Category Archives: Historical

One Summer

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Title: One Summer: America 1927

Author: Bill Bryson

Publisher: Doubleday, 2013

Summary/Review: Reading this book is like having a friendly historian take you by the arm and walk you through a momentous summer in America a long time ago – 1927. Not just any summer to be sure, but a summer that included a long list of history-making events:

· The flight of Charles Lindbergh revolutionizing modern flight forever.

· Babe Ruth- changing the way baseball is played forever.

· Prohibition – making alcohol in the United States even more prevalent.

· Sacco and Venzetti – were they guilty? The evidence just wasn’t there.

· The invention of the television – “Commercial Use in Doubt”!!

· Talking motion pictures

And the list goes on.

Bill Bryson weaves the extraordinary story as he moves from one subject to another and breathes life into a time that I did not know much about-until now!

Who will like this book?:  History buffs

If you like this, try this:  If you liked Bill Bryson’s writing, he has quite a few other books – most popular titles include “A Walk in the Woods” and “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.  If you’re interested in more history, Erik Larson (“Devil in the White City”, “Garden of Beasts” is a popular historical author, and Vincent Bugliosi (“Four Days in November”, “Helter Skelter”) deals more with real crime.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like a book you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold.

 

All the Light we Cannot See

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Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Publisher: Scribner, May 2014

Summary/Review: It is 1934 and Marie-Laure is just 6 years old when she loses her sight. Her father, the principle locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, teaches her well how to adjust to her blindness. As she grows, Marie-Laure’s curiosity and intelligence blossom even as the threat of a world war looms. When Hitler and his army begin their attempt to dominate Europe, Monsieur LeBlanc must flee Paris with Marie-Laure ahead of the impending invasion.

It is 1934 and 8 year old Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are living in an orphanage in Germany. Their favorite pastime of building and fixing radios, and listening to broadcasts from all over Europe, becomes increasingly difficult as the Nazi party begins to censor what German citizens are allowed to listen to. Before they are completely cut off from the outside world, Werner and Jutta see and hear enough to be frightened of what their country and countrymen are becoming. As Werner gets closer to his 15th birthday and his obligatory job in the local mine, an opportunity arises that will change his life forever.

All the Light We Cannot See is the mesmerizing story of Marie-Laure and Werner and their struggle to survive in a world at war. On opposite sides but so very alike, both are thrust into situations that they cannot control and their palpable fear and frustration can be keenly felt. Doerr’s writing is nothing short of perfect. I was absolutely captivated by this novel and I now consider it one of my top 10 favorite novels of all time.

Who will like this?:  Someone looking for a historical novel on World War II. Someone who is not afraid to take an emotional journey through war – be prepared for characters that will stay with you.

If you like this, try this:  Book Thief by Marcus Zusak or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  If you enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s writing style, he has written other books, including “The Shell Collector” and “Memory Wall” (short stories) and “About Grace”, a novel.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If this looks like a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

Aviator’s Wife

aviator's wife

Title: The Aviator’s Wife

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Publisher: Delacorte Press, January 2013

Summary/Review: This book tells the story of Anne Morrow from time she meets Charles Lindbergh through his death. Although she is the plainest and humblest of Ambassador Morrow’s daughters, Anne is the one who is swept off her feet by the dashing, great aviator. Their adventures and eventual marriage make for a compelling story. The book is aptly named because in many ways Anne gave up her own identity through her devotion to her famous husband. The tragedy of losing their first child and its effect on each of them is a key element. There are other hardships that Anne is forced to deal with including dealing with Charles’ odd behaviors and his constant absence, leaving her to raise her children virtually alone. Through it all, she maintains her pride and strength as she develops her own sense of self. One never knows what really goes on in a marriage, but this well researched fictionalized account will keep you turning the pages.

Who will like this book: Readers who like historical fiction or anyone looking for a good read. If you liked Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, you will enjoy this book.

Recommended by: Jan, Administration

Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if this book is available and to place a hold!

Calling Me Home

calling me home

Title: Calling Me Home

Author: Julie Kibler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2013

Summary/Review: A beautiful debut novel about the unlikely friendship between two women, the journey that brings them closer together, and a past of heartbreak and secrets. The novel is told in two voices, Isabelle and Dorrie, a very unlikely pair. Dorrie Curtis is a black single mom in her 30’s who happens to be the hairdresser for eighty nine year old Isabelle McAllister. Isabelle asks Dorrie to drop everything, leave her 2 children to the care of her mother, close up her hair salon and drive her from her home in Texas to a funeral near Cincinnati. Dorrie has no idea what is in store for them when they reach their destination. As the miles pass, both women share the secrets of their past. Nothing prepares Dorrie for the story of Isabelle. As a young woman, Isabelle fell in love with Robert, the black son of her family’s housekeeper, at a time when this was forbidden. The story of Isabelle unfolds in 1939 as a teenager with big plans for her future. That is, until she falls hopelessly in love with Robert. The romance between Isabelle and Robert is strictly forbidden by both families, and also very dangerous for Robert and his family. This was not a time where inter racial relationships were accepted. Isabelle tells her heartbreaking story to Dorrie hoping it will help Dorrie find her own way. Dorrie is struggling with her own feelings towards the new man in her life, afraid to open up her heart to love again, while raising her two children. Neither woman could imagine the impact this trip has on their lives and the bond that grows between them. This story is about falling in love, the deepening of friendships and the power of family, both good and bad, and the turbulent times of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. This is an unforgettable story.

Who Will Like this? Anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Readers who enjoyed “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. A great choice for Book Groups.

If you like this, try this: “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes, “Three Good Things” by Wendy Francis, “Lost Art of Mixing” by Erica Bauermeister

Recommended by: Laura, Technical Services Department

To see if this book is available and/or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog!

Light Between Oceans

light between oceans

Title: Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman

Publisher: Scribner, July 2012

Summary/Review: After surviving four years of war on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a position as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. Although the island is completely isolated, a half-day’s journey from the coast, Tom begins to find peace after years at war. On his first shore leave he meets Isabel, a bold young woman full of life and joy. As the two fall in love and she agrees to marry him they both envision a life of beauty and adventure in the lighthouse. Years later, after the hardship of living in isolation and after repeated miscarriages and a still birth Isabel is no longer the joyful woman Tom married. Then one day a boat washes to shore carrying a dead man and a living baby, and Tom and Isabel make a decision that will carry repercussions for years to come. In their years of isolation and hardship they’ve lost sight of the lives they effect on the mainland.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The story is rich with emotions and you will feel yourself getting pulled in to their story. Would you make the same decisions? And once made would you stick to them no matter what? Tom is torn between what he knows is right and wanting to make Isabel happy after her years of heartbreak. Most stories have a clear picture of right and wrong and the characters you are pulling for. Although there is heartbreak in this story the resolution is honest and real.

Who will like this book? Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or is just looking for the best book written this year.

 If you like this, try this: If you were pulled in by the intense plot, “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey deals with a couple facing a very similar issue. If you were more drawn to the writing, this is M.L. Stedman’s debut but keep an eye out for more from her in the future!

Recommended by: Linda, Circulation Assistant

If this looks like a book you would like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available or place a hold! [Link will open in a new window]

The Gendarme

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TitleThe Gendarme

Author:  Mark T. Mustian

Publisher: Penguin Group, September 2010

Summary: Emmett Conn is 92 years old. Recently widowed and suffering from a brain tumor, he is plagued with headaches and bad dreams. The dreams come to him like a movie being played out in his mind, scene by scene. They begin to feel more like memories than dreams, but a head injury suffered during WWI left Emmett with very little memory of the war or his life before it. In these dreams Emmett is a Turkish gendarme, a position that one would hold before becoming a soldier. He is known as Ahmet Khan, the name he had before entering the United States. His assignment as a gendarme is to lead a group of Armenian deportees from their homes in Turkey to a camp in Syria. He leads this caravan of sick and dying men, women, and children for several weeks. Most of these deportees, considered a security threat by the Turkish government, die along the way. Though he wishes that it were not true, Emmett soon accepts that these are memories of his past; a past in which he played a terrible role in an almost forgotten genocide. It is also a past of forbidden love and the search for redemption.

This story alternates between Emmett’s life as it was, slowly revealed to him in his dreams, and his life as it is now. A life filled with doctors’ visits, his daughters growing concern for his physical and mental health, and the awful memories that begin to reveal themselves. It is a story of the horrors of war and the dangers of prejudice. It is also a story of forgiveness-of yourself and those who cause you harm. This is a remarkable novel.

Who will like this book? Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Interpretation of Murder

Title: The Interpretation of Murder

Author: Jed Rubenfeld

Publisher: Picador, May 2007

Summary:  The year is 1909 and Sigmund Freud has arrived in the United States with his protégé Carl Jung for a series of lectures at Clark University.  The same day of Freud’s arrival a young heiress is murdered, apparently by a serial killer. Another wealthy young socialite is suffering from amnesia after a second attack by the same criminal.

Dr. Stratham Younger, a thirty-three-year-old Harvard graduate teaches at Clark University.  He  is in New York to accompany Dr. Freud back to Clark.  Younger finds himself caught up in the murder mystery, being consulted about the use psychoanalysis to help the young woman recall the attack.

The plot is multileveled and intricate and includes a rivalry between Jung and Freud, a conspiracy theory against Freud’s teachings, a fascinating episode on the construction of the Manhattan Bridge, and corruption in the New York city police force. I found the story riveting and the details of that period in New York’s history to be fascinating.

Recommended by: Barbara, Head of Children’s Services

Island Beneath the Sea

TitleIsland Beneath the Sea

Author:  Isabel Allende

Publisher: Harper, April 2010

Summary: Island Beneath the Sea follows a young woman named Zarité thrown into slavery in 18th century Haiti. Known by most as Tété, she is chosen to become housekeeper for Toulouse Valmorain, an unpredictable plantation entrepreneur and his wife, Eugenia, a woman slowly being dissolved into madness by the harsh living conditions and constant threat of political uprisings. The story follows Tété, who is likeable and sweet, but also conflicted and strong, as she struggles to become a free woman while desperately trying to keep her family intact and protect all those who have helped her.

Staying true to her roots, Allende creates an emotional story of romance, politics, and fantasy using an outstanding cast of characters. At times, the book can be a roller coaster- the defeats are particularly harsh and the accomplishments incredibly satisfying, reminding the reader that life is not always just. At approximately 500 pages, be prepared to devote at least a few weeks to the book. The characters -since their relationships are generally unconfirmed and many appear sporadically- take some time to get to know, but it is well worth the effort.

Who will like this book?  Those who like literature and character development- though not as tough as 100 Years of Solitude, a large number of characters come into play, and the book moves rather slowly at times (which is not a particularly bad thing!). Also, those who like reading about exotic places, history, and politics. Similar books would include Honolulu by Alan Brennert and Portrait in Sepia, also by Allende.

If you like this, try this: Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Recommended by:  LB, Circulation Assistant

Amandine

TitleAmandine

Author:  Marlena de Blasi

Publisher: Random House, May 2010

Summary: Amandine is the first novel written by Marlena de Blasi, an author known for her memoir writing. The story is captivating and the author’s writing is simply beautiful, filled with sense details and unforgettable characters. Amandine is born out of wedlock into an aristocratic family in Krakow, Poland in 1931. She is born with a heart defect and not expected to survive. Under the pretext of bringing her to a hospital in Switzerland, Amandine’s  grandmother brings her to a remote convent in France. The Countess arranges to leave the child at the convent with a large sum of money and in the care of a governess, Solange Jouffroi. As a young child, Amandine is doted on by the nuns, Pere Philippe and Solange, but suffers cruelty and humiliation at the hands of the Abbess Mother Paul and the other children attending school at the convent. This cruelty, compounded by the abandonment by her mother, causes Amandine to believe there is something wrong with her. After a tragedy involving Amandine is barely averted, Solange takes her on a harrowing journey north through occupied France toward the governess’s home. Leaving their sheltered life in the convent, the pair discovers the horrors of war all around them. Meanwhile, Amandine’s birth mother, having just recently discovered that her child did not die at the hospital in Switzerland, has begun her own journey to find her. This is a story that will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

Who will like this book? Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

One Amazing Thing

TitleOne Amazing Thing

Author:  Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Publisher: Unbridled Books, October 2009

Summary:  There are nine strangers in an Indian visa and passport office who are thrown together when an earthquake hits and leaves them trapped under the rubble. As time passes and there is no communication available to the outside world anxiety rises and tempers flare! After organizing what little provisions they have and securing themselves in the office as well as they can, tensions increase and a young graduate student sizes up the situation and suggests that they all tell a story about an “amazing” thing that has happened in their lifetimes. After initial reluctance and suspicion each character reveals their stories. These stories range from a young Chinese woman who has to flee India during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 leaving her Indian lover and family behind, to a seventy year old accountant orphaned at nine who only found comfort in doing math. Other stories include a young Muslim man struggling with America’s prejudice after 9/11, a rebellious teenager who discovers the gift and healing of music and a woman whose entire view of life changes after glimpsing a display of affection between an elderly couple.

These stories bring the characters to life and also give many different pictures of India. Divakaruni’s writing is beautiful and you can hardly wait for her to get to the next story. A novel about nine people trapped in the rubble of an earthquake would have been compelling enough but the author raises the bar by making these characters jump off the page with their “amazing” stories. This is a fast read that you will not be able to put down until you get to the last page!

Who will like this book? Fans of historical and contemporary fiction.

Recommended by: Claudia, Circulation