City of Girls was my first historical fiction read by Elizabeth Gilbert. (I read Eat, Pray, Love a long time ago). I had seen City of Girls around and wasn’t sure what to expect. But I was interested enough to buy a second-hand copy from a book sale. City of Girls is set mostly in 1940s New York. It’s protagonist, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris, has just been kicked out of school and is banished by her parents to New York to stay with her Aunt Peg.
Aunt Peg runs a crumbling theatre which puts on cheap musical plays for its working class neighbourhood. It’s not up to Broadway standards, but the shows are entertaining with singing, dancing, a bit of a plot, and beautiful showgirls. Vivian is captivated by her new environment and easily swayed by the showgirl’s high life of drinking out every night and going home with no-good men. Continue reading →
Regular readers of my blog will know how much I love anything written by Jojo Moyes. So I was excited to get my hands on her latest release The Giver Of Stars. I pretty much devoured this historical fiction book set in 1930s Kentucky in a day. I just couldn’t put it down!
Set in Baileyville, Kentucky, during the Depression, it tells the story of a remarkable group of women who form part of the WPA’s horseback mobile librarian programme – bringing books and reading to people living in remote mountain areas.
Though the characters in this book are fictional, they are inspired by the real life women who took part in this scheme which ran from 1935 to 1943. Jojo weaves a fascinating tale of a small community where many welcome the spread of books and reading, while others oppose the idea of women promoting literacy. Continue reading →
Jojo Moyes is an automatic buy author for me. Foreign Fruit has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time, so I was happy to finally get around to reading it. Set in the 1950s and present day (early 2000s), Foreign Fruit takes place in the seaside town of Merham. It’s a place where people don’t like change — even when it’s greatly needed.
In the 1950s section of the book we meet two friends: Lottie Swift and Celia Holden. Lottie came to live with the respectable Holden family when London was evacuated during the war and then never went back to live with her mother. Continue reading →
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer is a book I’ve been hearing about for ages that everyone raves about. So when I saw it in a second-hand bookstore recently, I just had to grab it. My expectations were huge going in to read this book and I have to say that it mostly lived up to all the hype.
Set during World War II it tells the story of a young, blind French girl named Marie-Laure who must navigate war-torn France and all its dangers without being able to see them. Her father works at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and helps Marie-Laure find her way around by carving a replica of the city streets for her to memorise. Continue reading →
I have struggled for a few weeks to find a good book to get into. I kept starting books and then abandoning them. I don’t think it was the books at fault, just my own strange reading mood. Then I picked up Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and suddenly I was back into reading. I couldn’t put this book down until I had made it to the end.
Pachinko is a historical fiction saga that takes place over a few generations of a Korean family living in Japan. Starting in South Korea in 1911 in a fishing village in Yeongdo, it moves through to Osaka in Japan and the Second World War and finishes up in Tokyo in 1989. Continue reading →
Why did I wait so long to read this wonderful book? I had seen The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah being raved about for years and for some reason I never read it. It was only when I visited my parents’ place and saw this book on their shelf that I finally decided to give it a go. Even then it sat in my to be read pile for ages, alone and unloved, until I picked it up recently and started reading. And then I couldn’t stop until I had read it all. Continue reading →
If you are looking for a great historical fiction series packed with intrigue, family issues and a little bit of romance, then I have the series for you. I first discovered the Wintercombe series by Pamela Belle about fifteen years ago. I picked up Wintercombe in a second-hand book store and then later its sequel Herald of Joy. I lost both books in a house move and then spent years trying to find them again. To my delight, I discovered that both books were available as ebooks this year and I bought them immediately. And I also discovered book three A Falling Star and book four Treason’s Gift.
Wintercombe is set during the English civil war in the 17th century and tells the story of its namesake, Wintercombe, a beautiful manor house in Somerset where Puritan Lady Silence St Barbe lives with her two step-children Rachael and Nathaniel and three children Tabitha, Deb and William. Her Parliamentarian husband is off fighting in the war. Silence is the perfect Puritan wife to her much older husband and lives a quiet, godly existence.
The English Civil war has been raging for two years when a detachment of Cavaliers is sent to garrison at this country house. Not having anywhere to take her children, and not wishing to let her house and beloved gardens be destroyed by the enemy in her absence, Silence elects to stay for the occupation.
Captain Nick Hellier is the second-in-command of the enemy Royalist soldiers and is, at first, not someone Silence is willing to trust. But compared to the brutish Lieutenant-Colonel Ridgeley who is evil incarnate, Captain Hellier is mild mannered. He soon becomes someone Silence can go to for help, despite being an enemy, as he does his best to protect her and the children from Ridgeley’s wrath. Amidst all the turmoil of war, Silence begins to break free from the constraints around her and allow music, laughter and love into her life in the form of Nick. Continue reading →