Welcome to Issue 5 of the Historical Fiction Round Up. Over the last month, historical fiction has enjoyed steady attention, with 40 reviews on 34 novels by 33 different authors. Our range of authors has increased since last month but the amount of reviews on the amount of novels is exactly the same! I find that a little quirky, and I even double checked it wasn’t some error on my part, but alas, it’s true. Maybe I should start using those numbers for the lotto.
Thanks is extended to Kali Napier who linked 12 reviews for historical this month. While Kali has recently linked all her reviews for the year to date, when I took a look at her reads for May, she still had a high number for this period. She’s a great supporter of AWW historical fiction and her efforts are much appreciated. Amanda@Mrs B’s Book Reviews, Bill Holloway, and Debbish, all offered 3 reviews for historical each. Thank you!
Our most reviewed novels for the period 15 May to 17 June were, with three reviews each:
From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Jewel in the North by Tricia Stringer
I always enjoy seeing older titles continuing to pop up each month, particularly the backlists of authors who have new releases on the way. I read The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth this month in preparation for her upcoming release Beauty in Thorns. It was the only one of Kate’s fairy-tale historical stories that I hadn’t read so I felt a burning need to correct that. I’m so glad I did! In summary:
The long and rather complicated love story of Dortchen and Wilhelm is perhaps one of the greatest literary ones I have ever encountered. Fraught with obstacles, they circle around each other, desperate to be together while being fully aware of its near impossibility. The limitations of their positions within society, Dortchen as a woman and Wilhelm as an impoverished scholar, there is nothing either can do to change the course of their lives. My favourite by Kate Forsyth so far, but this in no way diminishes her other novels. Her storytelling is brave and bold, and always rendered with exquisite beauty. We are so lucky she decided to share this part of herself with the world.
Another novel that continues to resurface is The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader. Even though I have mentioned this novel previously, I particularly liked the review offered by Kate @ Booksaremyfavouriteandbest:
The element of the book that I truly loved was the fact that Sarah served as counsellor for women in the village. They came to her with all manner of things – gossip, news of the weather, worries, and extremely challenging personal problems. In combination with Lizzie, a local midwife and healer, there was entrenched and accepted care of women, by women. Although Lizzie’s role builds on what I have learnt through books such as The Good People and The Wonder, the focus on Sarah’s role in the mental, emotional and spiritual health of the village women was fascinating.
Kali Napier also reviewed an older title, Maggie Joel’s Half The World In Winter:
Maggie Joel is fast-becoming one of my favourite Australian historical fiction writers. Thoroughly researched and yet worn lightly, I learnt so much about Victorian mourning rituals, the dangers of early rail travel, and the first South African war.
In new releases, Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley FREEMAN was also reviewed by Kali Napier:
A search for a mother’s love that takes the protagonists of two of these story lines across the world and back. I truly loved this. Though I was not surprised by the ending, I was gripped to the very last page. The research and evocation of setting is incredible, and the weaving of the three story lines impeccable.
The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award winning novel for 2017, The Lost Pages by Marija Pericic was reviewed by Ashleigh Meikle – The Book Muse:
Throughout the novel there are footnotes that indicate where something has come from, or been hinted to in the lost pages that inspired the novel. It explores a literary world now lost to us in the twenty-first century, but one that is still fascinating. It is an interesting novel, one that uses history, literary circles and personalities to shed new light on the world of Kafka and his writing, showing a different side to the Kafka readers may know from his published works.
Cass Moriarty reviewed The River Sings by Sandra Leigh Price. I absolutely loved this review by Cass:
The River Sings is a captivating story of ancient power and superstition; of gypsies, queens and thieves; of the mystery of water; and of the strength of love, both parental and romantic.
Whilst this is a historical fiction novel, the world-building scaffolding constructed by the author is almost like a mystical fantasy, particularly regarding the culture of the community of the Romany Gypsies, which is depicted in stark contrast to other ways of life. The travellers’ music and food, their habits and superstitions and beliefs, their celebrations, all are drawn with a keen eye for small details that creates an authentic and believable portrait. Similarly, the lot of the English poor, the comfortable life of the richer merchant dandies, and the tribulations of the colonial settlers and their interaction with the first peoples of Australia are all woven with a deft and sensitive hand. I greatly admire the many historical and cultural details that have been stitched into this story to sustain our belief, and the care taken with the dialogue and language. And encompassing everything else, the river – the depth and strength of her, the tidal pull, the rushing flow, the danger, the attraction, the noise and the quiet, the peace. The river is as much a character in this book as any of the people, and she has almost an ethereal and grace-like quality that resonates through every chapter. This story, like the river, does indeed sing.
Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews reviewed The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read:
The Dragon Sleeps reminded me fondly of a classic whodunit novel and I see a few reviewers before me have compared this novel to an Agatha Christie offering, which is warranted. It also serves up a side story of romance and it gives us a fascinating glimpse into the art world, in particular the complicated antiques business. There are plenty of secrets to unlock, along with a hint of the supernatural to keep things interesting.
Kim Forrester @ Reading Matters reviewed The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades. She admitted this was not her usual type of read, but even so, she enjoyed it:
It’s an evocative tale from another era, written in simple, often lyrical prose, where the landscape is as much a part of the story as the well drawn characters that inhabit it. This subtle and perceptive story largely draws on the experiences of the author’s paternal grandmother, a fifth generation sheep farmer from northern NSW, which lends it a ring of authenticity.
Brenda reviewed and loved Fortune’s Son by Jennifer Scoullar:
Outstandingly written, in my opinion this is Scoullar’s best work to date. The beautiful portrayal of Tasmania’s remote highlands, the bush settings, the wild animals which were in danger from the local farmers and the arrogance of the landowners over the poor – all done in a way to make the reader feel deeply involved in the story. The vivid scenery of South Africa also benefitted from her words. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Fortune’s Son to historical fiction fans. Absolutely love the cover too!
Debbish reviewed The Traitor’s Girl by Christine Wells, and has a Q&A that is well worth checking out included in with her review:
I very much enjoyed her characters and the plot unfolding in the ‘now’ as well as the detail included about the work of female spies and government agencies during the second world war.
My historical reading was a little light on this month, although, I did read two that I have to hold onto until next month, Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth and Hello, Goodbye by debut author Emily Brewin, as they are advance copies and my reviews are a part of the release promotions for these novels. I’m really looking forward to highlighting both of these fantastic novels in the coming month. Keep an eye out for Kate Forsyth in my next Sunday Spotlight and an in-depth interview with Emily Brewin at the end of the month.
Onto my pick of the month, a re-release by AnneMarie Brear, Where Rainbows End. While I had some character issues with this novel, I acknowledge this is purely down to personal taste. Fans of fiction set in colonial Australia will find this novel highly enjoyable:
There are plenty of tense moments throughout, occasions of great sadness that make you contemplate the harsh nature of life during Colonial Australia. AnneMarie has done a fantastic job of bringing the unforgiving landscape to life, in all of its beauty and danger. If you enjoy action packed Australian History with strong female characters, then you will definitely enjoy Where Rainbows End.
And that’s a wrap from me for this month. Thank you to all of the AWW readers who continue to read and review for our challenge. I can’t list every reviewer here each month, but rest assured that I do read each and every one of your reviews and appreciate your considered thoughts and efforts.
To see what’s on offer in new releases, check out our post from last week: June New Releases
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.
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