Historical Fiction

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

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Antonia Hodgson
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins

Do I dare admit that I picked this book by its cover?? Yes, yes I did. Other than pulling it from the new fiction shelf, I had no idea what this book was about. What an unexpected and pleasant surprise! This historical fiction, set in 1728 London has it all: murder, mystery, intrigue, unsavory characters, and plot twists. The rogue and fallen gentleman Thomas Hawkins is headed to the gallows accused of murder. He is praying for a last minute pardon. This is his story and claim of innocence. Unbeknownst to me, this is the second book in a series (The Devil in Marshalsea). However, I didn’t feel I missed out on any of the backstory or character development by skipping the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the story and learning a bit about historical London.

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Tanya H., Reference

Mary Jemison: Native American Captive

Friday, March 18, 2016
E. F. Abbott
Mary Jemison: Native American Captive

At age 15 Mary Jemison was captured in Pennsylvania by the Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War. Her whole family was killed. After treking across the country with the Shawnee, she was traded to the Seneca tribe and taken in by two kind sisters. She eventually married and had a child with a chief.

The book shows the good side of the Indians'  life of that time when most books give only the savage side of them. I hurried to finish the book to see if Mary was ever able to get back home to the white community but I won't spoil the ending. A very interesting book.

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Sue N., Youth Services

Fallen Land: A Novel

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Taylor Brown
Fallen Land: A Novel

I really was drawn into this atmospheric and compelling book. In the last years of the Civil War, Callum, at 15, is an orphan who has fallen in with a band of marauders who are pillaging the countryside. He rescues a girl, Ava, who is the only survivor in her family. As they make their way through the South, trying to find a place of safety, the only things they can count on are each other and their beautiful, stately horse, Revier. Highly recommended.

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Margaret B., Reference

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Monday, October 26, 2015
Betty Smith

I never would have read this wonderful book if I hadn’t read When Books Went to War. Man after man participating in the Armed Services Edition program mentioned this book as a favorite, piquing my curiosity. It didn’t disappoint. A coming-of-age story about Francie Nolan, the book also is a social history and commentary about growing up poor in an ethnic neighborhood in the early twentieth century. I couldn’t help but admire Francie for her industriousness and her unswerving drive for an education. But even more, I admired how she accepted her familial responsibility to help support her family but never gave up her dream of an education. Check our catalog.

Doris, Reference

Villa America

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Lisa Klaussmann
Villa America

Villa America, a work of historical fiction, is the story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, an expat American couple who were the real-life inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. The Murphy’s built a house to escape to on the French Riviera called Villa America where they entertained their friends Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker as well as Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter, Gerald’s Yale roommate. These were the golden days of the 1920’s and life for this group of expats was filled with fabulous parties, champagne, and caviar. But underneath the glittering layers were people with real lives and real secrets whose idyllic world in Cap d’Antibes would ultimately end in tragedy and heartbreak. This is a great read, and I highly recommend it, particularly to anyone who enjoyed Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.  

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Sue A., Reference

Someone Named Eva

Monday, February 9, 2015
Wolf, Joan M
Someone Named Eva

This is one of the stories we don't talk about.  Throughout history we do horrific things during times of war.  This story shares on a very personal level the efffects of the Lebensborn Program during WW II.  Children from various countries were taken from their families and raised to become good German citizins.  They were trained in the language and culture before being adopted out to German families.  This tells the fictional story of a young girl, Milada,  taken from the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia which has historical significance.  Through Milada we can empathizes with children who were traumatized in a lesser known way by war.  Very compassionately written.  Check our Catalog

Cindy A. , Circ

The Iris Fan: A Novel of Feudal Japan

Sunday, January 25, 2015
Laura Joh Rowland
The Iris Fan

The 18th and final Sano Ichiru novel takes place in the year 1709. Sano has been demoted from the position of chamberlain to that of lowly patrol detective. To the detriment of his marriage to Reiko and the relationship with his children, he is obsessed with finding the proof he needs to prove that his enemy, Lord Ienobu, is guilty of killing the shogun’s heir.

In a bizarre turn of events, someone creeps into the shogun’s sleeping chamber and stabs him with a painted silk fan with dagger-like iron ribs. The critically wounded shogun restores Sano to the position of chief investigator and he is duty-bound to find the perpetrator before the shogun dies and his true heir can be determined.  Sano finds himself in the midst of the most serious and dangerous investigation of his career. The safety of his own family is at risk, and his success or failure will have grave consequences for the future of Japan. As warring factions prepare for battle and time is running out, Sano must find the answers that will save both.

If you like historical novels and good mysteries, the Sano Ichiru series delivers on both counts. The sense of time and place is excellent, the mysteries are well-plotted, and the characters are engaging. I’m sad to see the series come to a close, but it ends on just the right note.

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Sue A., Reference

Doc: A Novel

Saturday, August 30, 2014
Mary Doria Russell
Doc: A Novel

This is well-researched historical fiction about Dr. John Henry Holliday (better known as Doc Holliday) as a young man.  Born to a genteel family outside of Atlanta, GA in 1851, John was educated in fine schools including the best dental school in the U.S. in Philadelphia.   At the age of 21 he was   diagnosed with Tuburculosis,  a disease with no cure that had killed his mother six years earlier.  In hopes that the dry air of the west would help the symptoms, he moved to Texas and then to Dodge City, Kansas.  These were the raucous early days of  Kansas when cattle drives attracted lawmen like the  Earp brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and Bat Masterson.   This is Doc’s story long before the gun fight at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ,  Doc was trained as a classical pianist as well as a scholar of classic literature.   He could speak Latin and French and his English was impeccable.   The Civil War and ensuing economic depression left him almost penniless and unable to make a living as a dentist in Texas and Kansas even though he practiced his trade whenever he could. So gambling became his chief source of income.  A compelling story.     Check our Catalog

Kathleen Zaenger, Administration



Palisades Park

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Alan Brennert
Palisades Park

This long historical fiction book was fascinating. It had a lot of detail about a lot of different things: the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the military life, how life goes on in a big amusement park, and family relationships. I checked the internet for some of the historical details after reading the book and they were accurate in presentation. A story of families from the 30's until 1971 when the park finally closed. If you lived on the East coast, the book would be more interesting with the geography of the region playing a big part of the book. Very enjoyable. Check our catalog check C

Sue N. Youth Services


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