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.
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.
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.
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.
When this was named as the choice for our January book club meeting, I had never heard of it. However, when I looked it up online and saw that it was historical fiction with a basis in genuine historical events, and also had scores of 5-Star reviews, I had high hopes for it. Continue reading “Book Review: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson”
What a read. Seriously, what a read! Written by double-Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety is a titanic, mammoth of a novel. It’s not so much a book that you read as much as live through.
The story focuses on the lives of Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins and George-Jacques Danton; three of the primary architects of the French Revolution. Set over 900 pages, Mantel takes the reader on a journey to discover how three misfit boys grew to be some of the most powerful men in eighteenth century France and then fell from grace. The tale closes as Danton and Demoulins, overthrown by their former friends, are taken to the guillotine.
Millicent Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Emily Wilding Davison… these are names all synonymous with the battle for women’s suffrage. The name of Lady Constance Lytton is perhaps less well known to the general public, but she was just as committed to the cause and suffered just as much in fight to win the vote as her more famous comrades.
This biography by Lyndsey Jenkins does a marvellous job of explaining how a titled lady and the daughter of a former Viceroy of India came to be incarcerated in Holloway Prison and staged one of the most famous hunger strikes of the suffragette campaign. It chronicles her childhood and early life, her domestic concerns, her difficult relationship with her mother as well as her remarkable career as a suffragette.
As I’ve spent the month rereading Jane Austen’s published works, it also seemed appropriate that I should get through the most recent of her many biographies: Jane Austen at Home by the queen of TV historians, Lucy Worsley.
LADY HELENA INVESTIGATES
BY JANE STEEN
Publication Date: March 14, 2018
eBook; 359 Pages
Series: Scott-De Quincy Mysteries, Book One
Genre: Historical Mystery
A reluctant lady sleuth finds she’s investigating her own family.
Step into Lady Helena Whitcombe’s world with the first novel in a series that will blend family saga and mystery-driven action with a slow-burn romance in seven unputdownable investigations.
1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfil any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.
The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.
Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?
The Napoleonic period is one of the most fascinating in history. It was a time when truly ‘great’ characters changed the face of Europe forever: when a British, Spanish and Portuguese force under a (nominally) Irish general in the name of the German king of Britain fought a French, Polish and German force under the command of a low-born Coriscan who through the merit of his own genius had been proclaimed Emperor of the French. In addition to being a an absolute knot of nationalities and political finagling, it laid the foundations of our modern world.
I’ve been accruing books of every variety about this period since I was in my early teens and as my love of the period shows no sign of diminishing, I thought I would collate my top recommendations for Napoleonic reads for anyone looking to learn more about the period. Continue reading “The Napoleonic Wars: My Reading Recs”