A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee was this month’s book club read. It was a book I discovered by chance in some ways, being totally out-with my usual periods for historical fiction, and I am so glad I did. At the Granite Noir festival in Aberdeen a couple of months ago, the opening even featured the author being interviewed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. As my friend is a huge fan of Sturgeon, she was keen to go, and I am always keen to hear about a good historical crime novel.
Naval fiction seems to be the theme for all my April reads so far, though this wasn’t a deliberate choice! I’ve been so enjoying this second circumnavigation of Patrick O’Brian’s masterly series that Mauritius Command wound up jumping a few places up on my reading list. Book four in the series takes place a few years after the events of HMS Surprise and is based on the very real Mauritius campaign of 1810, putting our two protagonists right at the centre of it.
After last month’s series of Revolutionary/Napoleonic-era biographies, it was back to historical fiction for me as April opened. It’s been a long time since I read the Hornblower books – I think it must have been something like 2005 originally – and I took a notion this week that I wanted to go through both the novels and TV series again.
Although Mr Midshipman Hornblower was not the first book C.S. Forester wrote chronologically to feature the character, it is the book wherein Horatio Hornblower’s career in the navy first begins.
As you can probably tell from previous posts on this blog, I have a tremendous interest *cough*obsession*cough* in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. My bookshelves are packed full of biographies, studies of his campaigns and historical fiction set in the period in which he changed the face of Europe forever.
However, March is Women’s History Month and so this week I’ve been reading about his wife instead, in a fascinating biography by Professor Kate Williams. It made an interesting follower to last week’s biography of Marie Antoinette; containing as it did so many contrasts, similarities and parallels.
March is women’s history month and will be the theme for the rest of my book reviews for this month; a great excuse to get through some fascinating biographies!
The world’s favourite moustachioed detective is back for a new mystery by Sophie Hannah. I got this book at Christmas time so was well overdue for reading it. (The review will be spoiler free).
Returning home after lunch, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.
After some heavy-going historical reading throughout January, I wanted to start the month with something a little more light-hearted in February.
I love Star Trek – for me, best sci-fi series there’s ever been – particularly the Original Series and Next Generation. Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, CMO of the USS Enterprise is my absolute favourite character; he’s sassy, sarcastic, grumpy, competent, loyal as hell and a perfect foil to Kirk and Spock. So when I was hunting for McCoy or Scotty (another favourite) centric novels, Doctor’s Orders immediately stood out.
After enjoying Post Captain so much, I couldn’t really wait to get stuck into HMS Surprise, the third in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. It proved to be another excellent piece of Napoleonic naval fiction; rich in action and personal drama alike.
If Titans came in book form, Les Miserables would be the largest and strongest of them all. First published in 1862, it’s 1200 pages long – one of the longest novels ever written in fact – and it’s one of those works that transcends genre. It is, quite frankly, a literary masterpiece and it’s tied in first place with Persuasion as my all-time favourite novel.
There are few partnerships in English literature that can hold a candle to Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin and few regency-based authors who write with the meticulous assurance and perfect tone of Patrick O’Brien. It’s a recipe for perfect historical fiction.