Readers attracted by the Kennedy name will find that, of the two novels,Kick Kennedy’s Secret Diary by Susan Braudy is the more risque and sensational. Readers who want a love story should choose Kerri Maher’s The Kennedy Debutante. Those seeking an historical novel about a woman breaking free of convention and achieving things through her own hard work should look elsewhere.
Some parts off the story follow history closely. The author, Edward James, knows this period well. HIs descriptions of the boats, their crews, and the historical settings are fascinating. The book also describes the real life and death of Richard Chancellor, a historical figure who stumbled into Ivan the Terrible’s court and became the first English diplomat to Russia. The other character, Arthur, is fictional, but his side of the story gives life to the nomadic tribes, the Sami people, who are too often left out of history but whose lives and customs remain unchanged since the dawn of time, even until today.
Though Before We Died is a fictional story, full of intrigue, mystery, and a driving plot that makes it very readable, it is also built around real events as described in the prologue, particularly the catastrophic impact of the rubber boom on some areas of the Amazon, ecologically and in terms of the impacts on the native tribes. The book also confronts issues like racism, exploitation, slavery, and rampant colonialisation, seamlessly integrating the universal into this particular story in a way that feels natural
Having co-authored, with Joy Trott, the biography Grace MacInnis: A Woman to Remember, Ruth Latta is an expert on her subject. In Grace in Love, she holds a magnifying glass to a crucial portion of Grace Woodsworth MacInnis’s long life. Because Grace in Love is a novel, not a biography, some fictional characters mingle with the real ones.
Throughout the reading my mind often reflected back to Colleen McCullough’s collection. She remodelled Gaius Julius Caesar to her own interpretation and I sensed the same thing happening with Robert Fabbri’s Titus Flavivus Vespasianus. In this book he wastes little time in dispatching friend or foe (including his brutalised wife) into the next world with his trusty gladius. I can understand why this is a bestselling series with an ever-growing audience.
Geoff Nelder is one of those writers who seems to be able to work across multiple genres seamlessly. There’s always an element of action, a hint of steamy romance, and his trademark twist. In his latest novel, Xaghra’s Revenge, the twist is a mixture of history, science, horror and fantasy. The research that underlies this novel is obviously impeccable. The narrative is built on the true story of Turkish pirate Rais Dragut, a brutal and deranged man who, in 1551, captured the entire population of Gozo, one of the Maltese islands, and sold whoever survived the terrible journey into slavery in Northern Africa.
This novel is more than just another a period piece of fiction. Crowhurst has written an evocative experience: a time-machine back to three and a half centuries ago into a world so unlike the present day that it actually become entangled and is essentially involved in generating our present heritage. This is set in a time before those childhood nursery rhymes were yet to be constructed as political satire and when the Dutch were the current adversary. Mix up the wrong potion and you could be accused of witchcraft.
Burns’s novel is set in Chicago in 1919. Her choice of poem to quote at the beginning and set the tone for the story is inspired. “Working Girls”, by Carl Sandburg, is about the “river of young woman-life” in that city, as factory and office girls headed off to work each morning. He contrasts the “green” stream of young innocent energy with the “gray” stream of more experienced women who say, “I know where the bloom and laughter go, and I have memories.”
In the end, one of the main characters enjoys a sober happiness, but under it “ran a thin vein of sorrow what millions like her would feel down the years.” To educate readers while entertaining them is no small achievement. Simonson deserves critical as well as popular acclaim for pulling it off in a subtle way.
I would categorize this book as historical fiction first and foremost, though it is touted as magical realism. I had this in the back of my mind as I read, but other than Beulah’s mysterious arrival in town and her omnipresence for most of the rest of the book, the “magical realism” elements weren’t obvious—until the end. This is where Graham’s gift of storytelling shines through