Morton, Kate. The Secret Keeper.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

I read The Lake House awhile back and was thoroughly caught up in the narrative. Morton is a first-rate storyteller. That book dealt with the theme of family secrets, and this one does, too. The first (and main) POV character, though there are several others, is Laurel Nicolson, who grew up happy with her three sisters and much younger brother in a rural English farmhouse.


Lloyd, Catherine. Death Comes to the Village.

NY: Kensington Books, 2013.

This is the first in a new series (well, new to me) of historical mysteries and it’s not bad. The setting is 1816 in the small village of Kurland St. Mary, where the Kurland family have been lords of the manor, magistrates, and just about everything else of importance for centuries. The current head of the family is Major Robert Kurland, who had a large cavalry horse fall on him the year before at Waterloo, and he’s been trying to recover, both physically and psychologically, ever since.


Holland, Cecelia. Jerusalem.

NY: Forge Books, 1996.

Holland is one of the very best historical novelists writing in English, and has been for fifty years now. She and I are of an age and I’ve been a fan of hers since the beginning. She wrote Firedrake as an undergrad and got it published her first year out of school, and I bought it within a few months of its appearance. (I now own all of her books, mostly in First Editions, a few of them signed.) Her style is so tight it’s nearly telegraphic; it has been said that if Hemingway had written historical novels, this is what they would look like.


Turney, S. J. A. Praetorian: The Great Game.

London: Mulcahey Books, 2015.

My undergraduate degree (many years ago) was in Greek and Roman, and I’ve also done a good bit of study over the succeeding decades in military history, so a historical novel about Rome’s Praetorian Guard during the early reign of Commodus in the 2nd Century is something I have to approach with a certain amount of trepidation. An insufficient amount of research by the author can really make a mess of something like this. But I’m pleased to say that Turney obviously knows his subject.


Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts.

NY: Putnam, 2004.

I hate to admit that I had never heard of this author until she was recommended to me by a friend, even though I discovered it was a Newberry Honors book and a bestseller as well. And it’s really quite good. The narrator is twelve-year-old Matthew “Moose” Flanagan (he’s already nearly six feet tall), one of the two dozen or so kids who are full-time residents of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.


Published in: on 6 November 2019 at 5:04 am  Comments (1)  
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LeGuin, Ursula. Lavinia.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

LeGuin was best known, of course, for her innovative, highly intelligent science fiction, but she also produced some very poetic historical fiction. The classics aren’t taught any longer, so not many younger readers will ever have heard of Virgil or the Aeneid, but that’s the subject of her last novel.


Published in: on 20 August 2019 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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Brody, Frances. Dying in the Wool.

NY: Little Brown, 2012.

“Brody” is actually Frances McNeil, author of four previous novels and numerous radio plays and television scripts for the BBC. She’s a native of Leeds, in the vicinity of which her first mystery novel is set. It’s all about family secrets and the author says the character of war widow Kate Shackleton “sprang to life from our family album.” And it’s worth a read.


Spinelli, Jerry. The Warden’s Daughter.

NY: Knopf, 2017.

Ever since reading Stargirl, I’ve been rather taken with Spinelli’s considerable skills as a highly original storyteller, recounting the ordinary lives of very unusual young people. The story this time is set in 1959 and focuses on twelve-year-old Cammie O’Reilly, only child of the warden of a large county prison in a fictional small town in the Schuylkill Valley of eastern Pennsylvania.


Waldrop, Howard. Them Bones.

NY: Berkeley, 1984.

Howard Waldrop has long been one of American science fiction’s most under-appreciated authors. I read this lovely novel shortly after it first appeared, and then I recently stumbled upon it at my favorite used-paperback shop, which made me realize I really needed to read it again. I shouldn’t have waited so long, either.


Edmondson, Elizabeth. Finding Philippe.

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001.

This late author produced a series of very enjoyable romance-mystery-thriller novels, all set in the immediate post-World War II period in Britain — though it somewhat pains me to think of a story set in my own lifetime as “historical fiction” — and this was one of the few I hadn’t previously read.