Category Archives: Historical

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV

Title: The Secret Life of Louis XIV: Francoise d’Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon

Author: Veronica Buckley

Summary: Francoise d’Aubigne was born in a French prison, the youngest child of a minor, rebellious noble. She died over 80 years later as the widow of the King of France. Though her marriage to Louis XIV could never be formally acknowledged due to an extraordinary difference in social rank, Francoise had a profound influence on the Sun King, and reigned as an uncrowned queen during the most glorious era in French history.

This very readable biography immerses the reader in 17th century France, an era of absolute royal power, intense religious conflict and very limited opportunities for women. Author Buckley does a masterful job illuminating the lives of the royal ladies of Versailles and the salons of Paris. That d’Aubigne managed to rise from her humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power is incredible – and that she did so by remaining steadfast, loyal and humble in the dangerous court of the king seems almost miraculous.

Who will like this book?: Readers interested in royal biography and women’s history.

If you like this, try this: Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser. A book about another of Louis’ paramours, Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland. A terrific historical fiction on Marie Antoinette,  Abundanceby Sena Jeter Naslund

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Day the Falls Stood Still

Title: The Day the Falls Stood Still

Author:  Cathy Marie Buchanan

Publisher: Voice, August 2009

Summary:  This is a sweeping historical romance set in the Niagara Falls area of Canada during the early 20th century. Bess Heath has just finished her junior year at an exclusive private school when she discovers that life at home has changed dramatically. Her father has lost his job and has been drinking the days away, her mother is working as a seamstress to keep food on the table, and Bess’ older sister, Isabel, is suffering from depression as a result of her broken engagement. As Bess tries to keep Isabel from wasting away and her family from falling apart, she falls in love with Tom Cole.  Tom is the grandson of the famous river man and local legend Fergus Cole. Bess’ parents, however, do not approve of Tom and force the pair into a clandestine relationship.

The Day the Falls Stood Still gives the reader a glimpse of the beauty and history of Niagara Falls during a period when, for a few opportunistic men, respect for the falls was lost and the race to harness its energy begun. This is a captivating story with wonderful characters in a beautiful setting. You may even find yourself wanting to take a trip up north to experience the majesty of the falls in person.

Who will like this book? Fans of  historical fiction, romance, or if you want a light, quick read.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Indifferent Stars Above

Title: The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

Author:  Daniel James Brown

Publisher: William Morrow, April 2009

Summary:    Upon hearing the words “Donner Party,”  it’s likely that most people remember the most sordid and sensational details of this tragedy. This new account of the Donner party tries to bring the reader past the taboo subject of cannibalism that has been associated with this ill-fated journey for so long. Yes, the facts remain the same, but our interpretation and understanding will be changed by reading this book. The author has gone to great lengths to shine a new light on the emigrants and their reasons for making certain decisions. He focuses his attention on one member of the party, Sarah Graves Fosdick, recently married and traveling with her family and new husband.

Using our current knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of trauma, Daniel Brown has set out to answer many of the questions surrounding the Donner Party tragedy. For example, why did the single men in the group fare so much worse than people traveling with their families? Why did the emigrants suffer the effects of starvation so quickly? In our recent past we have seen protesters on hunger strikes that lasted weeks longer without food than did Sarah and her companions. What psychological effects did the survivors suffer as a result of being on the brink of death for so long? Brown helps us to understand why certain choices were made and the impact these choices had on everyone involved. Imagine being on a camping trip without a tent, lantern, flashlight, stove, bug repellent, sleeping bag, toiletries, or any other amenity. Imagine you cannot bathe, brush your teeth, or wash you clothes and bedding for several months. Now imagine you are surrounded by mountains and several feet of snow and are surviving on leather shoe straps and boiled bones as your only source of food. It’s unfathomable to me. It’s no surprise to find that the Donner party’s fate was sealed by a man so greedy he was willing to divert these poor people from their original trail to Oregon to an uncharted (unbeknownst to them) path across a treacherous mountain range to his fledgling town in California. This is not a dry historical account but a moving and informative tale about brave Americans and their search for a better life.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like American history and adventure stories.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Columbine

Title: Columbine

Author: Dave Cullen

Summary: On April 20, 1999, two boys entered their high school and proceeded to unleash the most unforgettable school shooting of the modern era. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were troubled outcasts in black trench coats, picked on by jocks and preps, who, after years of listening to angry music and playing violent video games, finally snapped.

Or were they? Actually, none of these accepted facts about the young killers are true. In this absorbing book, a reporter who was on the scene that day and followed the story long after the tragedy of school shootings became seemingly commonplace, dispels the myths behind the shooting, its perpetrators, and even its victims. Everyone knows what you mean when you say ‘Columbine,’ but not one of us has ever heard the whole story until now.

Who will like this book: True crime readers. Anyone who remembers that day would be benefited by reading this important book.

If you like this, try this: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. A fictional work that deals, in part, with Columbine and it’s aftermath, The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Heretic’s Daughter

Title: The Heretic’s Daughter

Author: Kathleen Kent

Publisher: Little, Brown; September 2008

Summary:  Young Sarah Carrier has a tense relationship with her bold and opinionated mother, Martha. When she is sent to live with her aunt, cousins, and charismatic uncle during an outbreak of the plague, she wishes never to return to her parent’s household and backbreaking farm life. A family dispute over inherited land is soon overshadowed by an even larger threat to those who do not toe the line of Puritan conformity. The gossip about witches in the neighboring town of Salem soon escalates beyond any reason, and soon enough Martha Carrier is named a witch by the courts. Before she is arrested, she must ask Sarah, only 10 years old, to do the unthinkable.

Illuminating the horrifying nature of the trials, and the atrocious conditions those accused were forced  to live in, The Heretic’s Wife is historical fiction at it’s best. You will read this engrossing debut novel, written by a descendant of the Carrier family, in no time at all.

Who will like this book?: People who like intense historical fiction or who are interested in the Salem Witch Trials.

If you like this, try this: The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn. A mystery set in modern-day Salem, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Vagrants

Title: The Vagrants

Author:  Yiyun Li

Publisher: Random House, February 2009

Summary: The Vagrants takes place in the town of Muddy River in China during the late 1970s. The focus of the story is the execution of Gu Shan as a counterrevolutionary and the effect that her death has on various members of her community. Some of these residents were victims of Gu Shan during her days as a Red Guard and are excited about the upcoming denunciation ceremony and her execution. Others realize this is another injustice. The reader is introduced to several characters but what they have most in common is the oppression they suffer at the hands of their communist government. This is a tragic story but well worth reading.

Who will like this book? Readers who like historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Water Ghosts

Title: Water Ghosts

Author:  Shawna Yang Ryan

Publisher: Penguin Press, April 2009

Summary: According to Chinese superstition, those who die by drowning will seek the living to take their place.

It’s 1928 and the residents of Locke, California and the surrounding towns are getting ready for the Dragon Boat Festival. All is going smoothly until an unknown boat drifts to shore. The boat is carrying three bedraggled Chinese women and seems to have come out of nowhere. One of the women is Ming Wai, the wife that Richard Fong left behind in China several years ago. Richard is now the manager of a successful gambling parlor in Locke and was never able to return to China for his wife. While Ming Wai was languishing in China, Richard was living comfortably as a bachelor in California, complete with his own prostitute.Most of the townspeople are confused about the arrival of the three women but Poppy See, the brothel madam is suspicious. Poppy is a seer and had a premonition of bodies washing ashore before the women arrived. Now strange things are happening to the town and the people living there.

Water Ghosts is a wonderfully written tale of love, loss, and the consequences of betrayal.

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

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

A Reliable Wife

Title:  A Reliable Wife

Author:  Robert Goolrick

Publisher:  Algonquin, March 2009

Summary: Robert Goolrick resurrects the Gothic romance!  This book is so dark, suspenseful, sensual, and scary that I’m not quite sure how to begin to explain it, accept to say that is absolutely fabulous. It’s 1907 Wisconsin, the dead of winter, and everything is dark, frozen, covered with snow.  Ralph Truitt stands on the platform of the train station, awaiting the arrival of his new wife-to-be under the watchful eyes of practically everyone who lives in his small rural town (that is everyone who hasn’t gone murderously insane.)  Catherine Land sits on the train, having answered Truitt’s ad in the newspaper, on her way to marry him.  She says goodbye to her past, literally throwing the remnants of it out the window of the private railway car he has sent for her (yes, he’s that rich).  We don’t know much, but we know that Catherine is definitely not who she’s pretending to be, and that’s only the beginning of all of the terrible secrets buried in this book.

Part DuMaurier, part Poe, part Bronte (and even a little bit part Stephen King), Goolrick has masterfully created a suspenseful tale that will leave you breathless, really.  He writes for all of the senses, and brings us to a world that is simply tragic and utterly beautiful.

Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference

Etta

Title: Etta

Author:  Gerald Kolpan

Publisher: Ballantine Books, March 2009

Summary: Who was Etta Place? Historians know her as an elusive and beautiful member of the outlaw gang “The Wild Bunch”. She is also known for her legendary romance with the Sundance Kid. Etta’s true identity and her fate after the Sundance Kid’s death remain a mystery. Gerald Kolpan has imagined and written a life story for this enigmatic woman. Though this is a work of fiction, it is clear the author extensively researched the era and included details about a number of things-from the Pinkerton Agency to railroad food. This clever debut novel will transport you back in time to the not-so-wild west and life on the run as a fugitive member of The Wild Bunch.

Who will like this book?  Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Lindbergh Child

Title: A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child

Author/Illustrator:Rick Geary

Publisher: Comics Lit, February 2009

Summary: After his transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh became an international hero, icon, and to his chagrin, celebrity. In the early ’30s, he and his wife moved to a new home in New Jersey in an attempt to live a private life. Little did they know that the tragic events that followed would thrust them even futher into the spotlight. Rick Geary begins his Tales of XXth Century Murder series with the story of the kidnapping (and murder) that led to ‘The Trial of the Century.’

We follow the events of the kidnapping, meet the various players in the investigation, and witness the trial and execution of Bruno Hauptman, who maintains his innocence throughout. Geary also discusses several of the alternate theories of the crime that persist to this day. Like his previous true crime graphic novels, this book is concise, informative, even-handed, and impossible to put down.

Who will like this book?: Fans of true crime and non-fiction graphic novels. Anyone interested in this famous crime, or the exploits of Charles Lindbergh.

If you like this, try this: Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Books in Geary’s A Treasury of Victorian Murder, including Jack the Ripper and The Borden Tragedy. The Plot Against America by Philp Roth.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian