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June 11, 2022

3 Books for Fans of Historical Fiction

by Susan Roberts

Today I have three works of historical fiction for your reading pleasure. The first is a dual timeline story that traces mothers and daughters through the generations. The second is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. And finally the last novel on my list today is about a country that has been in the news a lot lately and will give you some understanding of current events by providing a historical perspective. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock

book cover of southern fiction novel The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock
April 2022; Harper Muse; 978-1400234202
audio, ebook, print (464 pages); southern fiction

This beautifully written historical fiction novel is about making your home wherever you are.  It's a story about love and family and about the strong women in a family over the generations.  It's a dual timeline novel with several points of view.

1585- After her mother died, her father began to ignore his daughter Eleanor.  When he offered her a chance to sail to a far-off country and start the first colony she agreed to go hoping that he would start paying attention to her.  After a long trip, they arrived in what they called Roanoke.  The small colony had troubles with farming and her father left for England to get more supplies. When he returned, the small colony of people was gone.  Eleanor stayed with the colony and got married.  Her first daughter, Virginia, was born in 1587 and was the first English child born in a New World English colony.  The settlement was never found again and the mystery involving The Lost Colony has lasted for generations.  Eleanor kept a book and wrote down observations about her life.  The book was passed to the oldest daughter in each generation for thirteen generations before Alice found it.

1945 - As the war is getting near its end, Alice finds out that her father has left Evertell to her.
Her husband was killed during the war and money is tight, so she and her daughter, Penn, travel to the house she grew up in with plans to sell the house and land so that she has money for Penn's education.  When they find Eleanor's book, Penn wants to read it to find out more about her family over the generations and becomes enthralled with Evertell because she sees it as part of her history. Alice is forced to decide if she wants to sell Evertell or remain in the house that was passed down to her and holds so many memories. 

This book has family, mystery, and a bit of romance.  It's an intriguing story of the women in a family who are strong and resilient through the generations.  Ultimately it's a story about mothers and daughters learning to make a home built on love.  

The Lobotomist's Wife by Samantha Greene Woodruff

book cover of women's fiction novel The Lobotomist's Wife by Samantha Greene Woodruff
February 2022;  Lake Union Publishing; 978-1542036214
audio, ebook, print (315 pages); women's fiction

An enthralling historical novel of a compassionate and relentless woman, a cutting-edge breakthrough in psychiatry, and a nightmare in the making.

I first learned about lobotomy in a college psych class and what little I knew was expanded by the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.   So my understanding of the why's and how's was limited but I learned all I needed to know in this book.  Developed in 1935, it was the primary method of help for psychiatric patients until it fell out of favor in the early '50s due to the side effects of the procedure but was still being done on a limited basis until the late 60s.

Ruth, a daughter of wealth and privilege had one major goal in her life.  After losing her brother to suicide, she wanted to do whatever was possible to help people suffering from mental illness.  She worked at a psychiatric hospital that her father had built and was very kind and caring to the patients.  But she knew in her heart that there must be some way to make them better able to handle life.  She was interviewing doctors to work at the hospital and was impressed with Robert Apter.  He was a brilliant doctor who believed that he had developed a new procedure to help mentally ill patients.  The world believed his procedure was a miracle and it was performed all over the world.  Robert perfected it to the point that he would use an ice pick and go into a person's brain to sever part of it.  He was proud of the fact that he could do so many procedures in the same day.  It's estimated that more than 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the United States, most between 1949 and 1952.  Robert was so proud of his procedure that he traveled all over the country training other doctors and performing many procedures himself - some not even in hospital settings but using his office space.   Ruth was so impressed with Robert that they got married but as Ruth began to learn about the side effects of the procedure, she realized that it wasn't the perfect procedure that her husband had been lecturing about and many of the side effects made the people mentally worse than they had been before they had it. Ruth had to decide whether to stay true to her marriage or report the real results to the proper medical authorities and hopefully put a stop to lobotomies.

The author did considerable research in this, her debut novel, and the information that she presented was accurate based on reading that I've done since I read this book.  She says in the afterword that most of her characters, except for Ruth were based on real people and their medical procedures.  With all of the medical information, this book could have been very boring and filled with medical jargon.  I found it just the opposite.  Because I was invested in Ruth and her attitude toward the mentally ill, I found it to be a very interesting and readable story.

This novel is a great example of working to bring the past to the attention of people today. It's the story of one man who got consumed by his medical discovery and became overwhelmed with his power to help mentally ill people to the point that he didn't pay attention to the negatives.  On the other side is a strong woman who realizes that the procedure can do more harm than good and that it isn't a miracle cure.  She has to be strong enough to end this horrendous practice.

What is a lobotomy? A lobotomy, or leucotomy, is a form of psychosurgery, a neurosurgical treatment of a mental disorder that involves severing connections in the brain's prefrontal cortex. The surgery causes most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, to be severed.

Buy The Lobotomist's Wife at Amazon 
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Sunflowers Beneath the Snow by Teri M. Brown

book cover of historical fiction novel Sunflowers Beneath the Snow by Teri M. Brown
December 2022; Atmosphere Press; 978-1639881420
ebook, print (332 pages); historical fiction

"The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine..."
(loc 174)

This new novel takes place in Ukraine from 1973 to 2021.  It's a deep look at three women.  Grandmother Lyaksandro believes that the  Russian communist party is taking care of the people of Ukraine.  Despite the food shortages, her allegiance is to the Communist leadership.  Her daughter, Yevt, longs for freedom from Communist rule.  Her daughter, Ionna, loves her life in modern-day Ukraine but longs to leave and see the world.  All three of these women are living in a totally different political society and have opposing views.  The one thing that they all have in common is that are all brave and resilient.    

In 1973, Lyaksandro's husband disappears leaving her with a small daughter. Despite the hardships she and her daughter face on a daily basis, especially the lack of food, she continues to believe strongly in the Communist party.  Her daughter Yevt disagrees with her mother.  She marries a college professor and they are jubilant when Russia is ousted from their country.  Despite the fact that they think their lives will be totally free, there is still a lack of food and fewer opportunities to better themselves.  When their daughter is born, she bonded more with her grandmother than with her mother.  The household is divided by her grandmother's trust in Russia and her parents' belief in a capitalistic form of government.  Ionna has to make her own decisions and face the world on her own terms.

This novel is beautifully written and well researched. The views of all three of the main characters represent what was going on in Ukraine during this time period.  It shows the tenacity of women who even under difficult situations can still live their lives with joy, faith, and love for each other. 

This book was very timely.  As the Russian troops invade Ukraine with the goal of bringing the country back into Russia's ownership, the Ukrainians fight to keep their freedoms.  I knew very little about this country and learned a lot about its past history and what life was like under Communist rule.  The past history gave me a better understanding of what is going on in that part of the world today.

In the Author's Notes, she shares that the basic premise of the story is true.  Truth is far more powerful than fiction.

2022 Readers' Favorite Five-Star Award Winner
2022 Historical Fiction Company Five-Star "Highly Recommended" Award Winner

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. 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 Facebook.

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