The invisible woman by Claire Tomalin

amy invisible womanThe Invisible Woman is the story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens. With so many letters destroyed, and lies told to maintain the public’s view of the great author, much of this story is guess work, or background history. I quite enjoyed the social history, and the details about Dickens’ work, but the lack of information about Nelly, the way she was erased from history, left her largely without personality, and the relationship between her and Dickens, without heart. I think I would have enjoyed an imagined version, told as a novel, better than this bringing together of scant facts and possibilities.

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The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Amy Thousand AutumnsIn 1799 a Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, arrives on Dejima, an island connected to Nagasaki, when all of Japan is closed to foreigners. Jacob needs to earn some money before he can return to the Netherlands, and the woman he is to marry. Instead, he falls in love while the world is changing. Like all of the David Mitchell novels I have read, this is beautiful, clever, lyrical, and wondrous. There’s also an awful lot of man stuff; sea voyages, men talking rubbish to each other, but it is a tale of love, faithfulness, adventure and learning.

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Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

Cynthia-Eagle-and-Crane.jpgSet in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Two Japanese have escaped an internment camp. The FBI agent investigating witnesses them falling from the sky in a biplane and seems to think there is more to the story, as one of the Japanese prisoners was once part of a barnstorming troupe. I enjoyed this story as we are taken back in time to the formation of the troupe through to the internment escape. The ending was a bit surprising (not in a good way) and let the story down a bit, but overall a good story.

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Amy TranscriptionI was always going to love this; WWII, espionage and Kate Atkinson are all right up my alley, and I wasn’t disappointed. Juliet Armstrong is 18 when she is recruited into MI5, and a job that is mundane and frightening at the same time. Juliet’s war, like that of so many others, was complicated, and ten years later people from her past turn up in her life and she must confront the past. The characters are compelling, the story is clever, funny, deeply insightful and surprising.

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The silence of the girls by Pat Barker

amy-silence-of-the-girls.jpgPat Barker has written some of my favourite WWI and WWII fiction, so I know her to be a brilliant teller of war stories. The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of The Iliad, and while it is a story of the Trojan War, it focuses on the plight of the women. The detail is graphic and harsh, there is much rape and violence, but it is also a moving tale of strength and hope, particularly that of women.

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The jade lily by Kirsty Manning

cynthia-the-jade-lily-e1542597698228.jpgA great historical novel based on the resettlement of Jewish refugees to Shanghai during World War II. I was amazed at how the human spirit can still shine in the most horrendous of situations. The descriptions of life in Shanghai were rich, with food featuring. The modern part of the dual storyline had a few unbelievable coincidences, but I could forgive the author as they made the story flow. I enjoyed the story, particularly learning about this unknown (to me) part of history.

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Mrs M by Luke Slattery

Ali Mrs MThis is the story of  Mrs Elizabeth MacQuarie, second wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, reformist Governor of New South Wales. The novel starts in Scotland at the end of Elizabeth’s story, not the beginning as you might imagine. So the story is a reflection of her journey and life in the colony and the shared dream of reform that Lachlan and Elizabeth planned when they came to Sydney.

This is a fictional account of historical figures and I am not sure of the reality of Elizabeth’s relationship with the architect who designed and built her famous ‘Chair’ at Sydney harbour. In the book her much older husband is often busy and distracted giving the younger  architect the appeal that makes this story  both romantic and intriguing. However there are personalities who wish to continue the brutal control that has been the norm of the colony , contradictory to the MacQuarie’s more benign influences which ultimately causes the downfall of the MacQuarie reign in the colonies.

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Radio girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Cynthia Radio GirlsHistorical novel based in the 20s and the beginning of the BBC. It is roughly based around the real life Hilda Maheson and made for an interesting story. Feminism, spies, Nazism, society’s expections, broadcasting are all covered. Unfortunately the style of writing did not work for me, which let the story down, but it was great subject matter.

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