A good start to 2016 with 20 reviews and a lot of books that I haven’t seen reviewed before. It’s February but I’m still having trouble getting used to 2016. I keep writing 2006! Am I the only one? To kick this roundup off we are going back a few hundred years to Queen Elizabeth – a very strong forceful woman to say the least.
Just a Queen by Jane Caro is the second book in the Tudor Trilogy. “Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young.” Brona at Brona’s Books writes: “Elizabeth is a strong, dynamic, complex protagonist. Caro takes the time to show us how daunting it must have been for a woman to rule during such patriarchal times. She gives us some insight into the daily life of women during Elizabethan times – just enough to make us truly thankful for our more enlightened, modern times.”
Skipping forward to the Regency Period we have Lord Somerton’s Heir by Alison Stuart. As Carolyn says at Goodreads “What more could you need for the perfect time out from this world than a handsome hero wounded at Waterloo waking in hospital to discover he is the heir to the recently deceased Lord Somerton, a beautiful mourning widow, an evil blackmailer, a murder or two, a kidnapping and a mad chase across the countryside with a little romance thrown in for good measure?” What more indeed!
Next up we travel to the penal colony of Australia with Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant. Emily at A Keyboard and An Open Mind writes: “The Lieutenant follows the story of Daniel Rooke, an outsider in his native England, who joins the First Fleet on its voyage to the new colony of New South Wales. Once here, he sets up camp in an isolated spot to better his chances of accurate astronomical observations.” Emily concludes: “Overall, I would recommend this book to all historical fiction fans, Australian or otherwise.”
Another one set in the penal colony of Australia is The Sinkings by Amanda Curtin. “The Sinkings is the story of Willa, a woman living in present-day Perth, who is researching the story of Little Jock, a convict sent to Western Australia in the 1800s.” Jemimah at Oddfeather observes: “Curtin applies her trademark historical research skills lavishly, and although at times her in-depth details of research process are a little overbearing, it is not a detriment to the story overall.”
We have another long voyage in The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. “A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship heading for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with noting but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book, a beautiful volume of fairy tales.” Sounds intriguing but Anna at Goodreads was a tad disappointed. “I felt there were too many time periods and perspectives, some of which didn’t seem to add to the narrative. I would also have liked to have seen more distinction between the characters. And the way the clues to the mystery fell into place seemed a little too convenient at times.”
Back a few years and over to another continent with That Devils Madness by Dominique Wilson the only book except The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham (previously highlighted) to garner two reviews. As Elizabeth at Devoted Eclectic explains: “The structure of That Devil’s Madness by Dominique Wilson is almost a double helix, seeming parallel narratives of France and Algeria from the late 19th century onwards, and Australia and Algeria in the 1960s. It follows the fates of four generations of French-Algerian-Australian immigrants and Algerian Berbers, narratives which come together in a thriller-like denouement.” Jo at Booklover Book Reviews found that “This is a story that is both intimate and epic. It is a story about emotional scar tissue – its creation and the devastating effects it can have on generations that follow. Through the plight of individuals Wilson highlights the unfathomable harm and deprivation we humans inflict upon one another.” Another one for my massive TBR pile!
Also dealing with the “unfathomable harm and deprivation we humans inflict upon one another” is Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. “The story revolves around Halina Shore, a Sydney based Odontologist, or forensic dentist, who has been invited to a tiny (fictitious) village in Poland called Nowa Kalwaria to take part in a war crimes investigation.” Julie at Goodreads writes: “This is such an impressive construction of a story within a story. Although much of it is quite confronting due to its subject matter, it is nevertheless a very riveting tale which provided much insight to this reader.”
Beginning in the 1940s and covering several generations of the one family is The River House by Janita Cunnington. Sam at Sam Still Reading enjoyed it with reservations. “The good: The writing is lyrical and evocative.The not-so-good: A little slow at times.”
Finishing up with the 1950s is Margaret Lynette Sharp’s book Sisters and Rivals. Yours truly enjoyed the novella. “I particularly found the depiction of Linda and Tessa’s parents spot on, especially their dialogue and the whole atmosphere of the dinner party. Loved the detail of the Swiss chocolates and what they actually ate. And the radio station. All these small details really helped evoke the mood of the times.”
What a range of historical novels to choose from. We are definitely spoilt for choice here at the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Looking forward to wrapping up your February reads.
My name is Debbie Robson and I am a bookcrosser, booklover and author. I love researching the 20th century and finding those small but relevant details that can make the past come alive. You can find me on twitter: lakelady2282