting this under-studied and under-represented viewpoint of our history. Good for book club discussion…. Let me know if you would like to borrow (paperback!) Thanks to Tim & Amy for the gift of this book!
I was glad for the map on the inside cover of The Winter Soldier. Referred to it several times during the book to understand the geography. But please don’t quiz me!
The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason (336 pages, published 2018) – Set in Eastern Europe during World War I and told from the perspective of a medical student who must quickly shed his bougousie upbringing and training and assume the lead of a medical hospital at a front. There are mysteries, there is a love story, there is resolution (as much as there can be in war-torn Europe). You get to learn more about the demise of the Austro – Hungarian Empire, a little bit more about what’s going on in Russia (there are Cossacks!) It is very well written as the author is a medical doctor and he must have spent an extensive time traveling the area about which he writes.Excellent! I loved it. Still thinking about it. Let me know if you would like to borrow!
I eagerly started Asymmetry after having read about it on several Best-of-2018 lists. It’s broken into 3 parts, and the author is credited with achieving something magnificent and awe-inspiring.
I have to admit that while I enjoyed the 3 parts – I sure didn’t get the significance of her accomplishment on the first read-through!
I devoured the first section, written about the May-December romance between an older famous writer and the younger editor. Loved the NYC setting and the jaunts to the vacation home. Loved how his idiosyncrasies and age/illness pervaded their relationship.
The second section is written from a totally different perspective & set in a different time & place. Written in flashbacks while the narrator is detained in immigration control, it’s a compelling story about an man trying to return to Iraq to find his brother.
The third & final section is short… I won’t give too much away. It is an interview with a character from the first Section. I honestly didn’t get the connection between all three sections until I read a few reviews (NPR’s and NYT’s).
Bottom Line – Borrow My Copy, Put on your 2019 List!
Read it for the enjoyment of each section. It’s OK if you don’t get “it” until you look it up & read about it. This is a book you’ll be thinking about it for days maybe weeks afterwards. You’ll be glad you read it, I know I am.
Get a taste of Elena Ferrante by reading The Lost Daughter.
If you tried to get into My Brilliant Friend but just couldn’t do it, I highly recommend trying The Lost Daughter. It’s like a small dose of Elena Ferrante that you can delve into without 1,681 pages of extra intricate characters, relationships, families, feuds, and nicknames.
The Lost Daughter is 140 pages long. It pulled me right in so I’m reading it quickly. That’s right, I haven’t finished yet. But I will soon and it will keep me on track for 52 books this year.
You can borrow it when I’m done! Or get a copy at Words, where I found mine.
UPDATE: I finished it! You really get into the narrator’s mind as she wrestles with the struggles of motherhood and sense of self.