Archive for the 'Historical Fiction' Category



Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  330

RAC:  Yes

The five Taylor sisters live with their mother in Spirit Vale where she works as a medium who speaks to dead people.  The older sisters, Mimi and Jane, have long doubted their mother’s clairvoyance abilities, but their younger sisters all seem to believe.  The twins even seem to have a special gift of their own.  When their fates all collide together on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Jane becomes worried when her twin sisters show fear that something bad will befall the ship.  Can all of the sisters survive one of the world’s most famous disasters?

This story weaves true and false facts about the Titanic’s famous fall.  The introduction of the Taylor sisters adds a bit of intrigue as they explore the very popular trend of clairvoyance for the time.  Famous faces make appearances throughout the story and are fun for reader’s to identify.  The motivations of the five sisters are all clear and justified as they each try to find their own way in this world, but the ending is unexpected and not everyone makes it to New York.  Recommended to fans of historical fiction and the Titanic.

The Returning by Jean Sorrell

Genre:  Realistic/Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  245

RAC Book:  Yes

This heartwarming story follows a young girl named Sara, who never gives up hope that her father will return from WWII despite the six years since his disappearance.  She meets a young girl named Nathalie, who is a Jewish refugee, and the two of them become close friends.  Nathalie’s father is still missing as well.  When a new preacher comes to town named Emmett, the two of them begin to wonder if he is either Sara’s missing father or if his spirit was transferred into his body.  The man looks remarkably like him, but does suffer from some facial scars, which make it hard to prove.  Also, he has no memory of anything before Iwo Jima.  Sara and Nathalie find a book about soul transference and start to wonder if this is in fact her father.  Unfortunately, no one else wants to see the similarities between Emmett and Sara’s father and they begin to pressure her to let the situation drop and accept that her father is dead.  Can Sara give up on her father?  Will Emmett ever get his memory back?

This story is both historical and modern at the same time, which many readers will find refreshing.  A lot of people like to read about WWII era stories, but Sorrell has managed to put a new and unexpected twist on this time period with her introduction of soul transference.  She also does a nice job of developing all of the characters so that the reader can understand how each person feels in this difficult situation.  The friendship between the two girls is pure and complex, which makes their actions believable and understandable.  The story will draw in readers from the beginning and hold them until the end.

 

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

Genre:  Historical Fiction

RAC:  Yes

This WWII story follows Sarah in 1942 and Julia in 2002.  Sarah’s family is rounded up by the French police and sent to a detention center, but her little brother refused to go and hid in a small closet in their room.  Sarah locked him in and kept the key promising to come back later in the day for him.  She did not think they would actually be detained since it was the French police and not the Germans rounding them up. When she realized she would not be going back to her home her and her father tried to leave to get her brother, but the police would not allow them out.  She held onto the key for weeks praying to find a way back to him.  In 2002 Julia is a reporter who is assigned an article on the roundup of Jewish families by French police.  She is shocked to find that many people living in Paris had no idea such a thing took place.  As she comes across Sarah’s story she becomes determined to find out what happened to the little girl.

This is a different angle on a topic that has been covered in numerous ways.  As the story moves between Sarah and Julia you cannot help but get immersed in finding out what happened to Sarah and her family.  Sarah’s journey is truly amazing and realistic as she is forced to face adult issues as a child.  The characters are written incredibly well in a complex, multi-faceted way.  Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about this era.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

**Student Review** by Chloe Hlas

Genre:  Historical Fiction

I think one of the main themes of this book was to poke fun at people who during the Renaissance, still believed in Middle Ages chivalry. The author basically murders the concept of knights displaying chivalry through Don Quixote’s hilariously ridiculous adventures. This book really helped me understand the Middle Ages mindset, and how the Renaissance evolved from it. Don Quixote’s incessant belief in all of the chivalrous concepts he’s read about in his old books brilliantly illustrates how people thought at the time, and how they themselves ridiculed anyone who had believed what they had once believed during the late Middle Ages, and on through the Renaissance.  This book was definitely worth reading to me, and significantly helped me in my studies of the late Middle Ages-Renaissance era. This book is designed to be humorous, yet informative at the same time to anyone learning about the mindset shift from late Middle Ages to Renaissance. It showed how people during the Renaissance time period reacted to fellow community members who believed in knights displaying a certain degree of chivalry.

This book was very useful to me, especially when studying the differences between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (particularly the state of mind). It was amusing to read about all of Don Quixote’s adventures as he set out to save others and conquer evil, all in the name of his beloved lady, Dulcinea del Toboso. He devotes all of his actions to her, fighting windmills and saving princesses kidnapped by monks all in her name. I hadn’t expected Sancho to lie to Don Quixote and say that an evil enchanter has transformed his love, Dulcinea, into a peasant girl, which practically drives Don Quixote crazy as he strives to change her back. Sancho had been Don Quixote’s right hand man the whole book, and always tried to keep him out of ridiculous situations, and it shocked me that he would do something like that, which he knew would affect Don Quixote so deeply. However, it was hilarious to read about what the Duke and Duchess tell him would undo the hoax of Dulcinea’s enchantment. This was definitely a good book, and I certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books that mock historic time periods. I would’ve read this book on my own time, outside of class.

 

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

**Student Review** by Lauren Pyle

Genre: Historical Fiction

Told from five different points of view, The Poisonwood Bible incorporates the cultural arrogance of the United States with the ancient traditions of a Congolese village. During the 1950s, a radical Baptist minister, Nathan Price, brings his family to Africa in order to save the “unenlightened” souls of the Congolese. His four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May, narrate the novel in the present tense with varying attitudes towards their new life. His wife, Orleanna, however, tells her side of the story as though grieving over past events, creating foreshadowing for the reader.

The oldest daughter, Rachel, is a materialistic teenager who hates her new life, while her younger sisters are excited, though each for their own reasons. Leah, for example, is overly enthused, like her father, at the prospect of welcoming more souls into their newly established Baptist church, while her twin sister Adah, a cripple and mute, silently observes her new surroundings with interest, though slightly detached from the rest of her family. The youngest Price daughter, Ruth May, quickly becomes friends with the children of the village and spends hours exploring the surrounding area.

The conversion of the villagers to the Baptist faith proves difficult, and Nathan Price faces many challenges in the old traditions and blasphemous (according to Reverent Price) rituals of the Congolese. He and the chief have several disagreements on the incorporation of Jesus into the Congolese faith. Meanwhile, the Price family begins to grow apart due to their varying faith convictions, and the headstrong Leah butts heads with her father over many issues. Amidst all these familial battles, the battle for the independence of the country is taking place, causing anxiety for the whole village. It appears as though the Price family, who hoped to stay in the country for at most a year, will have to stay longer due to tensions between the United States and the Congo. Dry spells, disease, violence, and the death of one of the Price family members threaten to widen the divide between the women of the Price family and Nathan Price.

This story is breathtakingly beautiful in its storytelling, and incorporates the many aspects of light versus dark, religious intolerance, familial relations and love, growing up, the ideas of individuality and true justice, as well as many other universal themes. Kingsolver creates many wonderful and three-dimensional characters for the reader to enjoy, including many villagers, a CIA operative pilot, a foulmouthed parrot, the six-toed religious leader of the village, and a young schoolteacher, with whom Leah falls in love. The story itself is a political allegory that focuses on the point the author wishes to make clear to all: the guilt that all citizens of the United States share when violence is done and they “sit passively by”. The author, Barbara Kingsolver, expertly handled the story’s plot and situation, almost as if she had been there herself (which she hadn’t). Personally, I loved the book, and it seems to be a feel-good story, in its own way. For those who didn’t like Cry, the Beloved Country, trust me, this is completely different (I would know, because I really didn’t like Cry, the Beloved Country). I would give this novel five stars, for sure, because it often made me close the book and think about our society today, and how we must respond to crises similar to the ones in this book. RECOMMENDED.

 

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance

# of Pages:  389

RAC Book:  Yes

Anna Godbersen, the author of the Luxe series, has created a new and interesting series with Bright Young Things.  The story follows three young girls trying to make a life for themselves in New York City in the summer of 1929.  Letty and Cordelia run away from Ohio after Cordelia is forced into a marriage she does not believe in.  Letty’s goal is to sing for adoring fans, while Cordelia wants to find her long, lost father.  Meanwhile, Astrid is already rich and fashionable in New York, but desperately wants her boyfriend, Charlie, to show her the commitment she feels she deserves.  As the three girls’ lives intertwine the spirit and innocence of this time comes through in a way that will keep readers eager for more.

Godbersen once again created characters that readers will care about with a backdrop of the Roaring 20s at its best.  Many interesting characters are introduced, some a bit on the unsavory side, which keeps the reader guessing as to the true motives of everyone.  There are some remarkable coincidences in this story, which tends to happen in Godbersen’s stories, but most readers will be so caught up in the story they will be easily overlooked.  This is a fun, fresh, and exciting historical fiction novel for teens.

Past World by Ian Beck

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  353

RAC Book:  Yes

Pastworld is a theme park designed to look exactly like 1880’s London.  In this historically accurate world, anyone who comes to visit must abide by the dress, laws, language, and even technology found at this time.  Some people were born in Pastworld and do not realize it is merely a tourist attraction utilized mainly by the wealthy.  Others, like Caleb, travel to the old London in order to see what life was like back then.  The problem is that crime definitely existed in the 1880s and has crept up again in this new city.  Law officials are forbidden from using any technology not found during the 1880s to solve crimes.  When a Jack the Ripper type serial killer starts killing innocent people there seems to be no way of stopping him.  Meanwhile, Caleb is blamed for a crime he did not commit and must go on the run or risk spending the rest of his life in a historically accurate prison with an archaic judicial system.

The idea behind this story is very intriguing and sets itself up with lots of details and interesting characters.  The Fantom, or serial killer, is an interesting idea but the character ends the story feeling unfinished and undeveloped.  Readers who enjoy fantasy or historical fiction will enjoy the idea of this interesting tourist attraction, but may find the ending a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.



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