Manhattan Beach

Jennifer Egan
2017
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Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

By Gaslight

by_gaslightSteven Price
2016
FICTION P946b

London, 1885. In a city of fog and darkness, the notorious thief Edward Shade exists only as a ghost, a fabled con, a thief of other men’s futures — a man of smoke. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of a brutal detective, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead. His father died without ever tracing Shade; William, still reeling from his loss, is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows. Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried. What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and seance halls. Above all, it is the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.
Epic in scope, brilliantly conceived, and stunningly written, Steven Price’s By Gaslight is a riveting, atmospheric portrait of two men on the brink. Moving from the diamond mines of South Africa to the battlefields of the Civil War, the novel is a journey into a cityscape of grief, trust, and its breaking, where what we share can bind us even against our darker selves.

The Gods of Gotham

gods_gothamLyndsay Faye
2012
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This book is set in New York in 1845 when the first police force was created and which also coincided with the massive flux of Irish immigrants arriving in Manhattan. It is a historical novel but also a mystery novel. The author uses language masterfully and the characters are well drawn. It is the first book of a trilogy starring Timothy Wilde, a young police officer with a heart of gold.

The Orenda

orendaJoseph Boyden
2013
FICTION B789o

Told in three voices, this is the story of the Wendat, Hurons who must survive against their enemies the Iroquois, but who must also learn to deal with the white man and the Jesuits, with whom they trade but who also present a new civilization and sickness. Joseph Boyden draws a stricking picture of these people and their culture, their spiritual beliefs and the particular violence of their time.

The last runaway

last_runawayTracy Chevalier
2013
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New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier makes her first fictional foray into the American past in The Last Runaway, bringing to life the Underground Railroad and illuminating the principles, passions and realities that fueled this extraordinary freedom movement.

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history. (Renaud-Bray).

The Stockholm Octavo

stockholm_octavoKaren Engelmann
2012
FICTION E57s

In this historical novel set in Sweden in the late 18th century, the author transports us to a golden age of fashion and opulence of the Swedish court. King Gustav III has led refoms which are unpopular with the aristocrats and this results in political intrigue and plans to eliminate him. These plans could be thwarted by the Octavo, a series of eight cards, laid out by a certain Mrs. Sparrow. Our hero, Emil Larsson, must identify the people that make up his Octavo in order to change the course of history.However, the Uzanne, a rich, beautiful and powerful woman, will attempt anything to get to the king.

In the Country of Men

in-the-country-of-men-coverHisham Matar
2006
FICTION M425i

A multi-layered, atmospheric novel about a little boy in Kadhafi’s Libya who witnesses very upsetting political and personal events and has to deal with them even though he is so young. Caught between a mother whose malady he just begins to understand and an absentee father with secret political activities, the boy struggles to understand what is happening around him, but is submerged in a world of intrigue and betrayal, including his own ones.
This is a very interior look at what it is to live in a dictatorship through the lens of a small boy left on his own and made to make choices at a much too early age. He ultimately learns that it is not easy to live in the country of men

The Girl in a Blue Dress

The Girl in a Blue DressGaynor Arnold
2009
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Longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, Arnold’s accomplished debut is a fictionalized take on the tumultuous marriage of Charles and Catherine Dickens. On the day of famed writer Alfred Gibson’s public funeral, his estranged widow, Dorothea (Dodo), sits alone in her small London apartment, reminiscing about “the One and Only.” Although caring deeply about his public image as a family man, Alfred’s actual relationship with his brood is fraught by his egomaniacal demands and philandering, his career eclipsing everything else. Dodo wishes she could climb onto the page, become one of her husband’s protagonists and cajole him to pay attention to her. After years of marriage, Alfred casts Dodo out of the family home after taking up with a mistress, publicly shaming her, and admonishing their children not to visit her. After Alfred’s death, Dodo grapples with the choice of emerging from her self-imposed exile or remaining in seclusion without facing the public who revered him. Arnold’s impeccable research paints an entirely different portrait of Dickens than that assumed by readers of his fiction. (Publishers Weekly)

Geisha

geisha_romanArthur Golden
1999
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« Sous la forme des mémoires d’une célèbre geisha de Kyoto, un grand roman sur un univers secret et étonnant, où les apparences font loi, où les femmes sont faites pour charmer, où la virginité d’une jeune fille se vend aux enchères et où l’amour doit être méprisé comme une illusion ». [SDM]

The Winter Palace

winter_palaceEva Stachniak
2011
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Polish-Canadian author Stachniak’s brilliant, bold historical novel of eighteenth-century Russia is a masterful account of one woman’s progress toward absolute monarchical rule. For Catherine the Great, the path to her eventual coup d’état involves 20 years of subtle strategizing, intelligence gathering, and patience. Born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, this “pale, appealing sliver of a girl” arrives in St. Petersburg in 1743 as a potential bride for Peter, Empress Elizabeth’s weak-willed nephew and heir. Through the clear narration of clever, multilingual Varvara, the Polish bookbinder’s daughter who becomes her servant, friend, and spy, readers follow Catherine from her early years of barrenness and disfavor through her even more demoralizing years of motherhood. While Elizabeth tolerates and even encourages Catherine’s sexual liaisons, she separates her from her children. During the massive rebuilding of theWinterPalace and war with Prussia, which impoverish Elizabeth’s subjects, a steelier, more confident Catherine emerges. Varvara, too, gradually awakens to her own inner strength. Stachniak captures dramatic moments with flair, and the Russian imperial court—with its fox-fur blankets, gilded furniture, and carafes of cherry vodka—appears in glorious splendor. This superb biographical epic proves the Tudors don’t have a monopoly on marital scandal, royal intrigue, or feminine triumph.(Booklist)