We’ve seen fictionalized Emily Dickinson; members of the Tudor court; and more Jane Austen spin-offs than I can count (Austenland, The Jane Austen Book Club and Jane Austen Ruined My Life, for starters -- not to mention Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, Darcy’s Passions, and Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley). I’m intrigued by a new historical novel about a character I haven’t thought about since 10th grade English class: Hester Prynne.
You may remember that at the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale had died and Hester and her daughter, Pearl, had left Boston. Many years later, Hester returns alone and Pearl (presumably) lives happily ever after as a wealthy lady (on account of her inheritance from Chillingworth). . . until now.
In Hester, by Paula Reed, the title character moves to England and falls in with Oliver Cromwell. Hester is “entangled in a web of political intrigue, espionage, and forbidden love” as she is forced to help Cromwell in his scheming – or risk a death sentence.
The novel will come out on February 16, 2010, although you can read an excerpt now on Reed’s website.
Which classic literary hero or heroine would you like to see in a contemporary novel? (Or do you think spin-offs ruin the original?)
In looking over the lineup of 2010 fiction, we have noticed an abundance of historical novels. Which ones will you be reading? What is your favorite time period to read about?
I loved Girl With a Pearl Earring, so I can’t wait for Tracy Chevalier’s January release, Remarkable Creatures. In the novel, 19th century fossil hunter Mary Anning discovers her gift to “find what on one can see.” She is barred from the British academic community, however, and falls in love with “an impossible man.” Watch an interview with Tracy Chevalier:
A few years ago BookPage reviewed a “magnificent” biography of Emily Dickinson that provided “a comprehensive portrait of the poet's life and art.” In February, you can read a fictionalized version of the Dickinson’s life, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn. Dickinson biographer Brenda Wineapple writes that Charyn imagines the poet full “of mischievousness, brilliance, desire, and wit (all which she possessed) and then boldly sets her amidst a throng of historical, fictional, and surprising characters just as hard to forget as she is.”
Historical fiction buffs will also want to look out for Karen Harper’s The Queen’s Governess, a Tudor drama told from the perspective of Elizabeth I’s governess; Ellen Horan’s 31 Bond Street, about a 19th-century murder scandal in New York City (the book will be “difficult for any reader to put down,” according to Ron Rash); and Lynn Cullen’s The Creation of Eve, about Renaissance female painter Sofonisba Anguissola.
Devil's Dream by Madison Smartt Bell
November 2009, Pantheon
Bell's novel about the Civil War experiences of General Nathan Bedford Forrest brings one of history's most gifted—and controversial—wartime leaders to life. Look for a Q&A with Madison Smartt Bell on BookPage.com later this month.
At dusk they gathered around a campfire Ginral Jerry had built in the lee of a snowbank, which did something, though not exactly enough, to cut the bitter rising wind. Forrest sat on a tripod camp stool, his long arms wrapped around his knees, reflected firelight flickering from the deep hollow of his eyes. Though he was in his shirtsleeves he didn't seem to feel the cold. Is he even human? Henri thought.
The Frankfurt Book Fair took place last week, and it's always a source for major publishing news. One of the early news items has to do with author Ken Follett, whose historical novels and thrillers have been huge hits worldwide.
In a feature in BookPage about his last novel, World Without End, Follett said he wanted to "write another book that gets this kind of enthusiastic reception." We're pretty sure rights being sold in six countries, and a worldwide one-day laydown, counts as enthusiasm!
Fall of Giants will go on sale September 28, 2010, just in time for a planned miniseries based on Pillars of the Earth. (Penguin/Dutton got the U.S. rights.) It is the first of three books planned for the "New Century Trilogy," which will cover most of the 20th century. Fall of Giants follows five families through World War I and the Russian revolution, setting the stage for the next novel, which will cover World War II.
This post about the past weekend's Southern Festival of Books goes back to the very first night, when BookPage reserved a table at the Authors in the Round dinner. We got to the cocktail party a little late but there was plenty of time to catch a glimpse of authors like Kathryn Stockett, Robert Hicks, Jill McCorkle, Michael Sims and even John Carter Cash, who was wearing a dapper seersucker suit.
Our dinner companion was Madison Smartt Bell, who we're pretty sure was happy with his seat between two lovely ladies.
Conversation ranged from his early years in Nashville, to the Bell witch, to the merits of Goucher College, where he is a professor of English. And of course we talked about his forthcoming novel, Devil's Dream, which brings one of the Civil War's most complicated generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest, to life. Bell told us his college-aged daughter helped him finalize the book's structure, which jumps backward and forward through time with each chapter. Watch for more details in a website interview in November.
If you could have dinner with an author, who would it be?
a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII and a significant political figure in Tudor England. Mantel’s crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read.
If you're in the mood for a laugh, or interested in the other finalists (most of which have yet to be published here, alas), don't miss Jim Crace's Digested Read of all six books.
p.s. see more on our News item.
In January, author Amy Bloom returns with her first work since 2007's much-lauded Away. The new book, Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Random House) will be an interconnected collection of short stories that "explores the unexpected patterns that all forms of love and loss weave into our lives"—at least, according to the catalog copy.
Away, which made several "Best Book of the Year" lists, was something of a comeback for Bloom, whose previous work of fiction, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, was published in 2000. BookPage reviewer Arlene McKanic described Bloom's writing in Away as "clear, rich and shot through with moments of humor" that perhaps made it more accessible than the edgier tales of "people on the edge" she'd published previously.
We'll be interested to see where God of Love fits into Bloom's oeuvre. Title-wise, it seems more in line with her early works: of her first four works of fiction, two have the word "love" in the title.
Julia Steele, BookPage Associate Publisher
Just listened to Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. It's a great story set during the gold rush years and takes the reader from Chile to China to the new world full of 'easy gold.' The audio is read by Blair Brown, and she does a wonderful job—I will read or listen to more books by this author. Next I'll be starting on People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks for my book club—I think it will make for great discussion.
The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs is on my bedside table —I read a chapter every once in a while when I need a laugh. Jacobs is a journalist who has made his living turning his life into an experiment. In this book he outsources his life to India, poses as a beautiful woman on match.com, tries being “radically honest” at all times, and poses nude—among other things. It’s the perfect book to read in a chunk at a time.
It has been four years since her blockbuster debut, The Historian, but Elizabeth Kostova is rising again on January 21 with a second act, The Swan Thieves. Instead of literature, this time Kostova's subject is painting—and painters who struggle to balance love and art. The novel goes from 1870s France to the modern day as a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist tries to discover why one of his patients attacked painting in the National Gallery.
She told Powell's she began work on The Swan Thieves before The Historian was even published. "I felt it was important for me to get back to writing right away — to draw that magic, private circle again."
After the jump, a video of Kostova discussing the novel.
The New York Times may be bemoaning the state of publishing/bookselling, but there's a strong fall shaping up, with the return of many favorite authors. We've already posted about Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Dan Brown, Barbara Kingsolver and A.S. Byatt. Now Diana Gabaldon enters the list in October with a new installment in her popular Outlander series. An Echo in the Bone is set during the American revolution and pits Jamie against his illegitimate son who is fighting for the British. At a reported 992 pages, this is a book readers can get lost in, and should keep them occupied until Spring 2010, when Del Rey will release a graphic novel based on the series.
Gabaldon was an early internet adopter, and former BookPage editor Ann Shayne was an early fan. Check out their 1997 Q&A here.