Welcome to Issue 4 of the Historical Fiction Round Up. It’s been another fantastic month for historical fiction, with 40 reviews on 34 books by 27 different authors. Every month I am impressed, not only by the high number of historical novels being read, but by the depth and quality of the accompanying reviews. All of your efforts are much appreciated and I wish I could mention everyone!
In numbers, Natasha Lester came in as our most read author with 5 reviews, 3 for Her Mother’s Secret and 2 for A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. Sarah Schmidt had 4 reviews for See What I Have Done. I have provided the links for these reviews here:
Jennifer Cameron-Smith also reviewed The Shape of Water: Imagined fragments from an elusive life: Sophia Degraves of Van Diemen’s Land by Anne Blythe-Cooper.
When I finished this novel, I felt that I had some sense of Sophia Degraves. It has me wondering about the other women who dwell in the shadows of history, as though they are simply some invisible adjunct to a better-known husband. The shape of water indeed.
I loved the cover of this novel, it caught my eye as soon as I saw Jennifer’s review earlier in the month over in the AWW Love Reading Books by Aussie Women Facebook group.
Whispering Gums reviewed As the Lonely Fly by Sara Dowse and had this to say about it:
Some books grow out of their author’s desire to engage the reader in an issue they feel passionate about. As the lonely fly, falls into this category, but for Dowse the issue is the Israel-Palestine problem, the “rightness” or otherwise of establishing a Jewish state. Issues are turned into stories that engage us, while simultaneously raising our consciousness. Like all good ideas novelists, Dowse has not bombarded us with answers but, instead, has intelligently and compassionately given us plenty to think about.
For fans of Tudor fiction, Rachel Nightingale reviewed Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters (Katherine of Aragon #1) by Wendy J. Dunn.
This is a beautiful book, both in the writing and the physical presentation, with the page watermark reminiscent of Spanish decorative work. The reader is transported to Tudor era Spain, where historical events are carefully and accurately depicted through the eyes of those who are living them. At times you can almost feel the sun and see the tiled courtyards in the vivid descriptions. Wendy Dunn creates fully realised, fascinating characters and her novel is full of heart and beauty.
In new releases, Ashleigh Meikle reviewed Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberly Freeman.
A delightful historical fiction story set in Victorian London, with a heroine who in some ways, fits into the gender expectations of the time but is still her own person and refuses to be tied down – the kind of character who can spread her wings when she wants to, and come home when she needs to. It is a lovely tale.
Marina reviewed The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades.
The descriptions of life on a 1940s Australian sheep station are authentic, as are all the characters that inhabit this often confronting landscape. This subtle and perceptive debut novel by Joy Rhoades was inspired in part by her own grandmother’s experiences on a farm during WW2. Its honesty and truth shine through on every page, and it deserves the highest recommendation.
And Brenda – Goodreads reviewed The Traitor’s Girl by Christine Wells.
Heartfelt and emotional it was filled with a deeply profound passion which was evident, especially throughout the chapters from the past. Narrated in turn by Annabel in the current day; with Carrie and Eve detailing the past, it was a story that flowed beautifully and drew me in one hundred percent. Totally captivating, completely engrossing.
Kim Kelly popped up twice, with The Blue Mile reviewed by Julian Leatherdale.
There is a grittiness in this story that avoids a sepia-toned nostalgia (domestic violence, alcoholism, suicide, cocaine-use, street fights, poverty) and portrays the hard grind of Depression-era Sydney with an unblinking clarity worthy of Ruth Park.
And Wild Chicory, reviewed by myself.
What I loved most about this novella, was the strength in which it demonstrated the significant effect our stories have on us and who we become; who our children become, and so on throughout the generations. Our stories are embedded within our psyche, we may not be even fully aware of them, but they shape us and sustain us, sometimes for our own good but also sometimes, not so much. I loved the connections across generations Kim displayed within Wild Chicory.
I also read a new release, Dark Heart by Elizabeth Ellen Carter.
Dark Heart has an authenticity that only the most meticulous historical authors can achieve. It goes beyond ‘fact sprinkling’; this is not a novel that is written with a contemporary storyline and modern characters set in a place long ago. Elizabeth has infused an entire way of life intricately throughout her story, lending it a credibility that was highly appreciated by this fussy historical reader!
My pick of the month goes to Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall.
Skylarking is one of those rare novels, the kind that seep into your consciousness and stay there, night after night while you’re reading and then long after you’ve finished. It’s hard to believe that Skylarking is Kate Mildenhall’s debut novel. She has such a solid, yet beautiful grip on the English language. So uncomplicated, yet always saying so much. I lingered over this novel, re-reading sections and generally taking my time over it in a way that I rarely do.
So many fabulous historical novels! If you’d like to check any more reviews, you can search further in our database.
Historical fiction fans might be interested to attend the 2017 Melbourne Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference on 8-10 September. The programme features over 60 speakers. You can read interviews with some of the participating authors at the HNSA blog.
I am Theresa Smith, writer, avid reader, keen reviewer, book collector, drinker of all tea blends originating from Earl Grey, and modern history enthusiast. I enjoy reading many genres but have a particular interest in historical fiction. You can find me and all of my book related news and reviews at my blog Theresa Smith Writes,
Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @TessSmithWrites.