Historical Fiction

Inés of My Soul

Friday, November 4, 2016
Isabel Allende
Inés of My Soul

An amazing story of historical fiction about Inés Suárez, a Spanish woman who helped build the nation of Chile in the 1500s.

Inés was born in Spain, but made her way to the New World of South America in search of her husband in about 1537 when she was 30 years old. Although the trip was treacherous, especially for a woman, it is suspected that she wanted to escape the stifling monotonous life in Spain for a woman who is without a husband. She eventually made her way to Peru where she learned that her husband had died in battle.

It is in Peru where Inés becomes the mistress of Pedro de Valdivia, a famous war hero and Field Marshall. She accompanies de Valdivia on his mission to the south to found the country of Chile. Inés’s talents as a seamstress, a cook, and at the healing arts made her a valuable member of the small group of Spaniards who moved into the territory that is now Chile where the natives of the region were inhospitable.

This saga dramatizes the events that are known about the life of Inés Suárez. I recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction with strong female characters.   

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Kathleen Z., Administration

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Dorothy Love
Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray

This book is about the true-life friendship between Mary Anna Custis Lee (a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee) and Selina Gray, who was a slave at the Lee's home, Arlington house in Virginia. Mary is heiress to George Washington's personal belongings and when she has to flee her home, due to the outbreak of the Civil War, she entrusts Arlington and those belongings to her personal maid, Selina Gray. Selina manages to save many of George Washington's treasures from the looting of the union army.  Click here for a photo and more information on Selina Gray from the National Park Service. This was a compelling story about a 50-year friendship whose truth should not be forgotten.

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Margaret B., Reference

Daughter of Australia

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Harmony Verna
Daughter of Australia

This is a beautiful story of love and courage that will take you into the beauty and harshness of the Australian Outback then on to America in the early decades of the twentieth century. The description of the characters and landscape draws you into the book and won't let you go.

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Barb O., Circulation

Burial Rites

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Hannah Kent
Burial Rites

In the rugged setting of Iceland in 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is charged with the murder of two men. There are no jails in Iceland at this time, so Agnes is sent to the farm of an assistant District Commissioner. The family on the farm is horrified that they will be caring for a convicted murderer until her execution. Agnes is able to tell her story over many months to the young priest who is charged with preparing her soul for death. Over time, through her hard work and by helping several people with her knowledge of the healing arts, the fear and loathing of her hosts turns to empathy. Her version of events paints a complex story that brings sympathy and understanding. Although it reads like fiction, the story is based on extended research into the last person publicly executed in Iceland. A gripping tale.

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Kathleen Z., Administration

The Light in the Ruins (Audiobook)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Chris Bohjalian
The Light in the Ruins (Audiobook)

Set in the Florence and Tuscany areas where the Rosati family’s ancient villa is located, this story moves back and forth between WWII and 1955. In 1955 two members of the Rosati family are murdered and their hearts are cut out. This provides the mystery and suspense that tie the two decades together. The setting and characters hold your attention until the end.

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Kathleen Z., Administration

Girl Waits With Gun

Saturday, July 9, 2016
Amy Stewart
Girl Waits With Gun

A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

On a summer day in 1914, Constance Kopp and her sisters set out in their horse and buggy from their farm in New Jersey to a nearby town where they are suddenly run down by a speeding motorcar. Thankfully, they sustain only minor injuries. But when they try to collect damages from the powerful and nasty silk factory owner who was driving the car, the dispute turns ugly and the sisters are harassed and attacked in their home by the man and his gang of goons. Constance goes to the sheriff to enlist his help and protection in bringing the man to justice. What seems a rather routine story comes to wonderful life in the depictions of the three Kopp sisters who are as different as night and day, and in the revelation of the family secret that had sent them all into hiding on the family farm fifteen years ago. Constance finds the strength to confront it all – and establish a new role for herself -  in an unexpected way.

If you like historical settings, strong female characters, and great writing you will enjoy Girl Waits With Gun. This looks to be the first book in a new series, with the second book due out in the fall. It will definitely be on my ‘to read’ list!

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Sue A., Reference

Hanging Mary

Friday, July 8, 2016
Susan Higginbotham
Hanging Mary

Fans of historical fiction will love this book which shows another side to the case surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The author draws upon extensive research to immerse you in the time period, facts, and characters in the plot. Mary Surratt was the first woman executed by the federal government, and the questions regarding this decision are still being asked today. Was she guilty? Did she deserve prison or the death sentence?

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Margaret B., Reference

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Michael Punke
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

I was intrigued when people started talking about the movie The Revenant. Their opinions were that the movie was very gruesome. The movie is based on the book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke. It is a pioneer story of sorts that takes place during fur trading and struggles with Native Americans. The “gruesome” incident was a man getting attacked by a bear. The fur trader’s back, head, and throat were raked by the bear’s claws. To me, the movie didn’t really show this graphic scene. When reading the book, I felt the injuries that he suffered and how a member of his company tried stitching up his raw skin to cover at least his throat so that he could breathe easier. Two men were assigned to wait until he was dead and bury him so that the rest of the company could complete their mission. The bear-injured man survived after the men deserted him, so thus he wanted revenge for them not helping him. They even took all his weapons. His will to survive compelled him to drag his body until it was healed enough to find sustenance and a way to travel to find the men who deserted him. He was even helped by Native Americans. I loved the survival skills that were mentioned in the book about finding ways to get food without weapons. I preferred the encounter of revenge that took place in the book rather than the movie version.

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Geralyn B., Technical Services

 

The Botticelli Secret

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Marina Fiorato
The Botticelli Secret

This historical thriller set in 15th century Italy revolves around the painting La Primavera by Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. In the novel, two characters, prostitute Luciana and monk Guido, find themselves in possession of the painting and discover it contains a code. While fleeing from assassins desperate to retrieve the painting, the two are chased across Italy to cities like Milan, Venice, and Pisa where they learn dark secrets about their families, their cities, and the conspiracy surrounding La Primavera. Reminiscent of novels like The Da Vinci Code, The Botticelli Secret is a fast-paced adventure full of romance and intrigue with lovable and original characters.

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Rachel C., Circulation

The Marriage of Opposites

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman is a historical novel that takes place on both the Carribean island of St. Thomas and also in Paris, France. Rachel Pomie Pizzarro, our strong Creole female in this story will become the mother of French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro.

In 1807 when the novel begins, Rachel is only 12 and enjoys breaking rules, irritating her mother and rebels against this strict and dutiful woman. Her mother knows that behavior such as this will not be tolerated by the Sephardic Jewish community in which they live. Nevertheless, Rachel and her best friend, Jestine, a mixed-race daughter of the cook, are taught to read and are educated by Rachel’s father who is more relaxed about duty and convention than his wife.

By the time Rachel reaches her early twenties, her father has arranged a marriage for her with a businessman, father, and widower twice her age. This event secures the future of her father’s business, a rum-exporting operation on the island. When her husband dies several years later and Rachel finds herself the  mother of seven at an early age, she is distraught. Within several months, her husband’s nephew from France arrives to settle the estate and Rachel seizes control of her life, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair with the nephew that sparks a scandal affecting her entire family, including her favorite son Camille. This son will one day become the “father” of the French Impressionist movement and great artist in his own right.

Rachel had always longed for a visit to Paris where she had heard from her father during her early years about her ancestry but she had never been there. It takes the movement of her son Camille to Paris where he is to study art and painting to define the event which ultimately moves Rachel to Paris. There are convoluted themes within this novel but it is beautifully written and the enchanting locations become alive when described.

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Sue H., Reference

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