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Rich and immersive, transporting and informative, good historical fiction is a sumptuous treat. See the past re-written with our Historical Fiction collection. Here to take you to another time without the cost of building a time machine.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
What a remarkable novel this is. The life-affirming story of five young women who live in a Bangalore slum called Heaven. Their city used to be “more green than grey”, “a place where things grew,” and now “towering glass buildings sprouted in the grass where sheep used to graze”, and Heaven is about to be bulldozed. But not if this largely female community has anything to do with it. Indeed, they rise up as one, supporting each other, refusing to bow to the city government. The novel pivots around the lives of five friends. Dance-loving Deepa, who’s blind but whose friends support her passion. Banu, a political artist who “can do things that the rest of us can’t”. Transgender Joy, who was born to a mother who wished she was “unlucky enough to have a daughter.” Padma, “who knows all the ways a woman can be broken,” and is the only member of her family to receive an education. And queer Rukshana who wants “to be myself first.” Through poverty and injustice, the women remain strong and united, with each of their situations, hopes and desires painted with dynamic brushstrokes. Both their individual stories and their collective warrior spirit will move, inspire and enrich.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.
All they want is a place to call home.... 1860s London Orphaned at a young age, Rosa has always looked out for her younger sister, Grace, protecting her from the dangers and bullies of the workhouse. So when Grace is suddenly faced with a world without Rosa, she finds herself alone and forced to make difficult decisions about her future. Can she really walk away from everything she has built to protect the children Rosa has left behind? Returning to the gang-ruled streets of East London, Grace is determined to build a better future for herself and for the children of Bell Lane - no matter what the cost....
1952. Seven years since the end of World War II yet the country is still deeply affected by what happened and the after-effects. Frank is an itinerant casual worker, and stories about his war experiences vary. Reserved occupation? Conscientious objector? Deserter? Nobody seems sure, but one thing is clear – Frank is always looking over his shoulder and moving on at the first sign of trouble. A move to London finds him working in a bar where he falls for Grace, the unhappily married wife of the landlord, Dennis. So when Dennis is murdered, the police naturally assume it is a crime of passion. Maybe it is time for Frank to move on again? The book is described as a thriller, but to me, it didn’t have the fast-paced, edgy feel I would normally associate with the genre. Instead, it moves at an unhurried pace, allowing the reader to savour all the subtleties of the story. I thought the book was so beautifully written and the characters so rounded and well developed that trying to slot it into a genre mould like “thriller” really doesn’t do justice to it. A great story, a great read, a well-planned plot and a clever ending all add up to a very memorable book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Ellwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Ellwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Ellwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Ellwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Ellwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Ellwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
Twenty-year-old Jane Beacon is one of life’s mavericks - a young sea-woman who navigates her own life-course against convention, against the odds, against expectation. The setting is 1940 Dunkirk and Jane has risen from joining the Wren Cadets in 1939 to single-handedly skippering a naval cutter to rescue injured soldiers. From the opening pages Jane’s formidable spirit and wit is brought to the fore, as are the prejudices of the time: “Very largely the Navy has accepted us and they know that we Wren have done a huge amount of good work, But there is always a limit to male tolerance and if you cross it, as I have done frequently, the barriers can suddenly be very high.” Readers will no doubt be swept along by Jane’s rip-roaringly reckless exploits, her unwavering commitment to the war effort, and her disregard for doing things by the book (she’s a loveable rogue, of sorts, described by her female superintendent as having “the most lurid disciplinary record in the service…she doesn’t give a damn about authority”). Fascinating research and Jane’s intense personal coming-of-age story are interwoven into the adventure, making this a tightly-packed parcel of passion, action, humour and history.
Lauren Patterson, an American PhD student, makes a remarkable discovery and accidently finds the diaries of Leonardo da Vinci's assistant. Paulo del Rossi's diaries then lead us through love stories, drama, blackmail, murder and the aftermath of monumental deception. The modern day quest to uncover the historical truths are fantastically interesting. Immersive and intriguing, Paulo del Rossi and Lauren guide us through the Renaissance in Florence to Nazi Germany and into the local Costa coffee shop with ease. We even discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and follow a tender love story that spans across the years. A fantastic read.
'Sophisticated and moving...Powerful' Sunday Times A gripping historical novel about the men behind the invention of the Gutenberg Bible. Bringing tumultuous medieval Europe to life, GUTENBERG'S APPRENTICE is not to be missed by readers of Hilary Mantel, Peter Ackroyd and C. J. Sansom. Johann Gutenberg's first printed Bibles amazed and shocked medieval Europe. He had started a revolution that would one day put books in the hands of any man or woman who wanted them. The project was fraught with danger, for it threatened the power of politicians and the Catholic church. Who was this Gutenberg? In Alix Christie's evocative and compelling novel, he comes vividly to life - driven, caustic and ruthless. Behind him stands a brilliant young scribe, Peter Schoeffer, whose genius is to stay true to his artistic values in the cauldron of the printer's workshop. Caught between the old ways and the new, the two men struggle with one another and the world outside to prevail against overwhelming obstacles...and change history.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
In his first novel for five years, journalist and historian A.N. Wilson creates an epic novel, with an impressive cast of real and imagined characters. Set in the late 18th century, a time of industrialisation, revolution, slavery and colonialism. A commission from the Empress of Russia for a thousand-piece dinner service for her Frog Palace sets in train a series of events that will make Wedgewood a name and a dynasty, including Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, that will be remembered for generations. A fascinating look at the lives of important historical figures at a turning point in British history.
September 2012 Book of the Month. In his first novel for five years, journalist and historian A.N. Wilson creates an epic novel, with an impressive cast of real and imagined characters. Set in the late 18th century, a time of industrialisation, revolution, slavery and colonialism. A commission from the Empress of Russia for a thousand-piece dinner service for her Frog Palace sets in train a series of events that will make Wedgewood a name and a dynasty, including Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, that will be remembered for generations. A fascinating look at the lives of important historical figures at a turning point in British history.
Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize. A novel that tells the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.
A culture clash love, a turn-of-the-last-century scandal beautifully written as a semi-conscious English explorer is nursed by a spiky, argumentative Muslim. Itâ€™s a dense, captivating read.Similar this month: None.Comparison: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, V S Naipaul, Paul Theroux.
Set in 1963, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and the Ukraine, this initially appears to be a story about everyday life for a family who have not had an everyday existence. The author states that the background to this tale is true, and A.C. Michael immerses you in the past, in the scars of humanity, yet the addition of humour, thrills, and a corkscrewing plot ensure this is a thoroughly entertaining read. The larger than life characters hum (quite literally for one or two) with intensity and there are several surprises waiting in store. The Dancing Barber is a fiery, fascinating, and intriguing read. Step inside the pages and into another world.
Shortlisted for the inaugural Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2010. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2009. A fictionalised account of an asylum on the edge of Epping Forest where the poet John Clare spent some time. Tennyson visits the asylum adding that extra sense of reality but it is the story of the doctor Matthew Allen and his humane care for the patients in a time where such care was rare that makes this novel a pleasure to read.
Follow-up to Facing the Light â€“ how a bleak Yorkshire childhood was transformed into a career as a prima ballerina.
A dramatically absorbing and readable family drama, where between the covers prowl the social injustices and horror experienced during World War One. The author sets the two main characters apart, they may have some admirable and attractive qualities however she doesn't shy away from their less likeable traits, as such the writing encourages you to stay within the moment. Vivian is released while Howard is restricted by the onset of war which bullies its way into their lives and changes everything. The secondary characters are fascinating, they are given flesh and help to give this tale the feeling of a stirring saga. The background descriptive detailing, from the atmospheric ballroom to the bombardments of the trenches adds a vivid intensity. This thought provoking tale focuses on a love story, yet eloquently explores the social aspects existing behind the war to end all wars. ~ Liz Robinson
A dramatically absorbing and readable family drama, where between the covers prowl the social injustices and horror experienced during World War One. The author sets the two main characters apart, they may have some admirable and attractive qualities however she doesn't shy away from their less likeable traits, as such the writing encourages you to stay within the moment. Vivian is released while Howard is restricted by the onset of war which bullies its way into their lives and changes everything. The secondary characters are fascinating, they are given flesh and help to give this tale the feeling of a stirring saga. The background descriptive detailing, from the atmospheric ballroom to the bombardments of the trenches adds a vivid intensity. This thought provoking tale focuses on a love story, yet eloquently explores the social aspects existing behind the war to end all wars. ~ Liz Robinson June 2015 Book of the Month.
The third novel in the series sees new challenges for the men of the 106th Foot, as the British army attempts to recover from the disaster of Corunna and establish a foothold in the Peninsula. Featuring the battles of Medellin and Talavera, the 106th will have their mettle severely tested on the battlefield. But if Napoleon is to be ejected from Spain, war must also be waged in more covert ways. For Hanley, the former artist who is a more natural observer than fighter, the opportunity to become an 'exploring officer' leads him into even more dangerous territory, the murky world of politics and partisans. And while Ensign Williams seeks to uncover the identity of the mysterious 'Heroine of Saragossa', a conspiracy of revenge within the regiment itself threatens to destroy him before he's even faced a shot from the French.
With authors like the two-time Man Booker Prize winning Hilary Mantel among its illuminati, it’s no wonder that Historical Fiction is arguably more popular than ever. Follow the lives, loves, betrayals, deaths, trials-and-tribulations of those that went before us.
Whether you follow Sebastian Faulks and P.S Duffy to the hell and displacement of the Front in WWI, Philippa Gregory to the intrigue, immorality and perils of the court of Henry VIII, or get rocked on the high seas of the King’s Navy in Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander, there is a wealth of exceptional storytelling to dive headfirst into. Where will you let our time machine take you today?