It was mid-April when I posted my last round up for historical fiction and since then, over 100 reviews have been linked for this genre. That’s such an incredible level of interest in historical fiction. Thanks as always to everyone who supports this challenge and takes the time to link their reviews.
A look at what’s been read:
The Silk House by Kayte Nunn – 9 reviews
Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates – 6 reviews
The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan by Lisa Ireland – 6 reviews
The Darkest Shore by Karen Brooks – 4 reviews
Elsa Goody, Bushranger by Darry Fraser – 4 reviews
Jane in Love by Rachel Givney – 3 reviews
The Lost Jewels Kirsty Manning – 3 reviews
The Yield by Tara June Winch – 3 reviews
Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham – 3 reviews
A read of what’s been said:
THE BASS ROCK was a dark, disturbing but also captivating tale that chronicles parts of our central female characters’ lives, featuring themes such as male dominance, murder, madness, domestic abuse and violence against women in general. With her different timelines Wyld demonstrates that the issue of violence against women by male perpetrators has been an ongoing relevant topic for centuries, and is still a theme we need to take seriously. She manages to do so in a clever, subtle way that really got under my skin, by simply showcasing her female characters’ experiences. Written in her hallmark beautiful lyrical prose, the story made for disturbing and yet enchanting reading, burrowing itself deep into my psyche. An unusual but very topical read that will appeal to readers who are not solely focused on a beginning-to-end story.
This is a dual timeline narrative, present day setting along with the late 1700s, but told with three distinct female voices. The way their stories intersected was masterful and I was completely enthralled with this novel, devouring it over the course of one (very long) night. It is steeped in atmosphere (think Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Bone China) and the sense of foreboding that Kayte builds throughout is utterly gripping. You just know you’re headed for something shocking, but it still catches you by surprise. The blend of herbology, weaving, and witchcraft, along with the strong feminist themes, makes this novel an absolute must read for any lover of gothic historical fiction. Brilliant, enthralling, and utterly perfect to curl up with for some winter reading. Preferably on a dark, stormy night.
I really enjoyed the secondary characters in the book, and can see how there are plenty of future stories to be told set in Maiden’s Creek. I loved the setting and I enjoyed the towns people. There were a variety of interesting characters from the local “ladies” to the old doctor who is rarely sober but still manages to care for the town, the coach driver who is courting Netty, and frankly has been for quite some time and others. The author managed to include many issues that would have been associated with life in the bush in the early days of settlement. Things like bushfires, accidents and mining incidents are hard to deal with now with all of our modern communication and technology let alone in the 1870’s. I have to say, there were a couple of issues portrayed which felt very, very relevant to 2020 so far.
Purman paints a vivid picture of the social and emotional upheavals confronting all Australians in this period. Her heroine, Tilly, and Tilly’s family, friends and colleagues, are believable and sympathetic characters. I cared about them. And Tilly’s decision to do what she can to address the injustices she sees, made me cheer. The Women’s Pages will appeal to readers who enjoy their historical fiction firmly rooted in reality, and who like learning about the past while they get lost in a well told story.
Our guide for this novel’s incredulous journey is Gabriel Fox, a man who is very green to Van Diemen’s Land. We are firmly rooted inside Gabriel’s head for the duration of the novel. Gabriel’s perceptions fluctuate from quite meaningful moments and solid impressions to comical episodes. The natural environment is a force to be reckoned with, overshadowing virtually all moments of Gabriel’s trek. I really enjoyed these aspects of A Treacherous Country. The weight of the strange and wild country Gabriel must traverse plays heavily on our lead’s mind. It is a tumultuous, but relatively short sojourn. Kruimink pits Gabriel against plenty of interesting situations, which he must negotiate in order to reach his end goal.
I loved this book and Ireland’s characters touched me deeply, all of them. She tackles a lot of issues that I can’t explore in this review without going deep into spoiler territory and I would have loved to have any of these characters in my life. The Secret Life of Shirley Sullivan shows us a lot about life, love and the secrets we keep to protect our family. The struggles that those of past generations had to carry inside them every day because they weren’t things that you shared.
This book has it all – history, romance, time travel, and friendship, and lots of nods to the arts. Givney references Jane Austen’s work in various ways – Sofia is making a movie of Northanger Abbey, Fred Wentworth is a character from Jane’s final novel, Persuasion, and Jane must overcome her prejudices against Fred and the strange new times she finds herself in, just as Elizabeth and Darcy do in Pride and Prejudice. The mystery and multi-genre feel of the book work extremely well – it was a book that I longed to stay with, that I didn’t want to put down and occupied many hours of my time. It is a delightful romantic comedy as well – invoking several tropes often seen in the movies we love today such as Bridget Jones, and other movies based on Jane Austen’s works. It toys with the idea of what to do – and what one’s greatest love is. Only Jane can decide though – and she must choose one. She cannot have both.
A Dangerous Language is the eighth book in the Rowland Sinclair series by award-winning Australian author, Sulari Gentill. In this instalment, Gentill again serves up plenty of fascinating historical detail, giving a few famous (and infamous) figures and cameos (and some, more significant roles). There are twists and red herrings aplenty, leading to several exciting climaxes. And as always, the banter between the characters provides plenty of humour.
Blue Mountains, Australia, 1907. A world full of promise and magic, of love and possibility. A place of rarefied air. Eureka Jones, a pharmacist’s assistant in Katoomba, watches the tourists as they travel to and fro. Eureka falls in love with Harry Kitchings, waiting of a declaration of love, and proposal of marriage. And the town watches and waits with her. But Harry chooses to marry a widow from Sydney, and Eureka becomes an object of derision. I found this an engrossing story: a world in transition, with the power of photography to capture memories as images. And everywhere, the clouds and the mist.
My first experience with Alison Booth’s writing, I was enthralled by The Philosopher’s Daughters literary narrative. Most appealing though is the open-mindedness and respect with which both sisters engage with the land and all its inhabitants. And of course, their stories of personal growth and liberation in having done so. Alison Booth’s The Philosopher’s Daughters is quietly moving and captivating historical fiction.
Until next month, enjoy your reading and take care. 📚☕