Amy BelleThis is a British period drama, not unlike a Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s based on a real life portrait of Dido Belle, a mixed-race niece of the Lord Chief Justice of England, and her blonde cousin. There is a lovely romance, but it is also about a decision the Chief Justice made in the courts, which contributed to the eventual abolition of the slave trade. It’s a great story, with lots of familiar British actors.

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The wild air by Rebecca Mascull

Cynthia The Wild AirIf you love historical novels with a strong female lead then this is the story for you. The early years of aviation and the theatres of World War I are wonderfully described – the research by the author shining through. The horror of war and its affect on people is handled well – with an uplifting sentiment at the end that was not cheesey (if only everyone’s war horror could end in hope!). Della was a great character who had the strength and support to follow her dream of becoming a pilot in an arena where men ruled the skies. Women like Della (most of whom are not part of our history lessons) are important and I thank them for paving the way for us modern day women.

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Code name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Amy Code Name VerityI do love novels set during WWII, and this may be my first young adult WWII story. It begins as a written confession from Queenie, who has been captured in France, and she tells the story of how she and her best friend Maddie, a pilot, ended up there. There’s a lot about being a pilot, some of what it was to be a woman in the air force, and about the French resistance. Though torture is involved, there is little gory detail, and the book is gently amusing at times, and is a great story of friendship and loyalty.

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The wicked city by Beatriz Williams

Cynthia wicked cityI loved the story of Geneva in prohibition in New York. Beatriz created a distinctive voice for her that transported me to the era of bootleggers, clubs and prohibition enforcers. There were a few twists and turns in the story which kept me interested. The only downfall to the story was the dual storyline of modern day Ella. This story was not as strong as Geneva’s, it was only a fraction of the story and could easily not of been included.

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A few right thinking men by Sulari Gentill

Amy A Few Right Thinking MenSet in Sydney in the 1930s, A Few Right Thinking Men is an historical, cosy mystery. Rowland Sinclair is a wealthy artist, turned amateur sleuth. I really enjoyed the setting (they also went to Yass!), and the characters were suitably quirky and amusing. I found it more about the political history of New South Wales than the murder mystery, but there was just enough intrigue to keep the story going, and I wouldn’t say no to finding out what’s next for Rowly and his friends.

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The scret river by Kate Grenville

Susan The secret river.jpgThe secret river, written by Kate Grenville in 2005, is a historical novel about an early 19th century Englishman transported to Australia for theft. I love this title and have read the book a couple of times. It is an older publication, however I really enjoy the factual story of William Thornhill who was transported from the slums of London to NSW for the term of his natural life. William Thornhill ends up a free man who sails up the Hawkesbury River to claim some land.

However, it is a little confronting when the land he claims is actually owned by the Aboriginal people. The book illustrates the cruelty the Aboriginals faced due to people like William claiming the land, although he wasn’t as bad as some of them.

The book really focuses on the reality of the settler’s life, about ownership, the dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is part of a trilogy about early Australia, along with The Lieutenant, published in 2008 and Sarah Thornhill, published in September 2011.

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Suite Francaise

Amy Suite FrancaiseThough only two parts of the suite were finished before the author was taken from her family and killed in a concentration camp in 1942, the scale of this novel is still so grand. In the first part, people flee Paris as the Germans approach, and in the second, a country village is occupied. The setting is breathtakingly beautiful, the different reactions to the situation are raw, shocking, tender, brutal and very real. It’s hard to separate the book from the author’s real life tragedy, and why should we? The film focuses on just one part of the book, where it is set in the country village. Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts and Kristin Scott Thomas ( American, Belgian and English) do a great job playing the French and German characters and it is a moving film.

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The Paris architect by Charles Belfoure

Amy The Paris ArchitectI really like the idea behind the book – a French architect, during WWII, designs hiding places for Jewish people. The plot is fast paced and the resolution satisfying, but for me, the characters were stereotypical and the character development was off. The dialogue was anachronistic and I had a sense of the author being American. I can see why a lot of people would love this book, but the language and characters were not quite what I look for.

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