Thursday, June 01, 2006

Some upcoming smaller press picks

Happy June, everyone. Where does the time go?

I've been blogging a lot about the "big" historical novels for late 2006, so I thought I'd focus this entry on some forthcoming titles from smaller presses. While these novels may not have the big marketing/publicity push that their counterparts from major publishers have, they look equally intriguing. These are all in my TBR pile - I got copies of these at BEA, one to send for review and one to keep for myself.

Devotion by Julia Oliver (University of Georgia Press, October) is a short biographical novel about Varina "Winnie" Davis, youngest child of Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy. She's described on the back cover as a modern woman, an "ambivalent torchbearer of the South's Lost Cause" who didn't really buy into the celebrity that surrounded her. Great cover.

I got sucked into Yvette Christianse's Unconfessed (Other Press, November) based on the first few pages, but forced myself to put it down so that I could finish up my latest review book. It's narrated by Sila van den Kaap, slave of a Dutchman in the Cape Colony of South Africa in the 1820s, who details why she was condemned for murder and sentenced to a lengthy term on Robben Island. It's based on 19th century South African court records, and the author is a native South African now living in New York City.

Finally, Markus Orths' Catalina (Toby Press, October) recounts the true story of Catalina d'Erauso, a 17th century Spanish woman who disguised herself as her brother, left the convent (where she had become a nun in order to receive an education), and explored the world - traveling to New Spain, Chile, and Peru. Toby Press has published a small number of historical novels originally appearing in the German language, to their credit. This looks to be on the literary side, with a "warts and all" approach to its subject, so I'm not sure what my final impression will be, but it looks interesting enough.


  1. I just read the PW review of Devotion. Thanks for posting the cover--lovely.

    In my younger years, there was a YA biographical novel about Varina which I read and remember fondly. So I'm eagerly awaiting this fictionalised version of her life!

  2. Interesting collection. I wonder if they will be published in the UK?

  3. I had wondered, while reading the description of Devotion, why I hadn't heard of her before - Varina seems like a great subject for a novel. It's good to know there's an earlier novel about her, too. Margaret, what PW issue is the review in? I'm wondering if it's not online yet.

    Catalina has both UK (14.99) and US prices on the back, but I doubt the other two will be published overseas.

  4. Well, now I can't find the review of Devotion in last week's PW or the week before. Given that it's an October release, it's too early for PW anyway!

    But I know I read about it quite recently--if only I could recall where! Online, perhaps.

    Sorry for my confusion.

    PW did review the Abundance, the novelisation of Marie Antoinette's life. And it's a starred review! Sounds promising.

    I rely on PW more than any publication for hist fic reviews. I really should join the HNS, I hear such good things!

  5. Not a problem, I was just curious to read it! I'll poke around online for more info.

    That was a great review for Abundance. I saw PW also gave high marks to Carolly Erickson's Last Wife of Henry VIII and Karleen Koen's Dark Angels, though they called the latter a historical romance. I like PW's reviews, but they've gotten this wrong before. (I do hope you'll decide to join HNS!)

  6. Catalina is coming out as German paperback in October, so I'll wait until then. It sounds interesting enough though it seems indeed to be on the literary side.

  7. Gabriele, thanks for the info, I was curious if you'd heard of it. Now if only they would publish an English edition of that one German author you've posted about - the one with the pretty covers :)

  8. Iny Lorentz, you mean? Her books are a nice enough read, usually with a romance subplot and fictional main characters; decently researched. They would find a readership in the UK and US I bet.

    But there's an author I'd recommend for translation more strongly: Rebecca Gablé. She writes books set in English Mediaeval times (Norman Conquest, Edward III, War of the Roses) with a good mix of fictional and historical characters, and meticulously researched (she has a new one out every 2-3 years, and that shows in a good way).

    Iris Kammerer's Tribune trilgoy would be a nice pick, too. She has studied Archaeology and Classical languages and knows what she writes about.

    For an interesting take on the Holy Blood Holy Grail subject, I'd suggest to translate Peter Berling's historical Fantasy trilogy about the Crusades. It's a lot better than DVC.

  9. Oh, I'd love to see Rebecca Gable's books, based on your description!

    My late cat (about 17 at her death)was named by my husband after Varina.

  10. Yes, Iny Lorentz - I remember the photos on But Rebecca Gablé's books sound great. I probably sound like your typical American, wanting my books available in English while you're not restricted to your native language, LOL. I could maybe get by in French, but I never got past 3rd year German. They didn't teach it until I went to college. Since Gablé writes about English history, maybe one day I'll be able to read her books.

    Varina is a cute name for a kitty.

  11. A quick note. I received a nice email from Julia Oliver, author of Devotion, who appreciated the mention of her upcoming novel. She also added the following:

    "My protagonist Varina ("Winnie") is named for her mother, Varina Howell Davis, who is a major character in Devotion. Two notable books have Varina, Sr., the Confederate President's wife, as the subject --- a 1958 biography of her by Ishbell Ross and a 1948 novel, Bride of Fortune, by Harnett Kane. In my extensive research, the younger Varina (my protagonist, who was known internationally in the late 19th century as Winnie Davis, an icon and cultural symbol of the Confederacy's "Lost Cause"), has been the subject of only one previous book, a slender biography of less than a hundred pages published in 1994."

    I read Bride of Fortune myself in high school - perhaps this was the YA biographical novel in question?