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May 27, 2021

6 Books for Fans of Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts

In addition to keeping up with new releases, I've also been trying to read some of the older books on my bookcase. The six books I have for you today are a mix of new and old titles, but they are all definitely worth the read.

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Her Sister's Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol

Her Sister's Tattoo
April 2020; Red Hen Press; 978-1597098441
audio, ebook, print (296 pages); historical fiction
I originally bought this book because it begins in the summer of 1968 in Detroit and I was going to college in Detroit at this time.  I was hoping that it would bring back some of my memories from that time period - I got the memories and so much more.  This was a fantastic well-written book about family and forgiveness, protests, and the justice system but most importantly it was about sisters and their love for each other despite their estrangement.

In the summer of 1968, Rosa and Esther participated in an anti-war protest in downtown Detroit.  They were both fervent in their opposition but Esther had a small baby and her family was the primary focus in her life.  They both made a bad decision which caused a policeman to get hurt.  When their pictures were shown on the evening news, they were identified and arrested.  It was apparent that they would both have jail time in their future until Esther made the decision to testify against her sister so that she would be able to raise her baby.  Her decision caused a major estrangement between the sisters and totally ended any communication between them.  Over the years, they both wrote letters to each other but never mailed them.  They missed each other but were both convinced that they were right and didn't make any effort to ease the estrangement. 

Her Sister's Tattoo is a novel about a family divided during a time that the country was divided.  One sister wants to help the future through the family that she is raising and the other sister feels that it is important to fight injustice on a larger scale no matter the consequences.  Even though this book took place in the '60s, much of it is relevant in the divided country that we are living in now.  

Buy Her Sister's Tattoo at Amazon

Sadie's Sin - The Zwi Migdal's Reign of Terror by Neil Perry Gordon

Sadie's Sin
November 2020; Indie; 978-1732667754
audio, ebook, print (396 pages); historical fiction
The year is 1924 and the novel begins in Warsaw, Poland.  Sadie is the daughter of a hard-working Jewish family who has allowed her to attend the university.  She falls in love with her professor, Alexander, and when they attempt to run away together, her parents are incensed.  They insist that she marry someone Jewish.  They worry about her reputation and arrange a quick marriage through a marriage broker.  The groom is a wealthy, Jewish Argentinean who is in Poland to find a wife.  The parents are very happy that their daughter will live a life of luxury but the truth is very different.  In reality, Ezra works for the Zwi Migdal in Buenos Aires and his role is to find beautiful Jewish women to become sex slaves in the brothels.  Alex, the university professor learns of the deception too late and makes a decision to go to Argentina to rescue the woman he loves.  Sadie's Sin is a real page-turner as Alex tries to save Sadie while the organized crime group is trying to kill him.  Will he be able to free his love from this  group and take her back to Poland?

This book is also very educational.  I had never read about this group taking young Jewish women to South America to work in brothels and what the girls went through was horrific. The characters were well written and it was a real page-turner.

Buy Sadie's Sin at Amazon
(The ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Sign up today)

Promise by Minrose Gwin

March 2019; William Morrow; 978-0062471727
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); historical fiction
"The papers, she noticed, hadn't published the whereabouts of the colored and there were no death and injury lists for them either.  It was as if the people who had made the households and yards and barnyards hum all over town had vanished from the face of the earth without a trace."
(p 305)

I enjoyed a previous novel by this author and wanted to read some of her earlier books.  This was the first one that I read and it was really good - not sure how I missed it when it was published.  It's a real page-turner with some interesting characters.  I thought that the middle of it dragged and that it could have been shorter but overall it was great and I plan to continue to read her older books.

On Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.  This novel is about Dovey, a black laundress, and her family in the aftermath of this massive tornado.  After the tornado struck, Dovey woke up in Gum Pond.  She almost drowned until she was able to pull herself out of the water.  When she finally located her house, it was totally demolished.  She set out on a quest to find her husband, granddaughter, and Promise - her granddaughter's baby.  What she encounters is horrific - the town is totally destroyed, there are bodies everywhere, and people wandering around in shock.  What was really horrible is that despite all of the pain and suffering going on, the white townspeople still showed their racial prejudice in everything they said and did.  The black members of the community got less care and concern than the white people and there wasn't even a list of the black causalities.  Dovey's goal to find her family was filled with danger and pain because she was suffering from numerous injuries.  She tries to ignore her injuries because she knows how important it is to find her family.

This was an interesting, well-written book about how people coped with the aftermath of a disaster.  I enjoyed the book and won't soon forget Dovey and her search for her family.

Buy Promise at Amazon

The Note Through the Wire: The Incredible True Story of a Prisoner of War and a Resistance Heroine by Doug Gold 

The Note Through the Wire
March 2021; William Morrow; 978-0063012295
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); biography
The Note Through the Wire
 is the real-life, unlikely romance between a resistance fighter and prisoner of war set in World War II Europe.

In this true love story that defies all odds, Josefine Lobnik, a Yugoslav partisan heroine, and Bruce Murray, a New Zealand soldier, discover love in the midst of a brutal war.  Bruce lived in New Zealand when WWII started.  He had a good job and loved to go out drinking with his two best friends.  They joined the Army as a chance to see the world but when they finally got into combat, it was another story.  Bruce got captured by the Germans and was sent to a POW camp.  The living conditions were not the best but they were able to get packages from the Red Cross and mail from home.  When Bruce was walking around the compound on a Sunday, a woman approached the barbed wire and passed him a note asking for help finding her brother.  That woman was Josefine Lobnik, an underground resistance fighter who was fighting for freedom from the Germans.  After several unsuccessful escapes, Bruce was assigned to work on a local farm.  By chance, it is the farm of Josefine's aunt and uncle,  where she is hiding because she's been betrayed and has a price on her head.  They begin to talk and fall in love.  This is a story about finding love during the war and their struggles to be together.  They both face torture, betrayal, and sacrifice along with way but eventually love wins!

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end about their life after the war. He also mentions the letters that they kept that show how difficult it was for them to be together after the war ended.

The Sculptress by V.S. Alexander

The Sculptress
February 2021; Kensington; 978-1496720405
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); historical fiction
I have enjoyed all of this author's books and was excited when I saw that he had a new book.  It wasn't one of my favorites but I still recommend that you read it to learn more about a strong woman artist in the early part of the 20th century.

Emma loved to draw and wanted to be an artist much to her parents' dismay.  They felt that it was more important to have a good marriage and that her art was just a passing hobby.  She fell in love with Kurt at a young age but that romance ended tragically and when she got a chance to go to Boston to study art. she was thrilled.  She spent a lot of her time in Boston going to parties but she meets Dr. Tom Swan and even though she isn't madly in love with him they marry.  When he decides to go to France to help with the wounded soldiers during WWI, she only has her art for comfort until she meets Linton, another artist and they become interested in each other.  She goes to Paris at her husband's request and while In Paris, she crafts intricate, lifelike masks to restore the wounded men to the world.  She ultimately has to make some major choices that will determine the rest of her life.

My main problem with this book is that I never connected with Emma.  She wanted to be an artist but she seemed to be more interested in being part of high society and falling in love than she did with her art.  However, it was great to read about a strong female who was determined to practice art in a style that women at the time didn't do.  Her early sculptures were dismissed by the critics not because of her work but due to her sex.   She did redeem herself when she started working with disfigured soldiers from the war.  If you enjoy books about WWI, you need to read The Sculptress! 

Buy The Sculptress at Amazon

In a Town Called Paradox by Miriam Murcutt & Richard Starks

In a Town Called Paradox
February 2021; Prestwicke Publishing; 978-0974694603
ebook, print (316 pages); historical fiction
“I WASN'T looking for Marilyn Monroe when I bumped into her, even though I knew she was in town filming River of No Return…”

This beautifully written novel takes place in Utah in the 1950s.  The town of Paradox has just built an authentic-looking town to try to lure the big movie studios to film their Westerns there.  They are successful and the small town becomes a Mecca for films and tourists.  This book is about the life of, Corin,  one of the residents of Paradox.

As the novel begins, Corin's mother just died and her father has sent her from their home in  NYC to a small ranch outside of Paradox to live with an aunt that she has never met.  Corin decides right from the beginning that she is going to hate Paradox and her aunt.  When the studios start filming and she sees movie stars, Paradox begins to look better.  Once she makes new friends and is popular in school she begins to really enjoy her life and starts working hard to make the ranch a success and make it successful.  After dating a boy from school who is now a deputy, she meets and is immediately enthralled with Ark - a young man from England who always wanted to see where the Westerns that he enjoyed as a kid were filmed.  He is also a very intelligent astronomer and wants to teach people about the stars in the sky.  The town isn't really sure about him at first but they gradually accept him.  Add to the mix, a Navajo who escaped from a prison work crew and you have everything you need for a fantastic character-driven novel.

This novel brings a lot of threads together - growing up in a small Amazon village with missionary parents (Ark), growing up with a father who was a veterinarian (Corin), the pitfalls of cattle ranching, the gossip in a small town, and how the town changes once the movies start filming, along with the racism and sexism of this time period.  Everything is tied together and the novel has a sad but perfect ending.  This book was full of fantastic characters as well as beautiful descriptions of the Utah desert.  I hated to see it end and to say goodbye to characters that I'd come to know so well.

"We are all related," Ark said, "because we're all made of the same material. Stardust."

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. Here Sister's Tattoo looks particularly good, perhaps because it covers a time period about which I don't normally read.