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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Historical Fiction
Over the past 12 months, the historical fiction genre has been widely divergent in subject matter and approach. Even better, there is no reason to believe authorial creativity will dry up anytime soon. What follows is an annotated listing of the best historical fiction reviewed in Booklist between April 15, 2013, and April 1, 2014.
Forgiving the Angel: Four Stories for Franz Kafka. By Jay Cantor. Knopf, $24.95 (9780385350341).
Cantor’s newest fusion of biographical fact and intuited emotion is a commanding tribute to Franz Kafka, one of the twentieth century’s most revolutionary voices, and the stories Cantor presents here affirm his standing as a virtuoso writer of conscience.
Frog Music. By Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown, $27 (9780316324687).
The author flawlessly combines literary eloquence and vigorous plotting as she posits a clever solution to a historical crime that was never adequately solved, at the same time crafting an engrossing and suspenseful tale about moral growth, unlikely friendship, and breaking free from the past.
The Invention of Wings. By Sue Monk Kidd. Viking, $27.95 (9780670024780).
Inspired by the true story of early nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. Kidd is a master storyteller.
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. By Francine Prose. Harper, $26.99 (9780061713781).
Artistically and intellectually adventurous, Prose presents a house-of-mirrors historical novel built around a famous photograph by Brassaï of two women at a table in a Paris nightclub.
The Orenda. By Joseph Boyden. Knopf, $26.95 (9780385350730).
A noteworthy literary achievement, Boyden’s mesmerizing third novel sits at the confluence of three civilizations in seventeenth-century Ontario. In this deeply researched work, the author captures his characters’ disparate beliefs.
Quiet Dell. By Jayne Anne Phillips. Scribner, $28 (9781439172537).
Around a core of real people and events, Phillips has drawn a sad yet irresistible story of the defenseless victims of a serial murderer who possesses the lack of conscience so often true to his kind.
A Treacherous Paradise. By Henning Mankell. Knopf, $26.95 (9780307961228).
In 1904, Hanna Lundmark, a young widow from poverty-stricken northern Sweden, arrives in Lourenço Marques, a coastal town in Portuguese East Africa. Following a series of unexpected events, she becomes the owner of a prosperous brothel. This powerful work boasts a courageous, well-drawn heroine.
The Two Hotel Francforts. By David Leavitt. Bloomsbury, $25 (9781596910423).
Refugees from the German takeover of most of the continent are gathered in Lisbon, the only neutral port left in Europe, awaiting a chance to escape the war’s dangers. The novel’s brisk pace corresponds to the jittery atmosphere of the place and time.
The Valley of Amazement. By Amy Tan. Ecco, $29.99 (9780062107312).
Lulu, an American, is the only white woman running a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai in 1905. This is a prodigious, sumptuously descriptive, historically grounded novel.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. By Anton Disclafani. Riverhead, $27.95 (9781594486401).
Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets.
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