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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.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
Destiny's War Part One: Saladin's Secret by Pyram King is the first of five proposed short novels, in which the author weaves together events from the Middle Eastern theatre of WW1 with ancient legends from the same area and explores the complex effects of one upon the other. It's a fascinating mix of fact and fiction, well-researched and very readable. The story is narrated by one Francis Marion Jager, aka Mare, a journalist of Swiss-German and American descent, who, at the start of the book, is writing for a London paper. When his services are no longer required, he is invited to accompany British troops on a secret offensive, as he is fluent in both German and Arabic. The latter he has learnt during travels with Bedouin, along with a detailed geographical knowledge of the area. The action takes place in Egypt and Syria in 1917, but with frequent reference to the powerful history of the region, which soon becomes dangerously entwined with the 20th-century arena of war. The book is illustrated with monochrome pictures of some of the main players and venues in the narrative. They are very atmospheric and, being understated, also slightly sinister. They evoke feelings of unease and impending doom, which is borne out in the storyline. The author highlights the inadequacies of command and lack of preparation in the British army at this time and writes using terminology, particularly for foreign nationals, that would have been common amongst officers. The battle scenes are also quite graphic so, if you are easily offended, this book is probably not for you. I found this story informative and well-constructed, though I would have preferred the very useful footnotes to have appeared at the bottom of each page, rather than at the end of the chapters but it holds a lot of promise for the rest of the series. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
A fabulously readable, dramatic, and truly exciting start to a new series set after the death of Alexander the Great. On his deathbed Alexander refuses to name his successor, and so begins a bloody and ruthless struggle for ultimate power. Robert Fabbri introduces the players in this game beautifully, each chapter is headed by one of the opponents, with a few words summing up their nature. There are a fair few lead characters (there is a helpful list at the end), however each quickly became an individually distinct person in my mind. The author notes that nearly all of the characters actually existed, and almost all the events are noted in history. Robert Fabbri adds vivid life and breathtaking drama, and I found myself completely immersed in this fascinating story. Alexander’s Legacy: To The Strongest is a wonderful start to this new series, and has been chosen as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
Well, this is one seriously addictive and fabulous read. Now that I have finished I feel bereft, exhilarated, and have one humdinger of a book hangover. Set in London, it is 1863 and private detective Bridie Devine is on the case of a stolen child. The prologue hooked me as surely as a fish on a line, I gaped, wondered, and leaned in for more. Descriptions opened with vivid intensity in my mind, creating the most glorious views. There is something about Jess Kidd’s writing that speaks directly to my soul, she knows how to lull, tickle, burn. She created a stinging tension, on a number of occasions leaving me hanging while popping into the past. I have to say that Bridie Devine is one of the most fabulous characters I’ve come across. She has taken up a somewhat boisterous lodging in my mind and she’s more than welcome! Information swirled around, making my thoughts whirl, adding to the torrent that I knew was surely coming. And oh, that ending! Things in Jars is a Victorian detective story with a difference, it crosses genres and set light to my imagination. It has been added to my list of favourite books. Bridie Devine to my list of favourite detectives. Jess Kidd has been confirmed on my list of favourite authors. Things in Jars is LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Robinson Pick of the Month… Need I say more?
England lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 was controversial then and remains so to this day. In 'Fixing Sixty-six' Tim Flower debunks some of the myths surrounding our 'greatest sporting achievement' so successfully that it is at times hard to remember this is a work of fiction, albeit firmly rooted in fact. The story is mainly narrated by Harry Miller, a Liverpudlian sports journalist, working for 'The Daily Mirror'. In 1966 he was recruited by Ludovic Forsyth, the personal assistant to the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to Operation Jules Britannia. This project's aim was nothing less than to ensure England won the World Cup to avert attention from the Labour government's inadequacies and mismanagement of the nation's economy and was to be achieved by manipulating the media, the match venues and game officials. Fast forward 50 years and Harry, now terminally ill, has no more fear of the official secrets document he signed at the time and decides to sell his story to the press. The author has captured the feel of the 60s very well. He takes us back to a time when a married woman was expected to stay home and busy herself with childcare, cooking and cleaning, as anything else was seen as an insult to her husband, implying he didn't earn enough to support his family. This may have changed drastically now but little else the book refers to has. The 'power, privilege and complacency' of the gentlemen's club, the nations 'superior' attitude to the EU and foreigners in general, the corruption within FIFA, the 'freedom' of the press and the unholy alliance between politics and big business are all much as they were and parallels are easy to see with the present day. This is a fascinating tale, all the more so knowing how much contemporary evidence supports its revelations and even someone not in the least bit interested in 'the beautiful game' will appreciate the skill of the storytelling. A thoroughly good read! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
This is a really superb book, the type of book that you can sit comfortably in a chair in a winter's night and just totally relax with. The Author has written the story in a smooth continuous flow of writing which allows the Reader to follow the story easily without having to backtrack to previously read material to keep the theme of the story in mind. The book itself satisfies many genres and thus will appeal to a wide range of readers. The work includes love, classical background, fear, battles, friendship and so many other areas. The main characters are with the story from beginning to end with a few twists along the way which brings surprise to the reader and also draws the readers attention to a deeper understanding of the story. A classical themed story but not all romance and god's. A good read guaranteed. Catherine Bryce, A LoveReading Ambassador
Noema is a poignant imaginative tale of religion and faith. In truth, I find it a peculiar book to put into words. The plot focuses on the adaptation and evolution of an agricultural civilisation trying to deal with natural and man-made threats similar to that of modern times (hunger, deforestation, climate change and criminality). These parallels are a great tool for the reader to reflect on their own world while also following along with the story. The book begins with a rather obscure introduction and a tale that the narrator will get to as soon as they can. I found this a bit confusing, as the plot jumps about a bit and I was left unsure whether I'd missed information, or was waiting to find it out. This feeling never really left me as I read the book, constantly waiting for a big revelation about the people and the narrator. Noema uses spirituality to comment on the human condition. The reference to The Lost Ones, these taboo people who moved away from traditional ways of life centuries before appear to represent us/modern civilisation - living in open spaces in stone houses. This means that Noema serves as a warning about city/modern living and losing religious belief or faith and connection to a higher power and the natural world around us. I felt the implication of this is that it is a destructive life choice because the main focus of this book is religion and faith anthropomorphised. I liked the connections to other religions such as the All Life (the Aum of Hinduism) and the Traveller (a messenger or prophet sent to speak to and interpret the All Life), the stone house for "You" to live (a church). I think that this is a unique book dealing with a number of complex issues in an interesting way. I think that this is a great book for anyone interested in spirituality and human nature. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice: this is the story of the smallest library in the world - and the most dangerous. 'It wasn't an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns...' Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the 'living books' - prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be 'borrowed' to educate the children in the camp. But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children's block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor.
I had heard of Quarry Bank Mill before and the Apprentices but I had not heard about the author`s first book about Thomas Priestley and Joseph Sephton so I did some background reading first to find out more about the Mill and the Apprentices in general and also about these two young men. I found it fascinating reading so by the time I started "Mules; Masters and Mud" I very much wanted to know what happened to them. I wasn't disappointed, this was a very well written book and it filled in all the gaps, with an interesting backdrop of other characters. A well-researched and gripping book. Christine Waddington, A LoveReading Ambassador
David Downing’s superb series of novels first appeared in 2007 with the publication of Zoo Station and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy. My review of the time enthused “ A complex and edge-of the – seat thriller, think Robert Harris & Fatherland mixed with a dash of le Carre; it’s good, and there’s more to come”. I’ve had no reason to revise my opinion, through 6 novels; David Downing has evoked the feverish landscape of Germany and Europe in the Second World War period down to the last scrupulous detail. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Zoo Station a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'A book I couldn't put down. It's been a long time since I stayed awake all night to finish a book. This was one.' – Fiona Maclean. Scroll down to read more reviews. To read the Station titles in order: Zoo Station Silesian Station Stettin Station Potsdam Station Lehrter Station Masaryk Station
The British Army is withdrawing from Philadelphia, with George Washington in pursuit, and for the first time, it looks as if the rebels might actually win. But for Claire Fraser and her family, there are even more tumultuous revolutions that have to be accommodated. Her former husband, Jamie, has returned from the dead, demanding to know why in his absence she married his best friend, Lord John Grey. Lord John's son, the ninth Earl of Ellesmere, is no less shocked to discover that his real father is actually the newly resurrected Jamie Fraser, and Jamie's nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for the woman who has just agreed to marry him. And while Claire is terrified that one of her husbands may be about to murder the other, in the 20th century her descendants face even more desperate turns of events. Her daughter Brianna is trying to protect her son from a vicious criminal with murder on his mind, while her husband Roger has disappeared into the past...
It is June 1778, and the world seems to be turning upside-down. The British Army is withdrawing from Philadelphia, with George Washington in pursuit, and for the first time, it looks as if the rebels might actually win. But for Claire Fraser and her family, there are even more tumultuous revolutions that have to be accommodated. Her former husband, Jamie, has returned from the dead, demanding to know why in his absence she married his best friend, Lord John Grey. Lord John's son, the ninth Earl of Ellesmere, is no less shocked to discover that his real father is actually the newly resurrected Jamie Fraser, and Jamie's nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for the woman who has just agreed to marry him. And while Claire is terrified that one of her husbands may be about to murder the other, in the 20th century her descendants face even more desperate turns of events. Her daughter Brianna is trying to protect her son from a vicious criminal with murder on his mind, while her husband Roger has disappeared into the past...
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.
Mary Blight, our unswervingly entertaining heroine, is a salty-talking, salty-acting woman. She picks over the corpses of those drowned off her craggy Cornish cove looking for treasures, such as the fine boots she pulls from a lady’s feet. And then she sees that the body’s earlobes are missing, leading to the national press reporting on the Porthmorvoren Cannibal, and someone saw blood around Mary’s mouth…But it’s Mary who takes in a washed-up stranger and nurses him back to health with the aid of Old Jinny’s curious cure. The man is a Methodist minister who decides to restore the cove to godliness and, observing Mary’s knowledge of the scriptures, he appoint her as Sunday School teacher, to the chagrin of the villagers who are familiar with Mary’s penchant for carnal pleasures. Mary throws herself into her new role but admits in typically honest fashion “I wanted Gideon to save me, but not so that I could kneel at the throne of King Jesus…I wanted him to help me flee the village so I could parade among all the smots in all my finery in a grand town”. As the villagers scheme against Mary, a nation-wide search for a thief gathers pace, and all the while the writing crackles with energy and atmosphere, making this an exhilarating read with something of a Dickensian spirit in the vibrant characterisation.
November 2017 Debut of the Month A gentle, yet powerful and stimulating novel about friendship and love. 15 year old Steffi who is being bullied at school, meets Alvar who lives in a retirement home, their shared loved of jazz creates a beautiful healing bond. The story is told in the present, and we also travel with Alvar through time to 1942, when he first discovers the jazz scene in Stockholm. Sara Lovestam writes with a lovely lyrical, light touch, yet effectively highlights the pain Steffi feels at the hands of her tormentors. I fell in love with both Steffi and Alvar, their friendship feels so real, you can reach out and touch it. There were sections where I felt an almost physical reaction to the bullying, yet the love and compassion continues to shine through. ‘Wonderful Feels Like This’ touched my heart, it is provocative yet hopeful, and an entirely captivating read indeed. ~ Liz Robinson
During her research to write the poignant Titanic Love Stories Gill Paul became so taken up in the stories she decided to create this engaging romantic story. The central character was inspired by a photograph of a handsome 1st class steward who sadly didn’t survive the sinking. The book is jammed full of authentic historic detail and any fan of Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs will be captivated.
ITALY, 1492. Five-year-old Mura is a strange and bewitching child. Daughter of a Nordic mother and Spanish father, she has been tutored in both Arabic learning and the ancient mythology of the north. But when her widower father is taken by the Inquisition, Mura is sold to a Genoese slaver. In the port of Savona, Mura's androgynous looks and unusual abilities fetch a high price. She is bought as a house slave for the powerful Medici, arriving in Florence as the city prepares for war against the French. When the family are forced to flee, Mura finds herself gifted to the notorious Lioness of Romagna, Countess Caterina Sforza. Beautiful, ruthless and intelligent, the Countess is fascinated by Mura's arcane knowledge. As the Lioness educates her further in the arts of alchemy, potions and poisons, Mura becomes a potent weapon in the Machiavellian intrigues of the Renaissance court...
Winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. One of our Books of the Year 2015. November 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome. ~ Sarah Broadhurst HWA Chair judge Andrew Taylor said: "The judges were unanimously impressed by Wolf Winter. Not only is it astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, but it plunges the reader into Swedish Lapland 300 years ago and plays havoc with your emotions. Dark, powerful and beautifully written, it's a worthy winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown.
February 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome.
Author of the magnificent ‘Emperor’ series on Julius Caesar now turns his considerable talent to the life of Genghis Khan and his descendants. Another tale of high adventure, brutal times and ambitious people. Wonderful stuff with a lot of human interest, a fascinating subject and loads of action.Comparison: Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, Valerio Massimo Manfredi. The Conqueror series1. Wolf of the Plains2. Lords of the Bow3. Bones of the Hills4. Empire of Silver5. Conqueror
This is an unabridged audiobook title. Winner of the inaugural Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2010. Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009. The subject of Henry VIII will always provide a rich source of historical, political and scandalous fodder and here Hilary Mantel concentrates on one of the most interesting times in his reign – the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and his split from the Church of Rome. Mantel breathes life in to every character and even if you feel you have heard this story a million times she brings an original and tantalising voice to the period. This is an Unabridged audiobook title, which includes every word that you would otherwise find in the printed edition. Don’t forget, if the story was meant to be shorter the author would have written less! Click here to take a peek at our selection of Unabridged audiobooks. You might be interested to know the abridged audiobook version runs to only 29% of the full length.
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?