10 Books to Recommend

A Writer of History is NOT a book blog – however, I have written reviews from time to time on books I’ve chosen to read or books selected by one of my book clubs. Below are ten to recommend with links to each more detailed review.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – I powered through this novel in two and a half very satisfying days. The story is “based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.”

Educated by Tara Westover – Book club unanimously endorsed Tara Westover’s well-received novel of growing up in a survivalist Mormon home in the hills of Idaho.The words used to describe it included: compelling, horrifying, unbelievable, shocking, inspiring, and head shaking.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – author Patti Callahan has written a poignant and clear-eyed story about these two well-known writers and I had the pleasure of reading the novel for an article published by the Historical Novel Society.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin – This compelling look at two famous women – actor Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion – entertains and informs while transporting readers to the magical kingdom of the movie industry. Highly recommended.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – the verdict at book club was resoundingly in favour of this powerful novel of memory and forgetting, war and peace, love and hate, which was nominated for the Man Booker prize.

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George On every dimension – superb writing, feeling immersed in time and place, characters both heroic and human, authenticity, and compelling plot – The Splendor Before the Dark is a winner.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie Beginning in 1777 with a victory against the British at Saratoga, My Dear Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton through the eyes of his wife Eliza. Superb historical fiction.

Mary – Tudor Princess by Tony Riches – I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Mary Tudor, sister to Henry VIII. The history is fascinating and Tony’s superb writing brings Mary’s character to life with a strong and sympathetic voice.

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson – This work of non-fiction “chronicles a glorious English summer a century ago when the world was on the cusp of irrevocable change … That summer of 1911 a new king was crowned and the aristocracy was at play, bounding from one house party to the next. But perfection was not for all. Cracks in the social fabric were showing.”

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – In the two years since reading The Alice Network, I’ve recommended it to dozens of people. Why? Because it grabbed me from the very start and wouldn’t let go. And what special ingredients does it have? Flawed, heroic, and intriguing characters – check. Tension that builds and builds – check. A superb sense of history and setting – check. Strong writing – check. An immersive experience – check. A flawless weaving of two timelines – check. What more could you ask for?

I hope some of these add to your reading piles! If you have feedback on any of them, please add your voice to the comments.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

If you hear the names Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, which one conjures up the image of a famous writer? I suspect ninety plus percent of readers will know the name C.S. Lewis, particularly his tales of Narnia, while very few will know of Joy Davidman’s essays, books, and award-winning poems.

Author Patti Callahan has written a poignant and clear-eyed story about these two well-known writers and I had the pleasure of reading the novel for an article published by the Historical Novel Society.

While Davidman is often referred to as C.S. Lewis’s wife, she was also his muse, his editor, and his intellectual equal. Callahan chose to write Joy Davidman’s story in her new novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis (HarperCollins 2018) because “her legacy had been buried under the ‘dying wife of C. S. Lewis’ story’. I wanted to narrate her journey in the first person so others could meet this fiery and brave woman who forged a path for herself in the 1940s and 1950s when society and family were telling her to stay put.” Becoming Mrs. Lewis is “NOT about the woman behind the man but the woman beside the man.”

You can read the rest of the article on the HNS website.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

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. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A Year of Reading 2018 (Part 2)

Following up on Tuesday’s post – here’s the second half of 2018. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your impressions.

Here’s the legend: LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type.

Jul The Splendor Before the Dark (my review) Margaret George OR Superb writing that immerses the reader in time and place.
Resistance Agnes Humbert ER A French woman’s story of WWII resistance and prisoner of war camps
Aug The Beach Club Elin Hilderbrand LR Holiday reading.
I’ll Keep You Safe Peter May LR Holiday reading.
The Winter Crown Elizabeth Chadwick OR Books 2 and 3 of the author’s trilogy on Eleanor of Aquitaine. Highly recommended.
The Autumn Throne Elizabeth Chadwick OR
Sep The Summer Wives Beatriz Williams ER Characters that come alive – a setting that captivates – and a very satisfying ending.
Oct Women of the Dunes Sarah Maine LR Three timelines can be a little confusing.
The Gravity of Birds Tracy Guzeman ER A page turner.
Nov The Clockmaker’s Daughter Kate Morton GR Not as satisfying as her previous novels.
Victoria Daisy Goodwin GR The TV series was more captivating.
Dec The Girls in the Picture Melanie Benjamin GR Two main characters – one is more engaging than the other.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis Patti Callahan ER Loved it.
Edward VIII: An American Life Ted Powell GR Edward VIII’s life, American influences, and his struggle with destiny.

I spent many enjoyable hours reading during 2018 and enjoyed the mix of genres. What were your favourite books from this past year?

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. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.