This month’s selection for the ‘Other Genres’ category features Historical novels. From Ancient Rome to New York in the 1970’s, 18th century France to 1950’s rural America, and many eras in-between. All the new fiction in this selection offers fascinating reading of times past.
Early one morning : a novel / Virginia Baily.
“Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family. Claiming the woman’s son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge. Several decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained woman working as a translator. Always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, whose absence and the havoc he wrought on Chiara’s world haunt her. Then she receives a phone call from a teenager claiming to be his daughter, and Chiara knows it is time to face up to the past.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Noonday / Pat Barker.
“Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke and Kit Neville first met in 1914 at the Slade School of Art, before their generation lost hope, faith and much else besides on the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme. Now it is 1940, they are middle-aged, and another war has begun. London is a haunted city. Some have even turned to séances in an attempt to contact lost loved ones. As the bombs fall and Elinor and the others struggle to survive, old temptations and obsessions return, and all of them are forced to make choices about what they really want.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Last bus to wisdom / Ivan Doig.
“Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Montana Rockies, When Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate-bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical, is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The last midwife / Sandra Dallas.
“It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn’t imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides. But everything changes when a baby is found dead and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer. She didn’t commit the crime, but clearing her name isn’t so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that’s dangerous.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Numero zero / Umberto Eco ; translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon.
“1945, Lake Como. Mussolini and his mistress are captured by local partisans and shot in a summary execution. The precise circumstances of Il Duce’s death remain shrouded in confusion and controversy. 1992, Milan, Colonna, a depressed writer picking up hack work, is offered a fee he can’t refuse to ghost-write a memoir. As Colonna gets to know the team of journalists, he learns the paranoid theories of Braggadocio who is convinced that Mussolini’s corpse was a body-double and part of a wider Fascist plot. It’s the scoop he desperately needs. Without substantial evidence, Colonna is skeptical. But when a body is found, stabbed to death in a back alley and the paper is shut down, even he is jolted out of his complacency.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
City on fire / Garth Risk Hallberg.
“New York City, 1976. Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, are estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, are the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene, an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve. The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Dictator / Robert Harris.
“There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure and Cicero’s life is in ruins. Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles. His comeback requires wit, skill and courage. For a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome. But politics is never static and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Golden age : a novel / Jane Smiley.
“1987. A visit from a long-lost relative brings the Langdons together again on the family farm; a place almost unrecognizable from the remote Iowan farmland Walter and Rosanna once owned. The family has spread across the US, and whilst some have stayed reliably unchanged, others have evolved with the times. The eldest Langdon, Frank, always cold and distant, finally starts to break down the wall he built between himself and his wife, but can a loving relationship be grasped in their twilight years? Their son, Richie, finally out from under his brother Michael’s shadow, finds himself running for congress almost unintentionally, and completely underprepared. And Michael, on the brink of self-destruction, seems to make the biggest change of all, but could it be too good to be true?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The double life of Liliane : a novel / Lily Tuck.
“As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother who resides in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Landfalls / Naomi J. Williams.
“The gripping story of a dramatic eighteenth-century voyage of discovery. The historical Lapérouse expedition, a voyage of exploration that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)