Welcome to Issue 8 of the Historical Fiction Round Up. We had 24 reviews on 17 historical titles in the last month, which is nice amount to reflect on. I picked up my historical fiction mantel this month and reviewed three titles, along with Brenda (Goodreads) who also read three. Jennifer Cameron-smith, Julian Leatherdale, and Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews, all read and reviewed two books each. Kudos to Kali Napier, who read and reviewed four historical fiction titles for the challenge this month. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed any title written by an Australian woman. Without your ongoing support AWW wouldn’t be the thriving community of readers that it currently is.
Now, onto the books and what readers are saying about them!
Ashleigh Meikle – The Book Muse, along with myself, read We That Are Left, the debut offering by Lisa Bigelow.
Theresa Smith Writes:
What Lisa Bigelow has demonstrated with such skill and finesse, is how the war not only changed the men who served, but it also changed the women who were left behind.
Lisa Bigelow’s inspiration came from family stories of her grandfather, one of the 645 sailors lost on the HMAS Sydney. It is a story of hope and the ways we cling to our humanity in times of war. I found it to be very moving.
A favourite of mine from earlier this year, A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay, was reviewed by Kali Napier and Maureen Helen.
This is a really Brisbane novel — from the smells of the wet season, the 2011 floods, the rotting vegetation, and the Jacarandas, to the palimpsest of people’s lives layered over place and washing away of traces of what has come before.
This is a gentle, moving novel depicting Australian domestic lives over several time periods. Ashley Hay’s writing makes it easy to care deeply about her characters. This would be an excellent choice for a book-club.
Elizabeth Jane Corbett reviewed Harlequin’s Riddle and also produced an interesting interview with the author, Rachel Nightingale.
Harlequin’s Riddle is based on events and life during the Italian Renaissance. The Commedia dell’Arte were travelling players who roamed the country performing improvisational theatre during that time. The Punch and Judy show that still survives today is a fragment of the original playing.
Infused with ballet and rich in its Parisian setting, Beneath the Parisian Skies contains themes of love, grief, ambition, and passion that will resonate with many readers. I highly recommend this novel and put it forward as a great book club pick.
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar continues to pop up each month, but I was particularly taken with this review by Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews and thought it worth highlighting again.
Salt Creek is an introspective commentary on the harsh life in the teething years, following early settlement in Australia. It also serves to highlight the plight of a particular tribe of indigenous people native to the Coorong, the Ngarrindjeri, whose voices from long ago have arisen by the power of Treloar’s writing. Salt Creek is a recommend piece of work from an author who meshes Australian fact and fiction, into one powerful tale.
And this brings us to our book of the month, The Choke by Sofie Laguna, which scored five reviews this month. It truly is a remarkable novel and I expect I will be seeing it appear quite frequently in the coming months. This novel made such an impact on me that I have given a copy to my aunt as a birthday gift. It’s a novel you just can’t help but dwell on and then rave about.
This is an incredible and without a doubt one of the most disturbingly stunning books I have ever read. I found myself totally and absolutely immersed in the murky and troubled life of the Lees, told through the eyes of Justine. The Choke is a powerful and beautifully written novel, set on the banks of the Murray in an era gone by. I have no doubt Laguna will receive high acclaim for this fine piece of work, thoroughly deserved. It took my breath away….many times.
There are multiple layers of concern within this novel. These include indifference, ignorance, neglect and violence. There is also great beauty (and danger) in the landscape. Few novels reduce me to tears, but this one did in parts.
Sofie Laguna has a rare talent. It is not often that an author can so readily portray the voice of a child, in this case a 10 and 13-year-old girl with such conviction. Laguna’s ability to slot herself so freely into the mind and soul of a child is confounding to say the least. I was absolutely convinced of Justine’s narration from the beginning to the end of this brilliant novel. Laguna is adept in balancing Justine’s world view of a young girl who is perceptive, vulnerable, naive, self-deprecating and giving all the same.
Despite being set in the early 1970s, the themes and issues presented within The Chokeare highly relevant today. With The Choke, Sofie has turned the novel into a powerful sociological medium of expression, no small feat, yet she’s achieved it with an empathetic depth that cannot be rivaled.
I’m finding it difficult to review The Choke as I feel I’m unable to do the author justice. Her writing is unique; her descriptions, both of the area Justine lives, and Justine’s life and her internal traumas is outstanding. I could see the danger coming for Justine, but it was like watching a train wreck and not being able to do anything about it.
There were of course other titles reviewed within this period. If you’d like to check out more of what’s been reviewed, visit our database and search according to your preferences. That’s a wrap for September. I look forward to seeing what historical fiction titles you select for the coming month.
About Theresa Smith Writes: 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: Theresa Smith Writes, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @TessSmithWrites.