FROM MY READING CHAIR

Writing gurus have said over the years, “write what you love and love what you write.”  That comes easily for me for Historical Fiction is what I read and write. Of course I depart on both counts from time to time. I love a good mystery/suspense/adventure story or a biography, usually of  a writer.  Then, there are the mainstream novels I should read but barely get to a smidgen of them. Since this is my Blog, from time to time, I will share with you my impressions of books I read.  Today, it is a batch of historicals.

Child of the Northern Spring: Book One of the Guinevere Trilogy (Paperback) published (re-issue) 2010 by Sourcebooks, 545 pages

Persia Woolley has walked the walk in her research on King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. She brings the times (6th century Britain) alive with poetical visions and imaginings of the people and characters of Camelot and its origins. Accurate in detail and filled with the tone, habits and customs of the day, we are thrust back into an historical time coated with mystery and mythology. More than this, Woolley develops stories of what might have been the early lives of Guinevere and Arthur, drawing on legend, history and extrapolations of her imagination. The characters come alive as people with strong feelings, dreams and hopes…and flaws. The reader is granted a glimpse into the strife, political and religious, that was the emergence of a united Britain. Woolley is, indeed, a gifted writer and Arthurian specialist. Sourcebooks is to be commended for re-issuing this wonderful trilogy.

Dina’s Lost Tribe (Paperback) published 2010 by iUniverse, 402 pages

Brigitte Goldstein holds a PhD in history and I am tempted to say it doesn’t show; by that I mean that her story is not a thesis, a lecture or dry accounting. It abounds with heart and the lyricism of poetry. The story is complex, weaving its way from the 13th to the 20th centuries. A secret village and culture hidden in the Pyrenees for centuries is gradually brought to light through the codes of its founder and the interpretations and fears of its successors. When historian Nina Aschauer seeks her mysterious birthplace, she meets the love of her life and fades from view. On finding Dina’s codex, Nina enlists the help of her scholarly friend Etoile and cousin Henner. The unraveling begins. Rich in the history of Judaism and of French culture, Dina’s Lost Tribe offers a unique worldview from an author well-versed in both…and captivating adventures well-told.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany (Hardback) published 2011 by Random House, 397 pages

Susan Vreeland gained access to a treasure trove of Clara Driscoll’s letters that reveal a 21st century truth about a 19-20th century icon. The amazing output of work that came from the Louis Comfort Tiffany studios nearly always carried his name with seldom a nod to other designers. The letters to her family came to light in 2005 and, with them, Clara Driscoll’s design history of Tiffany lamps and windows emerged. Vreeland has drawn a dynamic sketch of Clara, her loves, her skills and her turmoil. As she leads the Women’s Department strike for equity of wages with the Men, she is magnificent.  In love, she is tragic and vulnerable. In dealings with the genius who is her boss, she is both timid and brave. The book coats a vivid picture of the times as well as the characters.

The Shanghai Girls (Paperback) published 2010 by Random House, 314 pages

Lisa See writes passionately of her Chinese heritage no matter the era or place. In this, perhaps the darkest of her books, we see two sisters mired in the falsity of the glittering life that was Shanghai of the 1930’s. As “beautiful girls,” they are ill-prepared for their father’s fall into ruin or the invasion of the Japanese army; their arranged marriages to two “American-Chinese” helps them in their flight but confounds them in their new reality that is Angel Island and Los Angeles. This is a book of relationships, the ins, outs and twists of sisterhood, parenthood, marriage and extended family. As the book draws to a close, the sisterhood that has dominated the story evolves into a new understanding and depth. Can a sequel be far behind, one that marks the return to 1970’s China?

All of these books are available through Amazon or your favorite independent bookstore.

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8 Comments

Filed under Historical Fiction, Opinion

8 responses to “FROM MY READING CHAIR

  1. Thank you, Arletta, for your kind, beautiful, insightful words about Dina. I also enjoyed your view of the other readings.
    From Jerusalem with love,
    Brigitte

  2. Dear Brigitte,
    It was my pleasure to write about Dina. All your books are exceptional in subject matter and writing style. Enjoy the Book Fair and visits with family and friends.

  3. Always glad to get some recommendations, Arletta! Thanks.

  4. Arletta,
    I picked up the link to your blog from the WWW listserve. I am currently reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany and thoroughly enjoying it. Susan Vreeland blends real and fictional characters so well and offers a wonderful glimpse into the time period. I, too, have included real historic figures in my fictional work and always like to study how other people do it.

  5. Hi Cynthia,
    Welcome to my Blog! I enjoyed Vreeland’s work, tho’ she went over long on the glass making details and bicycling…but shed light on how important the latter was in giving freedom to folks at that time in history. Tiffany plays an important part in BY GRACE as does Jane Addams; Teddy Roosevelt appears briefly at a ball for the early breakfast!…fun to write. Vreeland is to be at the Historical Novel Conference in San Diego in June.

  6. I agree about Vreeland’s excess glass making details but haven’t gotten to the bicycle part yet. The Historical Novel Conference is new to me so I Googled it. Sounds really interesting but not in my budget for this year! Thanks for bringing the Historical Novel Society to my attention for the future.

  7. Glad to bring HNS to your attention. It started in Great Britain and now comes here in the odd years. I attended in ’05 and ’09 with a great showing of WWW members also. See you in Seattle for WWW?

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