Tag Archives: historical fiction

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

My professor introduced this novel by saying “Tess will change your life… but not in a good way.” Without a doubt, it has made me question the universe and all who inhabit it. My hatred of the patriarchy (aka Alec D’Urberville and Angel Clare) still shines like the sun in the middle of a hot summer day, but Tess of the D’Urbervilles has filled me with a cold, dark despair over the injustice of existence. As if a college English major didn’t already have to dwell on that.

One day Tess Durbeyfield learns that she actually descends from the noble D’Urberville family. Continue reading

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Filed under 4 stars, Book Reviews, Books

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

We despise spoilers. We avoid them at all costs, cover them with spoiler tags, and castigate those who share them. But a great book is one that we can appreciate even when we already know the ending. That’s how it was with The Song of Achilles: I knew the fates of the characters beforehand, but no matter how much I tried to brace myself, the last few chapters still broke my heart in the best possible way. Continue reading

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Cover via amazon.com.

Cover via amazon.com.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn revolves around Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York. The plot of this novel does not drift from event to event, at least not in a way that fits standard plot summary – rather, it flows like fine water, split into five sections that match the stages of Francie’s coming of age. With warm prose Betty Smith addresses themes such as poverty, loss of innocence, and gender roles in a book she claims to have written without any intended message for society.

I loved two aspects of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of which was experiencing Francie mature from a tiny girl to a mature woman. Continue reading

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son. Continue reading

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Cover via Goodreads. ARC provided by Goodreads and Riverhead Books.

Cover via Goodreads. ARC provided by Goodreads and Riverhead Books.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

A brother torn from his sister by a cruel twist of fate at only seven years of age. A caretaker drawn into the life of his enigmatic employer, a recluse with a large amount of riches. A repressed daughter who dates her mother’s old flame, setting inevitable consequences into motion. In his new 400-page novel, And The Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini does not tell the story one of character, of two characters, or of three – he delves into several generations. He takes apart the threads that tie us together and examines each string, sifting through the tapestry to find our souls.

Family. Hosseini’s narrative travels around the world in And the Mountains Echoed, from Afghanistan to France to the United States to the Greek island Tinos. Despite the broad scope of the story, there’s one theme that brings it all together: family. Continue reading

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

As a pacifist, I did not expect to love The Things They Carried – a book comprised of short stories centered on the Vietnam War. However, Tim O’Brien’s magnificent writing won me over quicker than I could say “callipygous.” This book isn’t just about the brutality of war, it’s about the human condition, the emotions that entrench us in times of desperation and loss. There isn’t much more I can contribute concerning the book that hasn’t been said so here are a few of my favorite passages from it. Continue reading

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5 stars.

Damn.

I don’t curse. When I finished The Storyteller, I couldn’t craft a coherent sentence. I just sat and thought to myself: damn.

Sage Singer bakes bread. It’s therapy for her, in addition to the grief support group she attends after losing her mother in a car crash. One day she befriends Josef Weber, a fellow support group goer and an elderly man who is a cherished member of their small town community. Sage soon realizes that Josef doesn’t just want her bread: he wants her to kill him. She learns that Josef has committed a terrible crime against humanity and that someone in her own family has suffered at the hands of the Nazis. With this connection in mind Sage struggles to make the right choice. Is it her to duty to deliver him from his wicked past, or would she bringing herself down to his level by doing so? Why is it so hard to find out what’s right, when faced with someone who’s done so much wrong? Continue reading

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In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

As a senior in high school, it scares me that I didn’t know how to properly pronounce “Khmer Rogue” before reading this book. Even worse was my ignorance of Cambodia’s history in the late 1970’s – the genocide that took place serves as a lesser-known Holocaust, the horrors these people endured similar to that of the Jews.

In the Shadow of the Banyan follows seven-year-old Raami as she witnesses the communist regime take everything away from her. Continue reading

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

In one of my college essay drafts I made a metaphor comparing myself to Jane Eyre; I liked it, but I don’t think my AP English Language teacher appreciated my line that went “one day, I will find my Mr. Rochester too.” I just loved Jane Eyre. Out of all of the classics I’ve read, it probably possesses the protagonist I relate to the most. I suppose it’s fitting then that the first retelling I read is one of, you guessed it, Jane Eyre.

Gemma is an orphan. First her parents passed away, then her caring uncle did as well, leaving her with her cruel aunt and teasing cousins. Yew House is a home that isn’t a home, and Gemma feels wonderful when sent to Claypoole, a private school far from her remaining family. But the faculty treats her like a servant and does not reward her outstanding academics. Once again Gemma is glad to move on once the school closes, taking a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. There she meets Mr. Sinclair, a rich, successful businessman who tests her ability to stay true to herself.

Margot Livesey retells Jane Eyre fantastically in The Flight of Gemma Hardy in regard to setting and basic plot. Continue reading

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

My four-star rating of this book shows how subjective my taste is and reveals how my reviews reflect nothing but my personal opinion. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (I know, it’s long) follows Juliet Ashton, a budding author who decides to write her second book about the island of Guernsey. Guernsey was occupied by Germans during World War II, and when Juliet goes there to meet its inhabitants and learn about its history, she gets more than what she bargained for. Perhaps, though, a change of scenery from living in London will do her good. Continue reading

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