Historical fiction – spoiled with choice

HNS LogoFor the May issue of Historical Novels Review, I reviewed Habits of the House by Fay Weldon, Motherland by William Nicholson and Paperboy by Vince Vawter. Reviewing books for HNS fuels my interest in historical fiction while providing the opportunity to examine how other authors approach this very popular genre.
In a nutshell:

  • I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Vince Vawter’s young adult novel – perhaps I should read Harry Potter after all? The hero, a boy who stutters, encounters an intriguing and life-changing group of characters and learns from each of them.
  • Fay Weldon’s novel, a turn of the century upstairs-downstairs story (apparently it’s the first of a series) was too thin and fluffy for my taste.
  • Motherland which begins with the Dieppe raid in 1942, had more depth, more twists and turns and, of course, I’m a sucker for WWI and WWII stories. Two caveats – in my opinion, Nicholson could omit the prologue and epilogue (they detract from the plot) as well as a contrived section set in India as Mountbatten helps transition that country to independence.

If you enjoy historical fiction, visit the Historical Novel Society website. It’s full of interesting articles and more than 6500 online reviews.

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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6 Responses

  1. Your comments here encouraged me to click through to read the reviews in full and to check out the Historical Novel Society, which now knowing more I will no doubt join. I am curious that your reviews on the HNS site lack the nutshell opinion of each book that I both enjoyed and appreciated here on your blog. Is this a function of the review guidelines established by HNS?

    1. I’m intrigued by your comment. On HNS I’ve tried to take a balanced approach with my reviews (I’m still a newbie at the craft of reviewing). Hence, I try to think about the broader readership rather than concentrate on my own reading preferences. What do you think?

      1. As a reader, I like to know what the reviewer’s recommendation is – and why. Just as you did here on your blog. What you presented in the HNS review was well written and balanced but I didn’t come away knowing how you felt about the read. I think any conclusion is fine as long as you explain how you got there. I often read several reviews of a book before I buy, to get a range of opinions. The reviewers aren’t making my decision for me but they are informing the decision.

  2. Thanks for this Mary. Usually when I receive my copy of Historical Novels Review I choose which reviews to read by time period, e.g. 18th century and then scan for titles which grab my attention. Though this time, thanks to your post, my choice was by reviewer. I will probably use this approach again.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Paths to the Past. Based on your comment and Carol’s I think I should reflect some more on what/how I write for HNS. It reminds me of the book club I belong to. The first question we ask each person to respond to is did they like the book. We are all very honest in our top line comment!

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