There’s nothing quite like a wonderfully immersive historical fiction novel. It keeps us entranced, it keeps us coming back for more; it’s the ideal combination of education and entertainment. Me, I wish this had been a bigger genre when I was in school, because it would’ve made history that much more entertaining. You know how Indiana Jones finally made the study of archaeology undeniably cool? Yeah, same thing.
Last week, Tattered Cover Bookstore was nice enough to give us three excellent beach reads. This week, we turn to Brookline Booksmith, a Best of Boston A-List-er, for great new ideas for historical fiction lovers. Co-owner and Store Manager Dana Brigham comes forward with three of her favorites:
1. The High Divide by Lin Enger (Algonquin Books, May 2015)
This novel is based on the Hornaday expedition of 1886 and the Washita incident, and therefore set in 19th century Great Plains America. The book presents not merely an engaging backdrop, but also an emotional terrain that’s well worth traversing. Mixing pivotal story events with a family’s memorable sacrifice and devotion, Lin Enger’s latest is a definite page-turner. Brigham adds:
“The fictional characters populating the book are carefully drawn and fully real, and as with the best of historical fiction, one learns much and does not want the story to end.”
2. Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce (Viking Penguin, 2015)
Eddie Joyce’s debut novel is 100 percent American, through and through. Focusing on the Amendola family, a “tight-knit clan experiencing the joys, sorrows, clashes and love through several generations of history,” we indulge in a gripping tale. Staten Island is the setting and we move forward from early Ellis Island days through the 9/11 catastrophe.
“The author’s deep regard for his characters makes you wish you could share an evening with them; eating, drinking, talking into the wee hours. They mirror so much of what is essential in our national character and remind us of ‘the tired and the poor’ as the foundation of this country.”
3. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown and Company, May 2015)
In Kate Atkinson’s stunning follow-up to Life After Life, we reconnect with the Todd family. This time, the focal point is Ursula’s younger brother Teddy, and the story weaves through past, present and future. Especially for those who love Atkinson’s work, but also for those who adore a gripping novel that will keep them reading into the wee hours, A God in Ruins is destined to satisfy. As Brigham says:
“The author’s twists and turns are nonstop and the humor is laugh-out-loud funny. This is the best sort of novel; it makes you want to skip work keep reading. It’s brilliant.”
Much thanks to Dana Brigham and Brookline Booksmith. If you’re in the area, you should definitely stop in ‘cuz supporting independent booksellers goes down in the books as a good deed. Yes, pun intended.