Booklist Reviewers Turn a Phrase
"Would she like to become a dominatrix? Turns out, the whip-smart
Eisenberg isn't into whips (or chains, for that matter)."
From the Editor
And the Winner Is . . .
I recently heard a family story that stopped me in my tracks: some unnamed ancestor, a forebear of my beloved grandmother (who is 99 years young, bless her), was the court jester of some long-ago Norwegian king but fell out of the monarch's favor and was forced to flee across the frozen fields and icy fjords to safety in another country. Is that true?, I asked. I was answered with a shrug. It's probably apocryphal, I was told, but the relative who told me certainly believed it.
I know I wanted it to be true, and my first thought was to dig in and do some historical research. I have always wanted to know more about my family tree, and a hook like this was all I needed to join the long line of amateur genealogists who keep places like Ancestry.com in business.
But then I had a thought: What if I invested all that time, energy, and hard-earned capital only to learn that the story wasn't true—not only did I not have a relative who provoked the wrath of a king, but I had no jester ancestor whatsoever? What if all my Norwegian kin had been merely stablehands and scullery maids?
(It occurs to me that this fear of unexceptionalism may be what's behind the whole past-lives phenomenon: until there is an Ancestry.com for our previous existences, those of us who believe we are reincarnated kings and queens may say so, knowing that no contrary proof can be produced.)
In the end, I decided I would rather not know. Better to enjoy a pleasing what-if than to suffer the disappointment of a never-was. Which, I suppose, makes me more a fan of historical fiction than historical fact. I hope you'll enjoy these selections from the April 15, 2013, issue of Booklist, our Spotlight on Historical Fiction. And for more on historical faction, see Brad Hooper's "Great Reads: Latin America in Historical Fact—and Historical Fiction."
Spotlight on Historical Fiction
By Robert Lyndon
Readers who settle into this utterly engrossing historical adventure thinking it's going to be about the Norman Conquest are in for a surprise. Yes, it begins in 1072, and several of the major characters are Normans, but its reach extends far beyond the shores of England.
Top 10 Historical Fiction
By Brad Hooper
From an intriguing new way of looking at WWII, to a masterful reconstruction of the court of Henry VIII, to an authentic depiction of Montana in 1960, these historical novels, the best Booklist has reviewed between April 15, 2012, and April 1, 2013, make exceptionally good time-transporters.
Blood & Beauty
By Sarah Dunant
Chapter 1 of Dunant's latest historical feast opens on August 11, 1492, with the people of Rome rejoicing, "We have a pope!" The cardinal, who has just been elevated to the papal throne after five days of voting by the College of Cardinals, is a Spaniard by the name of Rodrigo Borgia, who chooses to reign as Pope Alexander VI.
Brad Says: The Characteristics of a Good Historical Novel
By Brad Hooper
In the May 15, 2011, issue of the New York Times Book Review, novelist Jane Smiley reviewed the novel Caleb's Crossing, by the esteemed historical novelist Geraldine Brooks. The novel is set in late seventeenth-century Puritan New England. Smiley proposes that "the triumph of ‘Caleb's Crossing' is that Bethia [the primary character] succeeds as a convincing woman of her time, and also in communicating across centuries of change in circumstance, custom and language." It just so happens that this sentence encapsulates two of the six fundamental qualities of good historical fiction.
By Gary Schanbacher
The Purgatory (or Purgatoire) is a river in southern Colorado. The river and the title serve as a metaphor for the odyssey of Thompson Grey, a young Indiana farmer whose efforts to overcome his personal purgatory form the core of this beautifully written novel.
Books for Youth
In the Shadow of Blackbirds
By Cat Winters
Winters' debut ropes in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, WWI shell shock, national prejudice, and spirit photography, and yet never loses focus from its primary thesis: desperation will make people believe—and do—almost anything.
Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth
By Ilene Cooper
A wide-ranging cast of memorable characters stand out in this year's crop of best historical fiction titles for young people, all reviewed in Booklist between April 15, 2012, and April 1, 2013.
Bo at Ballard Creek
By Kirkpatrick Hill
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
When Bo was just a newborn, two strong, tenderhearted gold miners saved her from life in an orphanage and brought her to Ballard Creek, a gold-mining camp and Eskimo village along the Koyukuk River in Alaska.
Read-alikes: Gold Diggers
By Ann Kelley
There are plenty of books out there on the California gold rush, but this list focuses on the Klondike gold rush, also known as the Yukon gold rush and the Alaska gold rush (1896–99). As if the words digging for gold aren't enough to build excitement in young readers, the titles listed below also feature hazardous journeys, stowaways (both human and cat), and even a dog-napping.
By Vince Vawter
It's hot in Memphis during the summer of 1959—in all kinds of ways. Things heat up for the book's 11-year-old narrator when he takes over his pal Rat's paper route; meeting new people is a horror for the boy because he stutters.
Monday, April 1, 2013 9:46 am
Hostile Questions: Sara Zarr
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
Little-known fact: Before Sara Zarr became the beloved National Book Award-finalist author of Story of a Girl, How to Save a Life, and The Lucy Variations, she was a pirate known only as "Sarazar," and the southeastern seaboard was interminably terrorized by her jolly band of peg-legged buccaneers.
Monday, April 1, 2013 12:01 am
ABBC 2012: Literary Fiction
Posted by: Neil Hollands
The All-the-Best-Books Compilation (ABBC) is finished for 2012! I've compiled 180 different best-of-the-year lists and awards into one big spreadsheet, in the process finding over 2,700 books that were mentioned as one of the best books published in the U.S. in 2012.
Monday, March 11, 2013 6:11 pm
Posted by: Mary Burkey
Today's video: Kirby Heyborne on recording the audiobook Scowler, the newest from author Daniel Kraus. You may have joined the Heyborne fan club at the American Library Association's annual meeting, where he rocked the house with his Ode to Librarians at the Odyssey Award celebration.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 11:09 am
Bookends is on Spring Break
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy and Lynn: Bookends is on Spring Break this week. Keep Calm and Pretend You're at the Beach . . . with a good book!
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 6:00 am
Women's Fiction: Brit Lit
Posted by: Rebecca Vnuk
In the late 1990s, right after Bridget Jones took the world by storm, it seemed everywhere you looked, her pals were crowding the bookshelves as well. Here are some of my personal favorites from the backlist. If you've still got some on the shelf, why not dig them out of your fiction collection for a quick display?