Book Reviews for Historical Novel Society

The Historical Novel Society published its latest reviews last week. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing three books.

The Paris Affair by Teresa Grant begins with a two-page list of characters, a mix of real historical figures and fictional people. The opening chapters are full of drama as Teresa Grant sets the time, place and political situation then caps it off with intrigue and murder. Boom, the hook appears. You can read the full review here.

Lillian & Dash by Sam Toperoff begins with a meeting between Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett at a party thrown by Darryl F. Zanuck of Warner Brothers. According to the book cover,  this is “A boozy, raucous, endlessly imaginative rendition of America during Hollywood’s golden age, as experienced through the lives of two of it most talented writers and creators.” In my estimation, Toperoff delivers. The full review is here.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter (Young Adult) – The hero in this delightful book stutters. He calls his best friend “Rat” because he can’t pronounce “Art” properly. When our hero – his name is withheld until the very end – takes over Rat’s paper route for the month of July, his life changes forever. The full review is here.

What’s exciting for someone who writes historical fiction is the opportunity to examine how others approach the genre and learn a trick or two in the process.

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.