If you were born in 1800, there was a 50 percent chance that you would die before your fifth birthday. Popular sports of the day were often bloody: bear- or badger-baiting, cockfighting and, of course, bare-knuckle boxing.
Historical novels that use real people, eras and achievements as a springboard can sometimes become overworked lessons of the history on which they’re treading. Other times, they can be inspired, original works that remind us of both the importance of history and the timeless concerns of our own humanity. Thankfully, The Architect’s Apprentice is the latter.
A search for an elusive sea monster at the height of World War II sounds like the plot of a genre-mashup movie. But in At the Water’s Edge, the latest novel from Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen, what starts out as a lark on the part of rich, entitled friends turns into a quest that is at times frightening, liberating and even comical.
Readers who know Elizabeth Wein’s award-winning books Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, both set during World War II, may be surprised by the 1930s Ethiopian setting of her warm-hearted, ambitious new novel, Black Dove, White Raven.
Debut novelist Daniel Torday puts a fresh spin on World War II in The Last Flight of Poxl West, a page-turning literary tale about truth, lies and forgiveness. Eli Goldstein idolizes his uncle Poxl, a Hungarian Jew who served in Britain's Royal Air Force during WWII. The novel alternates between the adult Eli's voice and the pages of Poxl's memoir as the two coming-of-age stories converge.
It’s 1849 in rural Missouri, and 15-year-old Samantha Young is the only daughter of a Chinese immigrant. Like many fortune-seeking pioneers during the Gold Rush, Samantha’s father has plans to move out West—until a tragedy leaves Samantha orphaned and penniless. To make matters worse, she is then attacked, and though quick thinking saves her life, she accidentally leaves the attacker dead.
A dose of dark humor, a captivating historical novel and the 2014 National Book Award winner for fiction make great selections for reading groups this month.
Young William Wyeth sets out from St. Louis as part of a fur-trapping brigade in 1826, hoping to prove to his family back East that his wandering, capricious nature can be put to good use. Wrestling with his insecurities spurs him forward into the relatively uncharted land west of the settled United States, filled with wild game, angry natives and endless potential.
When 22-year-old Alice becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1930s, both she and her family fear disgrace. Her mother sends her from London to the Gloucestershire countryside to await the baby’s birth at a place called Fiercombe Manor, after which she will give the baby to an orphanage. Her mother’s old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, is the housekeeper at the empty manor, and she promises to keep watch over Alice, who has concocted a cover story of a recently deceased husband.
Andrea Chapin presents a story of William Shakespeare, a woman every bit his equal, and the relationship that inspires some of his best work, but if you think you know this tale already, The Tutor will prove you wrong in wonderful ways.