Thursday, January 29, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Of note: Lindsey Davis has three titles on the list. Alexandria (next in the Marcus Didius Falco series, set in 1st century Alexandria) will be out in May, as will the paperback of The Course of Honour, her mainstream historical about Emperor Vespasian and his mistress, Caenis, a former slave. And just today I read a press release about a historical epic she's written on the English Civil War, Rebels and Traitors, which will be out from Century in September. No word yet on US publication.
Philippa Gregory's The White Queen is in Touchstone's summer catalog, with a Sept 2009 pub date. Simon & Schuster is the UK publisher as well; same date. Amazon UK has the blurb, so see what you think. The "white queen" is Elizabeth Woodville, not Anne Neville.
Edward Rutherfurd sent out a newsletter last month detailing the subject of his next epic historical: New York. Amazon lists the pub date as October, which means it won't be out by the time of his appearance at the Schaumburg HNS conference, but I'm guessing we'll hear more about it there.
Another one that intrigued me was Annamaria Alfieri's City of Silver, a historical mystery set in 17th-century Peru. In looking around, I found an earlier mention in Publishers Marketplace, though its historicity didn't stand out at the time. The title's also changed since then:
Annamaria Alfieri's MURDER IN ALTO PERU, in which an Abbess finds the tranquility of her convent threatened when the unruly daughter of a wealthy man, who had sought refuge there, mysteriously dies, bringing about a collision of various interests and holy and unholy desires, to Toni Plummer at Thomas Dunne Books, by Nancy Love at Nancy Love Literary Agency. [Oct 2007]
What other titles catch your attention?
That's pretty much it from here. Big snowstorm happening tonight; I'd hope for a snow day, but I already have Wednesday mornings off.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Anne Marie and the Pale Pink Frock. An illustrated children's novel of the Great Trek in South Africa.
The Citadel is Yours. Contrary to the title, it has nothing to do with Cloister and the Citadel and is a modern medical novel.
The Covenant. "The adventures of a South African family of British descent during the Boer War and afterwards." (from a review in Time and Tide)
Dark Star. A historical novel set in 17th-century England.
The House of the Seagull and The House of the Swan. I know nothing about them other than the setting: the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively. There seems to be a third novel, The House of the Bird of Paradise, though it's not listed in the bibliography I own.
Not by Any Single Man. A novel set on the coast of Kent during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. A review in The Observer compared it to the best of Du Maurier.
Old Amsterdam. A sequel to I Struggle and I Rise, it follows the fortunes of the Van Breda family in the 17th century, particularly one of Anna's grandsons, Pieter, a Dutch financier who falls in love with a distant relation. It has a lovely old-timey cover, pictured at above left.
Westward the Sun. Novel set in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century; it may be a sequel to The Sun Climbs Slowly.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Last September, in my "reviews of obscure books" series, I covered Brigid Knight's The Cloister and the Citadel, a little-known novel about Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpensier, a little-known Renaissance princess. While surveying my shelves last week, I was very surprised to come across a 2nd copy of the book. This happens more often than I want to admit.
So, rather than tease with another review of a novel you're unable to find, I thought it fitting to offer this duplicate copy as a giveaway. It's in excellent shape for a 50-year old novel, a 1st edition hardcover with a clean, undamaged dustjacket only slightly browning with age. The original list price was 15 shillings.
To enter, leave a comment on this post, or email me (address on left sidebar) with the subject line "Cloister giveaway," by the end of the day next Friday, January 23rd. Good luck!
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Here are some brief reviews of historical novels I read over the holiday break.
Tony Pollard's The Minutes of the Lazarus Club - George Phillips, an up-and-coming surgeon, gets drawn into 1850s London's most exclusive secret society, a club made up of the most prominent scientific minds of the age, and becomes embroiled in the race to catch a serial killer. Wonderful atmosphere, and I especially liked "meeting" technological genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel and crusading nurse Florence Nightingale, but parts of it dragged, and Phillips's bland personality couldn't compete with that of his newfound compatriots. This wasn't an issue in my subsequent read, however:
Louis Bayard's The Black Tower - I'd been meaning to get a copy ever since I read Susan's review from the Historical Novels Review. Hector Carpentier, a medical student in Paris of 1818, discovers his family's unexpected connection to the lost dauphin after Eugène François Vidocq, France's premier police detective, turns up on his doorstep. Although Vidocq remains in a class by himself, Hector is a quick study and more than holds his own in Vidocq's world. The novel serves as proof that authors don't need infodumps to convey historical atmosphere, and Bayard's astute turns of phrase made me sit up and take notice.
Vanora Bennett's Figures in Silk - The two daughters of noted silkweaver John Lambert pave their own paths to fortune and define success on their own terms. Beautiful Jane annuls her unconsummated marriage to her drab husband and pursues a liaison with dashing King Edward IV, while Isabel binds herself into apprenticeship to her ambitious mother-in-law and determines to break Italy's monopoly on the silk trade. Thoroughly enjoyable, though not quite as much as her Portrait of an Unknown Woman was for me -- mostly because Isabel's longtime liaison with another English royal (the author's invention) felt contrived. On the other hand, I liked Bennett's original depictions of several Wars of the Roses notables, and the descriptions of late medieval silkweaving techniques were a highlight.
Diana Gaines's Nantucket Woman - I dived eagerly into what promised to be a biographical novel of Kezia Coffin, a scandalously successful businesswoman in 18th-century Nantucket (a historical character about whom I'd known nothing). The author's use of language felt absolutely real, as did the historical detail, so I settled in for an engrossing period read... but then things got weird, in a way that just didn't fit the characters. If you enjoy reading unique and very explicit sex scenes written in authentic Quaker plain speech, this is the novel for you. I gave it points for originality but put it down after p.50. Publishers Weekly gave it a rave review after its original 1976 publication, so what do I know.