Another Time, Another Place

Looking for books that take place in a different time period? Our first re-entry into Staff Picks will focus on Historical Fiction, books that take place sometime in the near or distant past.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, recommended by Diana:
The long-awaited conclusion to Mantel’s classic historical trio! Expansive and poignant, a heartbreaking finale for Cromwell.
The third book in the Wolf Hall trilogy.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, recommended by Roseann: Get a jump on this latest Julian Fellowes work before its TV version airs. The characters are as rich as their surroundings and the plot is well developed. I like the way Fellowes deftly combines the characters’ fictional doings with the facts of history.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook
Hoopla Audiobook

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, recommended by Marcia:
This story was amazing. I would love to learn about the real life character.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audio
Hoopla Ebook, Hoopla Audiobook

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The Last Letter to Your Lover by Jojo Moyes, recommended by Dawn:
All the Jojo Moyes books I have read so far have not disappointed me. This wasn’t what I originally expected, it was actually better.
Available formats:
Overdrive Ebook

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The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald, recommended by Roseann:
After World War II, a young woman decides to open a book shop in a small English town. Sounds like a great idea-right? Not to the local grand dame who stoops to every means possible to close it. After you read it, try to watch the movie version and choose which ending (they differ considerably) you prefer. The movie also stars Bill Nigby who makes any film the richer for his presence.
Available formats: Overdrive Ebook , Overdrive Audiobook

Some other historical fiction titles you may enjoy:

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
Recommended by Joelle
Available on Overdrive Audiobook

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Recommended by Catherine
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Recommended by Vicki & Marcia
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

The Tattooist of Aushwitz by Heather Morris
Recommended by Marcia
Available on Overdrive Ebook, Overdrive Audiobook

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow coverThe main character, Count Alexander Rostov, has been sentenced to house arrest by Russia’s new Soviet masters in one of Moscow’s finest hotel Metropol. The story follows the Count’s decades confined in very small quarters within a hotel for the elite.

Rostov survives as well as he does because of of his strong belief that “If one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them”. Just when you might become a little weary of the tale, the story takes a turn that will re-awaken your interest.  Request a copy.

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

Victoria: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin and Victoria: Season 1

I knew very little about Queen Victoria.  The various Queens Elizabeth are much better known to me, but I am very glad I watched the Masterpiece show on PBS.  Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV show and also the book.  Having seen and read both, I would recommend you do the same.

Queen Victoria was quite small, under five feet tall.  She was imperious, and while an era is named after her, she was not the fierce little old lady I was expecting.  Her ascension to the throne happened when she was young, and many in power at the time tried to control her.  She was determined to rule wisely and make her own choices.  Jenna Coleman does a remarkable job in the title roll of the show, and if you look at pictures of Victoria when she was young, there is a good resemblance.  The show closely follows the book, but it is still enjoyable to check out them both.

Lord Melbourne is the Prime Minister and the Queen’s first love.  Lehzen, Victoria’s governess, later advisor and companion and Dash, the dog, also lend support.  Of course we must mention Prince Albert, also a fascinating character with an interest in modernization and his own difficulties being married to Royalty.  With politics, romance and history, this coming of age story is most enjoyable.  So do read the book and also see the DVD of season 1.  Some scenes were deleted from the original Masterpiece TV show, so it may be preferable to watch it on DVD if you are able.  And God save the Queen!  Request a copy.

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

Old-fashioned English professor Arthur Prescott of Barchester, England has two passions in his life — books/manuscripts and the Holy Grail.  When he is not teaching, he can usually be found in the Barchester Cathedral Library, enjoying its centuries-old collection.  His predictable life is shaken up when bubbly American Bethany Davis arrives to digitize the library’s ancient manuscripts.  Are these two diametrically opposed, or can each of them appreciate both printed books and digital versions that can be used by anyone anywhere in the world?  Oh, and Bethany is also a Holy Grail enthusiast.  And there is a mystery surrounding a missing manuscript having to do with Saint Ewolda, long associated with the Cathedral.

This is a delightful novel about two very different people who just might be falling in love as they try to uncover the Cathedral’s secrets.  A great read for book lovers, Grail enthusiasts who like a quieter approach than Indiana Jones, and Anglophiles.  Reserve a copy.

Just Fall by Nina Sadowsky

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Just how I like it – a story about a man, a woman, with a murder mystery in the background.  Set on the island of St. Lucia, the story weaves just the right amount of intrigue with a smattering of kidnapping and a murder or two to keep your attention.  A very quick read, definitely good as a vacation book.

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

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A patron at the library recommended this to me…it’s a story about a woman unable to have a biological child of her own who makes a split decision one day to kidnap a child.  She convinces everyone that she adopted the child and raises the baby girl as her own. Things start to unravel as the daughter, now in law school, discovers the truth.  Brings up lots of questions and no easy answers.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.

 

 

 

 

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

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I have never read a book like this before.  It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away.  The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier.  Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.

The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible.  Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them.  The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Another book from the YA section of the library and it’s a really good one. The subject matter deals with the death of a teenager (not sure why I’ve gravitated toward these books lately), but I did not find it depressing at all. In fact, this is another book that I felt dealt with this subject in a very realistic way. All involved survivors are grief stricken, but there are moments of humor as well. Added to the mix are the feelings of the main characters as they navigate through high school and budding relationships . I enjoyed this book and will look for others by this author.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

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44 Scotland Street is the first in a series by Alexander McCall Smith by the same name. The story takes place in Edinburgh in a neighborhood with very colorful residents.  You will meet Pat, a young woman taking her gap year in Edinburgh; Bruce, who shares the flat with Pat; Domenica, an interesting widow in another flat; Bernie and his mother on the floor below. Bernie is only five and already learning Italian and how to play the saxophone.  Pat finds a job working for Matthew in an art gallery but knows little about art.

You’ll find yourself turning pages and deep into the story before you know it. McCall Smith has a talent for giving many details but not getting bogged down in them.  He’s very insightful and develops deep characters.

March by Geraldine Brooks

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Geraldine Brooks masterfully weaves a tale of life away from home for Mr. March after he leaves his “Little Women” to fend for themselves.  As the local young men are gathered together before leaving to join the fight to save the Union, Mr. March is asked to say a few words. As he speaks, he repeatedly uses the word “we.”  Looking up, he catches Marmee’s eye, and they both realize that he will be joining the boys.

In the course of the book, Mr. March returns to an area that he used to tour while selling goods door to door.  He serves as chaplain and then, after an indiscretion, he is reassigned to Oak Landing, an area where liberated slaves are supposed to be protected and offered wages as they toil to bring in the cotton crop.

This is an intriguing story that brings the reader fact to face with war, slavery, incest, and adultery.  What does Mr. March carry with him to remind him of his Little Women, who wait at home?  When he returns home, battered and ill, will Marmee still feel the same about him?  Will his LIttle Women?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Have you ever had a neighbor who always seemed so cranky that you avoided getting to know him/her?  It has probably happened to all of us at some time.  Well, Ove is that kind of neighbor: very rigid, grumpy and set in his ways.  It took an unexpected encounter between Ove and new neighbors to change his character, and in fact the entire neighborhood.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this incident made for all those concerned.  It may even change the way you approach a similar situation in the future.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

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I just enjoy Alice Hoffman so much.  The way she can interweave characters and their stories is so enjoyable.  This book doesn’t disappoint.   It is a very quick read that refers to Albany and the Berkshires, and of course a little mysticism and magic.  I think you’ll like it,  and it may even lead you to Hoffman’s other works as well.