Welcome to the first round up of Historical Fiction for 2017. I’m Theresa Smith and I’m thrilled to be stepping in as the AWW editor for this genre. This first round up period has seen an incredible 54 novels being reviewed by 76 reviewers! This enthusiasm for Historical Fiction has spilled over into some terrific reviews and I have been so impressed with the quality of reviews being linked and the range of novels being read.
The Good People by Hannah Kent remains a firm favourite clocking up five reviews since the start of the year. Much has been said already about this novel, but if you’re still sitting on the fence about it, perhaps this review by Sonja Porter will persuade you to take the leap:
Simply brilliant. That’s how I’d describe this book. Evocative and touching with simmering darkness, Hannah Kent’s The Good People is a fabulous piece of historical fiction inspired by true events.
Another novel getting a lot of attention is The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley:
Everything about this book exudes excellence, from the cover, the chapter design and the detailed author notes. Jenny Mustey
Although this is a fictionalised account of a real woman’s life, it is a truly fascinating story that is very beautifully written and also gives the reader such insight into the life of a very remarkable and brave woman. Belinda Hopper
The reviews for this novel impressed me so much I have ordered my own copy and look forward to reading it as soon as possible.
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar continues to garner strong and insightful reviews, and this is another novel I’ve been compelled to add to my ever growing pile. Cass Moriarty had this to say:
This is a fascinating insight into early contact between white settlers and Aboriginal people. Particularly at the beginning of the book, this contact is uncomfortable and difficult to read – we cringe at the role our ancestors played in the colonisation of the land. But it is written from the viewpoint of young Hester, and I suspect is closely aligned with the truth of the time. This novel provides much scope for discussion about the invasion of Australia and the harm done to indigenous people, but it is viewed from a balanced perspective – those who desired to plunder and conquer are depicted, but also those who strove to ‘civilise’ and ‘improve’; she demonstrates the delicate balance of those wanting to help but unfortunately only worsening the problems.
There were also some great reviews of some older titles. Jenny Mustey had these thoughts on Lands Beyond the Sea by Tamara McKinley:
McKinley is able to sensitively weave a story of adventure, daring and possibility of a new land against the backdrop of an amazing new landscape that held its own secrets, spirituality and stories. A timely read as we head to January 26 which McKinley is able to offer insight into that particular day in 1788 and what it meant for the traditional owners of this land, as well as the people who claimed it as their own and decided to stay.
Perhaps it was owing to Australia Day falling within this round up period, but there seemed to be a particular interest in novels about our first Australians. I wonder if this may account for the strong interest in Salt Creek and the renewed interest in Anita Heiss’s Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms. Sue Dodd and Sally Roddam both wrote thoughtful reviews that are well worth checking out.
Moving on to a couple of novels a little less well known. Jennifer Cameron-smith reviewed Jerome and His Women by Joan O’Hagan. Jennifer’s review was so comprehensive, she’s really sold me on this book:
Ms O’Hagan started work on this novel in the 1990s, and completed it shortly before her death in 2014. I think it is a tribute to her writing skills that the research she undertook to write this novel never weighs the narrative down.
For something else a little different, Bree @1girl2manybooks reviewed The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte by Lesley Truffle. This book contains so many different elements that it’s possible it has a little something for everyone…..it’s historical fiction with elements of mystery, crime, the supernatural, romance and a lot of quirk. I found it an absolutely fascinating read, one of those books that you pick up to just read a few chapters to get the lay of the land and when you look up it’s three hours later and you’ve finished it. I can’t say that I loved every component of it but put together they certainly made an intriguing story with a uniqueness that’s very appealing. I definitely want to read this novel!
Jenny Mustey has had a busy month reviewing historical titles for the challenge and I thank her for her excellent efforts! I wanted to mention her review of another novel that has not garnered huge interest yet sounds like a fabulous read. The Virtuoso by Sonia Orchard: Thoroughly researched, the novel provides insight into how tortured a person can become when that one thing becomes the all-encompassing meaning to life. It also revealed much of the cultural, social and political trends and happenings of the time.
I had a rather busy month as well reading historical titles, but my top pick for this round up would have to be Paper Daisies by Kim Kelly. This is a story that will make some readers uncomfortable; its honesty and frank introspection gives you much to dwell on. The story may be set in 1900, but it could be from any era, right up to the modern day. It is a novel that examines the suppression of women on a number of levels. But it is also a celebration of taking control and earning your own freedom. There are good men within the pages of this novel, as well as bad. And there are good women who find themselves compelled to do bad things to survive. It walks a fine line often, this internal struggle between good and evil particularly pertinent for Berylda, a woman with quite literally, the world on her shoulders. Her self depreciation and unshakeable bond with her sister, along with her yearning for pure love, made Berylda Jones a worthy heroine, deserving of only the happiest of endings.
Well, clearly with so many books having been reviewed for this period, I had a lot of trouble narrowing it down for you! I’ll leave you now with a list of January and February releases from our talented Australian Women Writers. Until next month, happy reading!
Gifts for Our Time by Anna Jacobs released January 12th
Her Vengeful Scot by Christina Phillips released January 10th
Wenna by Virginia Taylor released January 17th
1917 by Kelly Gardiner released February 1st
The Soldier’s Woman by Kelly Lyons released February 9th
A Stranger in Honeyfield by Anna Jacobs released February 16th
The Currency Lass by Tea Cooper released February 20th
Only a Duke Will Do by Tamara Gill released February 21st
About Theresa: I am an avid reader and book collector with a particular interest in Australian colonial history, circus life during the Great Depression, and the World War II era – an eclectic mix! I write Australian contemporary fiction and have four novels published, with another one to be released in April, although I am making the switch with my sixth novel into Historical with a dual timeline. You can find me on Facebook at Theresa Smith Writes and on Goodreads Theresa Smith.