Recently received historical novels are featured in this month’s ‘Other Genres’ category. Included are three translated historical novels, and the latest novel by Colm Toibin, a re-working of Greek mythology. Highly recommended is The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve, set in Maine in 1947.
The revolution of the moon / Andrea Camilleri ; translated by Stephen Sartarelli.
“Sicily, 1677. From his deathbed, Charles III’s viceroy, the marquis of Castle Rodrigo, names his wife as his successor. Eleanora de Moura is a highly intelligent and capable woman who immediately applies her political acumen to heal the scarred soul of Palermo, a city afflicted by poverty, misery and the frequent uprisings that are their consequences. But the machinations of powerful men soon result in Donna Eleanora, whom the Church sees as a dangerous revolutionary, being recalled to Spain. Her rule lasted 27 days, the exact time it takes for the moon to complete a cycle.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The principle / Jérôme Ferrari ; translated from the French by Howard Curtis.
“Beguiled by the figure of German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who, with his notorious uncertainty principle disrupted the assumptions behind quantum mechanics, earning him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1932, a young, disenchanted philosopher attempts to right his own intellectual and emotional course, and take the measure of the evil at work in the contemporary world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The confessions of young Nero / Margaret George.
“In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman, or child. As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead. While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become an Emperor who became legendary.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The evening road / Laird Hunt.
“Ottie Lee Henshaw, is a startling, challenging beauty in small-town Indiana. Quick of mind, she navigates a stifling marriage, a lecherous boss, and on one day in the summer of 1930 an odyssey across the countryside to witness a dark and fearful celebration. Calla Destry is a determined young woman desperate to escape the violence of her town and to find the lover who has promised her a new life. On this day, the countryside of Jim Crow-era Indiana is no place for either. It is a world populated by frenzied demagogues and crazed revelers, by marauding vigilantes and grim fish suppers, by possessed blood hounds and, finally, by the Ku Klux Klan itself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The patriots : a novel / Sana Krasikov.
“When the Great Depression hits, Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn College for what appears to be a plum job in Moscow and the promise of love and independence. But once in Russia, she quickly becomes entangled in a country she can’t escape. Many years later, Florence’s son, Julian, will make the opposite journey, immigrating back to the United States. His work in the oil industry takes him on frequent visits to Moscow, and when he learns that Florence’s KGB file has been opened, he arranges a business trip to uncover the truth about his mother, and to convince his son, Lenny, who is trying to make his fortune in the new Russia, to return home. What he discovers is both chilling and heartbreaking: an untold story of what happened to a generation of Americans abandoned by their country.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The frozen hours : a novel of the Korean War / Jeff Shaara.
“June 1950. The North Korean army invades South Korea, intent on uniting the country under Communist rule. In response, the United States mobilizes a force to defend the overmatched South Korean troops, and together they drive the North Koreans back to their border with China. But several hundred thousand Chinese troops have entered Korea, laying massive traps for the Allies. In November 1950, the Chinese spring those traps. Allied forces, already battling stunningly cold weather, find themselves caught completely off guard as the Chinese advance around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. A force that once stood on the precipice of victory now finds itself on the brink of annihilation.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The stars are fire / Anita Shreve.
“In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms, joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain. And then the unthinkable happens and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
House of names / Colm Toibin.
“Judged, despised, cursed by gods she has long since lost faith in, the murderess Clytemnestra tells of the deception of Agamemnon, how he sacrificed her eldest daughter, her beloved Iphigenia, to the Trojan campaign; how Clytemnestra used what power she had, seducing the prisoner Aegisthus, turning the government against its lord; plotting the many long years until her beacon fires announce the king’s return. Electra, daughter of a murdered father, loyal subject of the rightful king, studies Clytemnestra and her lover with cold anger and slow-burning cunning. She watches as they walk the gardens and corridors of the palace. She waits for the traitors to become complacent, to believe they are finally safe; she waits for her exiled brother, Orestes, for the boy to become a warrior, for fate to follow him home. She watches and she waits, until her spies announce her brother’s return.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Retribution Road / Antonin Varenne ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
“Burma, 1852. Arthur Bowman, a sergeant in the East India Company, is sent on a secret mission during the Second Anglo-Burmese War. But the expedition is foiled, his men are captured and tortured. Throughout their ordeal, a single word becomes Bowman’s mantra, a word that will stiffen their powers of endurance in the face of unimaginable suffering: “Survive”. But for all that, only a small number escape with their lives. Some years later in London, battling his ghosts through a haze of alcohol and opium, Bowman discovers a mutilated corpse in a sewer. The victim appears to have been subjected to the same torments as Bowman endured in the Burmese jungle. And the word “Survive” has been daubed in blood by the body’s side. Persuaded that the culprit is one of the men who shared his captivity, Bowman resolves to hunt him down.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Anne Boleyn : a king’s obsession / Alison Weir.
“The second captivating novel in the series. An unforgettable portrait of the ambitious woman whose fate we know all too well, but whose true motivations may surprise you. Fresh from the cultivated hothouse of Renaissance France, Anne draws attention at the English court. A nobleman, a poet and a king vie for her love. She has a spirit worthy of a crown and a crown is what she seeks. It is a more powerful aphrodisiac than love. So she embarks on her perilous course, which will plunge a kingdom into turmoil.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)