There were only seven reviews for Historical Fiction in the first month of this year’s challenge. Whilst it would be fantastic if there were more than that, what having so few means is that there is space to have a look at all the books that participants reviewed. Often we don’t have the capacity to do that.
I did find the mix of books quite interesting. We had four reviews by different authors, and then the remaining reviews were all for one author. Let’s start with what I would call a big name, Geraldine Brooks, and yet, since we started keeping this blog, there have been less than a handful of reviews for her books. I would certainly suggest that this author would be the most well-known of the authors who were reviewed this month. Marilyn from Me, You and Books has reviewed Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and she finishes her review by saying
I strongly recommend Caleb’s Crossing. Overall it reflects the best current historical research available into early interactions between the English and the Indigenous people of North American. It is important in breaking down widespread assumptions that all Indians were like those involved in the wars with settlers in the late 1800s. For Australian readers, it provides a comparison with their own nation’s initial settlement a century and a half later. And the book excels as simply an enjoyable novel.
Jane reviewed The Lives and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr over at Goodreads, a book that had “lovely writing, and the historical detail rang perfectly true, without ever being overdone” but Jane was never completely engrossed. As far as I can tell this is the first review of the book for the challenge, and I have to say that just from the synopsis Lena Gaunt sounds like she must have been an interesting woman! The synopsis starts “musician, octogenarian and junkie” and that she was the first female theremin player. Yes, I had to go and google to see what a theremin was!
Over at Whispering Gums Beryl Fletcher’s book Juno and Hannah has been favourably reviewed for the challenge, although with a disclaimer about why given that the author is a New Zealander with strong Aussie connections. The story is set in 1920’s New Zealand which sounds like a very interesting setting. There seem to be quite a few good historical fiction novels with a NZ setting at the moments, or maybe it has just been highlighted with The Luminaries winning the 2013 Man Booker Prize. The review concludes:
Juno and Hannah is a compelling read. There were times when the plot seemed to be slipping from my grasp. Loose ends perhaps, or maybe just part of the uncertain world Fletcher was creating. It was never enough, however, to stop my being invested in Hannah and her trials. There’s something about Fletcher’s direct narrative style evoking an almost other-worldly setting that drew me in. I didn’t want to put it down.
Lynxie reviewed Mistress of the Crown by Isolde Martyn for the challenge. I only realised last year that Isolde Martyn was an Aussie author and that she wasn’t writing fantasy but rather writes historical fiction! Lynxie wasn’t all that impressed although she did have a suggestion of who might like the book:
If you’re looking for a nice historical romance, this is not for you. If you want to read about beheadings, hangings, burnings, stoning and all other means of killing or hurting someone, then pick this one up. You might really enjoy it.
Whilst it may be a bit of a skewed result when you consider that there were so few reviews, but Amanda Curtin was the author with the biggest impact during January with a total of three reviews of her two books. Amanda Curtin is an author who I have been introduced to by as a result of AWWC. Karen from Karen Has Things to Say reviewed Curtin’s debut novel, The Sinkings, and summarised her review by saying
This is an intelligent, immensely satisfying book of wide and deep sweep; if you hadn’t picked it up yet, I loved it – 5 stars! Now, I’m going to further immerse myself in this wonderful author’s work by reading Inherited!
Two other reviewers did just that during January, with both Sonja from Sonja’s Creative Journal and Angela Savage reviewing Inherited. Sonja started her review with great enthusiasm saying
It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an evocative, richly woven story that drew me into the depth of the pages so convincingly that I felt I was experiencing the life of the character in Technicolor.
Angela Savage was similarly enthusiastic in her review saying
Elemental is rich in historical detail, from the unforgettably harsh conditions of village life in remote coastal Scotland, to the challenges facing migrants in early twentieth century Fremantle. This detail is woven seamlessly and skilfully into the story, never jarring or slowing down the pace of the narrative
I look forward to seeing what historical fiction books are read for the challenge during February.
As always you can find more of the historical fiction reviews at any time by clicking on the Historical Fiction Weebly page.
Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction and she loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 7 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.