All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, book reviews, Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes, Pompeii by Robert Harris, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, The Heroes Welcome by Louisa Young, The Historical Novel by Jerome de Groot, The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams, Write Away by Elizabeth George, Writing Historical Fiction by Katharine McMahon
As with 2014, some were superb, others I did not finish. Most were historical fiction; a few were non-fiction. I read several in my capacity as book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and the Washington Independent Review of Books, and a few for feature articles in HNS.
I suspect I’m a ‘hard marker’. Here’s the rating system I used last year: LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type.
The following are from January 2015 to May. I’ve included links to blog posts and reviews where appropriate. I’ll share the balance in a few days.
|Jan||Penelope Fitzgerald||Hermione Lee||DNF||Biography – far too much detail|
|Firebird||Susanna Kearsley||GR||Loved The Winter Sea, but I think Kearsley needs to try a new theme|
|Sisters of Heart and Snow||Margaret Dilloway||GR||HNS feature; the tale of a female samurai; too much present day not enough history|
|Writing Historical Fiction||Marina Oliver||GR||Much of the advice is very basic|
|Historical Fiction Writing||Myfanwy Cook||GR||Lots of good advice, research ideas and useful reference sites|
|Feb||The Glory of Life||Michael Kumpfmuller||GR||WIRO book review; last years of Franz Kafka; rich in detail, light on drama|
|The Heroes Welcome||Louisa Young||ER||HNS Review; A novel about the effects of WWI; highly recommended|
|Mar||The Foundling’s War||Michel Deon||GR||A look at WWII France; present tense and omniscient narrator detract from story|
|Hell and Good Company||Richard Rhodes||ER||HNS review; non-fiction on Spanish Civil War|
|All the Light We Cannot See – Pulitzer prize 2015||Anthony Doerr||OR||A five star IMHO; could not put this WWII novel down|
|The Wild Girl||Kate Forsyth||GR||A story about the brothers Grimm; pacing slow in parts|
|Apr||The Sandcastle Girls||Chris Bojalian||GR||Book club; blending of past and present did not work for me|
|The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent||Susan Elia MacNeal||LR||Set during WWII; light mystery|
|Writing Historical Fiction||Katharine McMahon||ER||A short, straight forward read with some excellent advice|
|The Historical Novel – post 1 and post 2||Jerome de Groot||ER||Have read this twice; Traces the roots and impact of historical fiction|
|Write Away||Elizabeth George||ER||A second read of this book on the craft of writing|
|The Dinner||Herman Koch||NMT||Book club; not one sympathetic character|
|The Stranger||Harlan Corben||LR||Audiobook – tense mystery|
|May||Cairo||Olen Steinhauer||LR||Complicated mystery set in Cairo|
|Pompeii||Robert Harris||OR||Superb story of Pompeii’s destruction|
|The First Five Pages (a second reading)||Noah Lukeman||ER||Great practical advice for writers|
|Scent of Triumph||Jan Moran||NMT||Book review; far too melodramatic|
|The Secret Life of Violet Grant||Beatriz Williams||ER||Great voice; strong blend of present day and past|
|Personal||Lee Child||LR||Audiobook; good mystery for a long drive|
Two outstanding reads, seven excellent ones.
FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.