BookPage Fiction Top Pick, March 2014
Alice Hoffman’s latest novel has the word “extraordinary” in the title for good reason: The best-selling author of The Dovekeepers has served up another historical novel that will dazzle readers until the last page.
The term “Middle Ages” contains a prejudice: that the era was merely an unremarkable void straddling antiquity and modernity. Recent scholarship has eroded this perception. The era produced Dante, Chaucer and Boccaccio as well as significant leaps in mathematics and even algorithms and cryptography. It was, moreover, a time when the lust for life was great and the powerful had lust aplenty. Bruce Holsinger’s captivating historical novel A Burnable Book is testimony to this more accurate view of a fascinating period.
As World War II is to the United States, a conflict endlessly memorialized, representing the nation's crowning achievement before its inevitable decline, so World War I is to Great Britain. Little surprise, then, that on the latter war's centennial, another novel that centers on it should appear: Wake, by British author Anna Hope. As the homonym title suggests, however, Wake is less about the war than its aftermath. It's also less about men than women.
In 1894, Paris was rocked by the infamous Dreyfus affair, which reverberated in France for decades after Captain Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in “a monstrous miscarriage of justice.” Robert Harris’ new novel, An Officer and a Spy, builds on the riveting trial and its aftermath, perfectly demonstrating its anti-Semitic core and the sense of justice gone awry in a rigid military hierarchy.
Nebraska author Timothy Schaffert sets his sweeping new novel against the dramatic backdrop of the 1898 World's Fair, where a con man falls in love with a beautiful magician's assistant. We caught up with Schaffert, currently a professor at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, to ask him a few questions about the book.
First the woman behind Frank Lloyd Wright and now Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife—author Nancy Horan has carved a niche for herself as a novelist who gives voice to strong, influential yet largely forgotten women.
“Women have been underrepresented in the history books,” Horan says by phone from her home on an island near Seattle. “I’ve chosen to write about two women who were very strong in their own right.”
Three of the best books of 2013 are now available in paperback—and guaranteed to delight your reading group. Spanning the globe from Texas to Italy to Chechnya, these memorable stories are sure to spark discussion.
At the start of The Swan Gondola, Timothy Schaffert’s enchanting new historical novel, two elderly spinster sisters discover a man in their front yard who has fallen from the sky (or from a hot air balloon, at least). The man in question is Ferret Skerritt, a ventriloquist turned star-crossed lover with an incredible tale to tell.
In her second novel, author Deborah Johnson takes readers on an intoxicating, ominous and redemptive journey into a special world. At its heart, The Secret of Magic is the story of three people seeking justice, but it also explores how a foreign place can worm into a person's soul.
Leila Meacham’s new novel, Somerset, begins in 1835 South Carolina with the stories of three of the state’s most prominent, plantation-owning families: the Warwicks, DuMonts and Tolivers. Silas Toliver has been left out of his father’s will. With his father dead and all of his family’s land and money bequeathed to his brother, Silas has two choices: Stay in South Carolina, where he will live the rest of his life without ever owning the expansive plantation he aches for, or follow his best friend and counterpart Jeremy Warwick to Texas, where fear of the unknown meets promises of fertile land and opportunity.