British novelist Jacqueline Winspear made a name for herself with a best-selling series starring an unconventional detective. Maisie Dobbs, a former maid who served as a nurse in the Great War, returned home to England to deal with her nation's troubled post-war psyche—and the resulting crimes.
But this year, Winspear is trying something new: She's written a novel set during World War I instead of after it, one that doesn't star her now-famous detective. The Care and Management of Lies (Harper) will be published in June. Its heroine, Kezia Marchant marries her best friend Thea's brother Tom just before the war breaks out. While Tom heads off to war, Kezia and Thea are caught up in the women's rights movement and struggle to hold onto the family farm.
Winspear is a perceptive writer with a historian's knowledge of the era she writes about. Even minus Maisie, her work should take readers on a fascinating ride. Will you read it?
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Read our 2005 interview with Jacqueline Winspear.
Emma Donoghue became a household name for readers after the her 2010 novel, Room, sold more than 1.5 million copies. But Room was actually an anomaly for Donoghue, who was known as a historical fiction writer—or, as she puts it, a "fact-based historical writer." She returns to the past on April 1 with Frog Music (Little, Brown), a story set in 1876 San Francisco that's based on a real-life crime. A heatwave is sweeping the city—and so is a deadly smallpox epidemic. But French burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon has even bigger problems: Her friend, Jenny Bonnet, has been shot dead, and Blanche is determined to bring her killer to justice.
As Blanche pieces together Jenny's past for clues, she discovers that her frog-hunting friend had more than a few secrets. Will she be able to solve the mystery of Jenny's death before the killer catches up with her?
Amor Towles' surprise bestseller, Rules of Civility (Viking), has sold some 500,000 copies since its 2011 publication. But fans were left wondering what happened to one of its most compelling characters, the glamorous and secretive Evelyn Ross, who got on a train to Chicago—and never disembarked.
Digital-only sequels and epilogues are common in genre communities, but rare for literary authors. But nevertheless, Towles is publishing a digital-only book imagining the further adventures of Eve in Hollywood, her ultimate destination:
The book will be available from Penguin on June 25, wherever digital books are sold, for just $2.99. Will you read it? Which literary novel do you most wish an author would continue?
As for what's next for Towles, he is working on another full-length novel, which he tells us "is set in a different time and a different place." We'll be sure to report back with more details when they're available.
Fellow fans of Valerie Martin, I've got good and bad news. The good: She has a new novel on the way, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (Nan A. Talese). The bad: You have to wait until January 28, 2014, to read it.
But the wait should be worth it. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is centered on the cultural fallout from a legendary real-life incident. When the Mary Celeste was found adrift off the coast of Spain in December of 1872, her cargo was intact—and there was no sign of her crew. What happened?
Martin blends this mystery with the sensation caused by the Arthur Conan Doyle story it inspired; the vendetta of a journalist against a possibly fraudulent medium; and the tale of the captain's family, who must add his loss to a long list of seafaring tragedies. From the catalog:
In a haunted, death-obsessed age, a ghost ship appearing in the mist is by turns a provocative mystery, an inspiration to creativity, and a tragic story of the disappearance of a family and of a bond between husband and wife that, for one moment, transcends the impenetrable barrier of death.
Though Martin's writing is always topnotch, her historical novels are my favorite of her works—and her 2003 novel, Property, set in antebellum New Orleans, is one of my favorite books of all time. She is one of those rare authors who are able to fully inhabit the past, warts and all. There are no anachronistic attitudes among her characters—even if that means, as it does in Property, that they give you the shivers. Can't wait to read this one.
Since its publication in 2009, Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine) has sold 1.3 million copies. That's some debut!
Well, Ford is finally following up on his success: Songs of Willow Frost will be published September 10. Like Hotel, Songs of Willow Frost is historical fiction and features a Chinese-American character and a childhood friendship. This time, though, the story is set in the 1920s and 1930s, where a lonely young boy looks for the mother he longs for. From the publisher description:
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Did you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet? Will you be looking for Songs of Willow Frost?
Well, it looks like our 2010 "Three years to Gabaldon" post was just about on target. Delacorte will release the eighth book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander saga, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, on December 10, 2013. Gabaldon will be speaking at this year's BEA author breakfast to support the book—and she's already posted a few excerpts on her website.
It has been more than 20 years since Gabaldon published the novel that started it all, The Outlander. The seven published novels have sold more than 20 million copies, and the universe has expanded to include three generations: the star-crossed, time-traveling lovers Claire and Jamie; their daughter Brianna, who was born in the 18th century but returned to the late 20th century with her husband; and their grandchildren Jem and Amanda. Then there are the dozens of peripheral characters, who "crop up in one book, disappear, and then return two or three books later. Someone barely mentioned in an early book may become pivotal in a later one," as our interviewer Rebecca Bain noted in her 2009 chat with Gabaldon. So it's certain that surprises are in store.
In other Gabaldon news, it looks as though opponents of Katherine Heigl as Claire can breathe easier. The Outlander series has recently been optioned for a TV series, not a film, as was previously reported. Showrunner Ron Moore, who has worked on Star Trek films and the TV series "Roswell," will helm the project, and the Starz cable network has signed on to develop the series, which means that seeing an actual pilot sometime this year is quite likely. (Gabaldon has an extensive FAQ section on this topic on her site.) Move over, "Game of Thrones."
ETA: Though BEA's website continues to list a pub date of December 10, Diana Gabaldon has informed us that the pub date is "still fluid." Updates to come!
Does that make you squeal a little bit? (Admit it: You're imagining Karen Blixen and ?Denys Finch Hatton? having tea with Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley.) Read on . . .
The year 2013 is going to be a great one for fans of Lauren Willig. Not only will The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, the 10th installment of the Pink Carnation series, be published in August 2013—reason enough for celebration—but she has a new stand-alone novel coming in April.
It's called The Ashford Affair, and it's the aforementioned mix of Downtown and Out of Africa. Willig's fans will be thrilled that this novel—like the Pink Carnation books—takes past in both past and present. Here's the official plot description from St. Martin's:
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .
What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.
Are you as excited about The Ashford Affair as I am?
Ken Follett's Fall of Giants was one of the biggest books of 2010—in fact, our readers voted it as #5 on their Best Books of 2010 list. Book one in a hugely ambitious trilogy of historical novels about the 20th century, it takes readers through World War I, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It'll also keep you busy for a while, clocking in at 985 pages.
Now we're just four months away from the publication of Winter of the World, book two in The Century Trilogy. It comes out on September 18 and is 960 pages.
[The five families] enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.
By the way, if you were discouraged from reading Fall of Giants by the high price (the hardcover is $36 and the paperback is $25) or long hold lists at the library, you'll be happy to hear that a mass market paperback edition hits bookstores on September 4. It will retail for $9.99.
Robert Goolrick's debut, A Reliable Wife, became a word-of-mouth hit when it was published in 2009. The story of a woman who arrives in Wisconsin in the winter of 1909 to marry a man she's never met—and turns out to have, shall we say, ulterior motives for doing so—was chilly, twisted and downright gripping.
On June 12, we'll see if Goolrick will once again capture readers' imaginations with his second novel, Heading Out to Wonderful (Algonquin). This one also features the mysterious stranger trope—but this time, it's 1948 Virginia and the stranger is a man, Charlie. Despite the fact that one of the two suitcases he arrives with is full of cash, Charlie takes a job at the butcher shop. But it isn't until he strikes up a romance with the wife of the richest man in town that things really get complicated.
Did you read A Reliable Wife? How do you feel about the premise of Heading Out to Wonderful?
Amidst all our "Best of 2011" coverage, we're still keeping an ear to the ground to find out about the most anticipated releases of 2012. Today Henry Holt president and publisher Stephen Rubin announced that the sequel to Hilary Mantel's Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall (2009) would be among them.
“I share in the enthusiasm and anticipation of the many ‘Wolf Hall’ readers who eagerly await the return to Cromwell’s life in the tangled web of Tudor England and Hilary’s vast imagination," said Rubin, citing a fall 2012 release for the novel. Readers in Mantel's native U.K. have an advantage on us here—Fourth Estate will publish the book in Britain in May 2012.
Previously, Mantel had said the book would be called The Mirror and the Light, but apparently that was axed in favor of the slightly more gruesome Bring Up the Bodies. Apropos for the time period, especially since the timeline for Bodies will encompass the downfall of Anne Boleyn. I can't wait for this one. How about you?