We’ve been having a bit of a cold snap here in the Outback these last few weeks. Perfect weather for hunkering down under blankets and getting lost in other worlds. I’ve been reading a fair bit more historical fiction this last month, and it seems I’m not the only one. We have had 37 reviews on 24 books by 23 authors logged into the database since my last round up.
Let’s have a look at our most reviewed titles for this month:
Cloggie Downunder had mixed feelings about this one:
Beecham gives the reader an interesting tale of historical fiction which includes a wealth of information (perhaps too much?) about war artists and their work. The first half of this novel is somewhat slow-moving. It is not until Kathryn gains access to Jack’s journals that the narrative gains pace and interest. However, the finish feels a little rushed. The mystery is intriguing even if, in places, the plot is a little sketchy, and some parts of the resolution feel a bit contrived. Ignoring this, it is a wonderful love story. Fans of historical fiction and art are likely to enjoy this one.
While Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews absolutely loved it:
Romance has a smaller part to play in Eleanor’s Secret, but I feel it was handled in such a great way by Beecham. It is deeply romantic, capturing the rushed feelings during wartime and the worry that the one you love one may never come back from their posting. I felt every moment of Jack and Eleanor’s romance, it was a classic and heart rendering love story. Beecham is skilled in the art of the gradual reveal; we receive little breadcrumbs along the way to help us grasp Jack and Eleanor’s relationship demise, which is also cleverly connected to the central mystery of the painting in the present day. These elements all worked to draw me into this finely executed novel.
More reviews for Eleanor’s Secret:
This one was a favourite of mine from the last month:
I thought Alli did so well with piecing together a valid picture of Australia post WWII. The roles of women reverting, the racism and suspicion attached to immigrants from certain nationalities, the contention associated with mixed marriages, men suffering from survivor guilt and PTSD expected to just pick up the reins and get on with it; all of these issues were woven tightly into the narrative and explored with thorough authenticity.While Burning Fields is driven by a love story, it’s very firmly an historical fiction, an exploration of multi-cultural history within Australia against a background of social change.
Likewise, Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews was also a fan:
If you are a lover of all things Italian expect to be dazzled by the scenes involving Tomas’ family and their delectable food, as well as traditional Italian customs. There is also a rich historical element to this novel. Sinclair explores fascism, the influence of Mussolini, the treatment of the Italian people in Australia and she highlights the experience of internment camps.
More reviews for Burning Fields:
Nicole @ Goodreads thinks that The Juliet Code is Christine Wells’ best book to date:
Switching seamlessly between ’43 and ’47, I found myself in a world that is so far removed from where we are today. With richly detailed research, Christine brings alive a time of women being used to fight the enemy like they had not been used before. She sensitively explores the issue of torture during the war and the post traumatic stress disorder that follows. Fast paced with action and romance, this a must read for those who like to learn a little history on the side.
More reviews for The Juliet Code:
Suzanne Marks has given us a wonderful review of The Passengers via The Newton Review of Books:
Limprecht skilfully imagines the lives and loves of young women in Sydney during World War II. There are echoes of Dymphna Cusack and Florence James’s iconic novel Come In Spinner: for young, single women wartime work brought the enjoyment of economic independence alongside the uncertainty of what would happen after the war and the gut-wrenching fear that their menfolk might not return from the fighting. There is also the glamour and affluence of the visiting Yanks, which proves irresistible to thousands of Australian women emerging from the deprivation of the Depression years. The novel shows how war can cause people to act in uncharacteristic ways, against their values and the accepted social norms.
Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader – 2 reviews and Robyn’s previous release, The Anchoress, also had a review logged. I love it when a new release prompts readers to search out the previous titles by an author. Both of our reviews this month contain nothing but praise for this new release>
This book was right up my alley as I’ve always been fascinated by illuminated manuscripts and amazed when precious documents like these survive the centuries and ravages of time. The novel is also about the political turmoil of the time, and the importance of books like these to assist in prayer. Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader satisfied my curiosity with regard to the creation of illuminated manuscripts and I highly recommend it.
The story has two timelines: the creation of the book, and Lady Mathilda’s reflections over that period. The story is also about two books: the public Book of Hours being created for Lady Mathilda, and the private book (‘The Art of Illumination’) being created secretly by Gemma as advice for her son Nick. Each chapter opens with a paragraph or two from ‘The Art of Illumination’.
This book covers topics from the preparation of the skin to the composition of some of the colours. I enjoyed this novel. I found the information contained in ‘The Art of Illumination’ engrossing. I found the characters (especially Gemma, Will and Lady Mathilda) interesting. I kept turning the pages, not quite sure how the story was going to end but wanting to absorb as much of it as I could.
This one had a lot of impact upon Helen Sibbritt:
This is the story of a bond so strong between four girls from totally different backgrounds that lasts across years, through thick and thin. There is a lot of heartache in these years, secrets that have been kept and although the girls move to different states, the line of contact is always there. Their strength carries throughout. There is love, laughter, tragedy, pain…this is an emotional roller coaster that had me in tears and I am not going to forget this one for a while.
I can relate to Helen’s feelings as mine were very much the same:
A lot of attention is given within this novel to the migrant experience on an individual level. The psychological effects of having lived through the horror of war and then the upheaval of displacement and relocation into a foreign, and sometimes hostile, new country. Following these women over such an extensive period of time was enlightening as we were able to see how ‘Australian’ they became and how their experiences influenced the lives of their children and grandchildren. With each generation, the cultural ties loosened.
To finish with, I’d like to highlight an older title reviewed by Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews, Black Diamonds by Kim Kelly, originally published eleven years ago and re-released last year. This novel made a deep impression upon Amanda:
Black Diamonds is an unforgettable and eternal love story, a true reflection of war and a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Australian people over a century ago. In Black Diamonds, Kelly works to subtly expand our understanding of the contribution these heroic men made to our nation. The war sequences covered in Black Diamonds was equal parts realistic and shocking. Kelly does a superb job of outlining Australia’s involvement and the typical Australian soldier’s experiences of war.
I thought I would try a different format for my round up this month by focusing on the most reviewed titles. However, it’s not until I had completely finished writing it up that I realised three of the titles I have featured here were also featured last month, just with different reviewers. Looks like this head cold is affecting me more than I thought! Apologies if this seems like the same show all over again, although, at least you get to see which titles are enjoying enduring popularity. Next month I’ll endeavour to feature in reverse, picking a selection from titles that have not been featured before, although this month, there were none like that. It seems we are all reading similar books at present, which in some ways, is a wonderful example of how recommendations can have a flow on effect.
I look forward to seeing you here again next month for another recap on what everyone’s been reading. Thank you to everyone who links reviews in our database. Your efforts make the challenge a rich experience for all involved. Stay warm and keep on reading!
About Theresa: 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