Tag: Historical

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

five_stars

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, one of the best I’ve read for a while. Having read and loved The Thirteenth Tale, I knew I’d be in for a good solid story with Once Upon A River. Several times during the book I was reminded of the writing style of Charles Dickens – a story with proper grounding and characters with personality.

Once Upon A River

Set in 1887 on the banks of the River Thames, much of the story centres around the The Swan, a local inn where storytelling is the entertainment and where more beer means more embellishment. One evening, an injured man stumbles in carrying a young girl who appears to be dead. A little girl who sometime later is alive. This is a time when superstition and supernatural blurred into real life and a dead girl coming back to life is a fantastical story for all to tell and re-tell.

The girl has three possible identities, she is either Alice, Amelia or Ann, and none is certain of her identity even when she lives with two of the families claiming her.  The girl herself has lost the ability to speak and there is frustration from the Vaughan’s who desperately want her to be Amelia, their daughter who disappeared two years ago.

The river plays a large part of the story and to add to the strange goings on with a child coming back to life, there is rain, more rain, and inevitable flooding which seeps into their homes and lives as the river becomes a torrent.

Amidst superstition and folklore there’s also skulduggery, ransoms and beatings.  Once Upon A River is a fulfilling story which has a depth of storytelling which is rare these days.  I absolutely loved it.

 

 

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The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

4 and half 1

 

This is one amazing book!! I was first attracted to this book because I saw a clip on BBC TV that after actually flying one of these early machines, Rebecca Mascull went away and re-wrote all the flying parts of the book. It looked so very interesting and I just had to read it. The story roughly covers a period of ten years from 1909 when Auntie Betty arrived to the Dobbs family, and is set mainly in the Humberside and Lincolnshire areas.

The Wild Air

Della Dobbs is a quiet child, doesn’t speak if she can get away with it, and has a father who ‘chooses’ to be an invalid and doesn’t care for his girl offspring. When Auntie Betty arrives from America, Della’s interest is piqued by Betty’s talk of America and, in particular, kite flying. In those early days, Della and Auntie Betty make their own kites – simple ones, box kites and introduce more strings. The strange little boy on the beach is fascinated by the two women with kites and Dudley quickly forms a friendship with Betty and Della. For years, Della and Dud correspond while Dud is away at school and Della grows up and moves on to aeroplanes.

Della is an absolute inspiration to young women. She never gave up in learning to fly, no matter how tough the male aviators and mechanics made it for her. As war approaches, the men go off to fight and the women are expected to do the jobs left behind. Della is hugely practical, a mechanic in her own right, and begins to be taken seriously in a man’s world.

There’s so much to this book that it’s difficult to put in words, without giving the whole story away, just how fabulous the characters are and how the weaving of each of their own stories fits into Della’s life.

There’s love, tragedy and death packed into this fabulous story, and is enjoyable whether you have an interest in flying or not. It’s superbly written and very well researched. 

I would certainly, without a doubt, read anything written by Rebecca Mascull.

Rebecca Mascull

 

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Viking Wolf by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

4 and half 1

 

Viking Wolf

This is the second instalment of the Viking Warrior series, Viking Thunder being the first. Viking Wolf carries on where Viking Thunder left off and opens towards the end of the crossing by boat from England to Erik’s homeland. Elswyth and Faline took the decision to leave their village where both had bad memories and nothing to stay for, and joined the Vikings on their ship home.

Elswyth meets Erik’s brother and feels a shiver of danger, not wanting to be left alone with him. On Erik’s home turf, Elswyth feels that she is looked down on and not to be trusted by his kin folk. She slowly makes friendships when sickness sweeps the village but is mistrusted by some. There is plenty of Viking folklore, lust and eroticism to keep the reader entertained, with the story moving at a good pace and a touch of fantasy giving a very satisfactory ending.

As with each of Emmanuelle’s books, this is very well written and edited and I look forward to the next in this action-packed Viking series.

 

First in the series: Viking Thunder  Viking Thunder 2

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Four Stars

This is an old fashioned who-dun-it style crime story but with a fantasy twist. No year is mentioned but I feel it is set around 1900 – give or take a decade or two.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered each evening for seven days. Aiden Bishop has the task of solving the crime from the perspective of eight guests at the celebratory party at Blackheath before he can leave the house. Each morning he wakes in the body of a different guest and re-lives the same day using the skills of the ‘host’ body to his advantage. Some host bodies seem, at first, to be of little use in solving the murder but each has something, even if it’s only being in the right place or hearing the right conversation, to find who did it.

This book is quite unique and requires a high level of concentration to remember what has already been learned and to keep up with new perspectives of repeated events.  It’s very well written and the author must have an amazingly well organised mind to create such a faultless and intricate plot as this one.

 

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shrive

four-and-a-half-stars

The Stars Are Fire is a tragic fictional story based on real events in Maine, east coast of America, in 1947. This is a sophisticated story of love, loss, tragedy and striving against all odds to do the best for your family.

The Stars Are Fire

Grace is in a fairly loveless marriage with Gene. They have two children but they weren’t conceived in the raptures of which Grace’s friend, Rosie, talks about, in fact, Grace hardly dares believe that bedroom relations can be pleasurable. Times are very hard in spring 1947, and Grace’s only happiness is spending daytimes chatting with Rosie, sharing the odd half grapefruit which was difficult to come by. There has been nothing but rain for weeks and everything is sodden and muddy until, all at once, it isn’t. The sun shines, the ground dries up and it continues like this until everything is tinder dry. With the drought, the inevitable fires start and when one night Grace and Rosie’s husbands go off to help put out the fires, the two women have to abandon their homes and rush to the waters edge to keep safe. When only one of the husbands returns, there are tough days ahead, both emotionally and financially.

Shreve’s writing style is quite fine, always beautifully written, and I think you have to have read two or three of her books to really appreciate the subtlety and nuances which seem to speak louder than the written word. Her books are not particularly gripping or un-put-downable, but do have a certain intrigue and sophistication, and I found those qualities in this book.

Anita Shreve

 

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The Pilot's WifeStrange Fits of PassionLight on Snow

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Sonata by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

four-and-a-half-stars

Italian Sonata is the second volume in Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s noire trilogy, the first being The Gentlemen’s Club. This one is a full and complete story in itself but to get the most from the characters, particularly Maud and Henry, I would advise you to read The Gentlemen’s Club first.

Italian Sonata 1

Italian Sonata is set in 1899, mostly at a castle on cliffs high above the sea near Sorrento, Italy. Henry fell deeply and unconditionally in love with Maud in The Gentlemen’s Club and this book follows straight on, travelling through Europe for Maud and Henry’s honeymoon. Henry’s sister, Cecile, at the insistence of Maud, accompanies them on their honeymoon. Part way through their European tour, Cecile stops off at the ‘Castello’ for a few days to give Maud and Henry time and privacy on their honeymoon. Little does naïve Cecile know that she is a sexual pawn between debauched Lorenzo and his promiscuous sister. The Castello holds its own dark secrets and before long Cecile is out of her depth.

Emmanuelle’s writing is impeccable. She writes beautifully and poetically of places, people and, of course, erotic sex scenes.  She uses different language depending on the scenes – sweet roses and moist petals for loving scenes, and thrusts, clenches and aggression for brute sex.

This noire series is a work of art.  The eroticism, especially in The Gentlemen’s Club, is second to none and, unlike many other books of the erotic genre, Emmanuelle’s have a great storyline.  There is a good sense of time and place with the countries of Europe being accurately and beautifully described, and the dark, gothic feel of the castle, the clothing and smells, puts you right back to the turn of the Victorian century.

The Gentlemen's Club 1Italian Sonata 1

 

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an Trodai: Scolai by John Breen Wren

Five Stars

Well written and well told, a story of ancient Ireland from an American author with strong Irish roots.

an Trodai Scolai

This first book of a trilogy tells the story of Scolai, born of an invading Viking warrior and a young village girl who dies in childbirth.  We follow Scolai’s early years growing up with his adoptive parents and his longing to be a great warrior when he sees and is told of the numerous battles going on in early 900’s Ireland.

John Wren is not afraid to ‘tell it as it is’ and if you have already read any of his previous books you won’t be surprised that there are plenty of severed arms, heads and spilled guts.  The story and Ireland is well researched and told with a slight American slant and even a touch of mystical folklore.  The Celtic names and place names add to the authenticity but can be a little difficult to pronounce.  There is a glossary of words and characters at the back of the book which is both informative and helpful.

This was a pleasure to read and I very much look  forward to reading an ​​Trodai: Laoghaire, the second instalment of this trilogy. an Trodai Laoghaire

 

 

John Breen Wren

 

 

John Breen Wren’s website