Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

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Lord John and…   Diana Gabaldon    books published 2003-2007

Lord John Grey is a secondary character in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander  series who the author has made the principle character of a series of mysteries set the eighteenth century. Lord John made his first appearance as a teen-aged adjutant to his elder brother Lord Melton in Dragonfly in Amber part of the Outlander series, and has been in each of the following books in that series.  Gabaldon has written the Lord John is “a very interesting character…and he appears only intermittently in the Outlander novels, no reason why he couldn’t be having interesting adventures off stage, on his own time”.
Beginning with the short story Lord John and the Hellfire Club, now included in last year’s novella collection, the first complete novel, Lord John and the Private Matter, then Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade and Lord John and the Hand of Devils, a novella collection both published last year. Gabaldon takes us to the one eighteenth century place the Frasers have never been, London itself. Peopled with her usual mix of astutely rendered fictional characters, and a sprinkling of actual people of the era ranging from Diderot to Horace Walpole and Sir Frances Dashwood, the novels follow Lord John Grey in investigating everything from murder to political intrigue.
Lord John is a  Major in his brother’s regiment, a loyal son to both his deceased father and lively mother, and the brother who must be both head of the family and commander of the family supported regiment.  He is well acquainted with the many layers and possibilities of both 1750s London and the German battlefields of the Seven Years War, indeed, he reflects in several places on the difficulties and stern honor required of a being a soldier. Those who have read the Outlander series know that Lord John is a homosexual, and this strand of his personality and its reflection in the plot is handled with sensitivity and an awareness of both the social mores of the period and the wishes of the human heart.

Diana Gabaldon’s ability to pull characters out of the background of her previous books and have them seamlessly take on additional roles is a talent that her readers can only wonder at. This series with Lord John Grey is a digression from the major Outlander series, but one that readers will welcome for the chance to spend time in her wonderfully well rendered world of the eighteenth century, and the chance to see the exuberance of London through her, and Lord John’s, eyes.

– M. Spore-Alhadef

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Away is the stuff great novels are made of: soaring imagination, heartbreak, love, steamy situations, unusual characters, sublime sentences, and I could go on and on!

“Rousing, utterly absorbing… a compact epic, an adventure story, a survival tale and an incredible journey wrapped up in a historical novel cloaked in a love story… exquisitely unsentimental novel about exile, hope and love in its various incarnations — maternal, romantic, sexual, platonic, inconvenient, unruly, unreasonable, abiding.” –SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

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 Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel March, is a superb blend of historical fiction and stunning prose. “Brooks re-creates a year in the life of a remote British village decimated by the bubonic plague. Inspired by the actual town commemorated as Plague Village because of the events that transpired there in 1665-1666, Brooks tells her harrowing story from the perspective of 18-year-old Anna Frith, a widow with two young sons.” – Publisher’s Weekly

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Building on a brief, if intriguing, passage in Moby Dick, this ambitious novel relates the story of Captain Ahab’s much younger wife. The book’s heart is its title character and narrator, Una, one of the most independent and intelligent voices to appear in recent historical fiction. By the time of her marriage to Ahab, she has known passion, terror, pain, and joy beyond the ordinary and is her beloved captain’s intellectual and emotional soul mate. — Library Journal

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