What's interesting: it's very selective as to which Canadian authors' books are picked up in the States. Some of these novelists will be familiar to US readers, who may not realize that the authors have new books out (or will soon). As far as I can tell, none are available in the UK or in other English-speaking countries, either. The historical settings are wide-ranging, from ancient Egypt to Renaissance Venice to 17th-century New France to 19th-century Japan. Because it's been over a year since I've been to any Canadian bookstores in person, I'm sure I'm missing other relevant titles; to recommend others, just leave a note in the comments. Enjoy.
The first volume of the Alford Saga, which will chronicle over 200 years of Canadian history beginning with the stories of the country's pioneer settlers in the early 19th century. The author is one of Canada's major preeminent film and TV directors. Not quite an epic, though, at 248 pages. McArthur & Co, September 2010.
In 1669, Laure Beausejour and her best friend, Madeleine, are sent from Paris to New France as filles du roi, young women transported overseas to help populate the colony. In Ville-Marie (Montreal), she faces numerous challenges, from the region's harsh conditions to her marriage to a brutish French soldier. The plot reminds me somewhat of Clare Clark's Savage Lands, but set in Canada rather than Louisiana. I'd enjoyed the setting of the latter but didn't warm to any of the characters, and I've read next to nothing set in New France, so am eagerly anticipating this debut novel. Penguin Canada, January 2011.
Publication of the third volume in Pauline Gedge's King's Man trilogy has been postponed a few times. This volume begins as Huy, a renowned seer, becomes scribe and counselor to the young pharaoh, Amunhotep III. The first two books are The Twice Born and Seer of Egypt. Penguin Canada, March 2011.
A literary ghost story about the nature of artistic inspiration and womanhood, set in present-day Washington, DC, and in 19th-century Japan. Rebecca must discover why O-Ei, daughter of one of Japan's great artists and perhaps his equal in talent, vanished from her own time and from history. Govier's earlier novels Creation and Three Views of Crystal Water appeared in the US, but no sign yet of this one. I found an article by Govier at More Magazine that illuminates her travels in pursuit of her character, a historical woman. HarperCollins Canada, May 2010.
I read about Freda Jackson's For a Modest Fee last week at January Magazine, who wrote that it dealt with gender equality on the Canadian prairies. Elizabeth Evans, nurse and midwife, travels with her father to Aspen Coulee, Alberta, in 1907. After he dies of a heart attack, she and other local women are left to transform the fledgling pioneer town into a more civilized place. TouchWood, September 2010.
In returning to Labrador to investigate a millennia-old mystery, Shannon Carew delves into the region's complex, multi-layered history, from the ancient Inuits through the Vikings and to the tragic history of the Beothuk in more modern times. This is the author's first adult novel. Cormorant, August 2010.
The publisher describes Roberta Rich's The Midwife of Venice (originally titled The Moneylender's Wife) as a rollicking historical thriller set in 16th-c Venice and Malta. Hannah Levi, a midwife in the Venetian ghetto, risks her life to render aid to the dying wife and unborn child of a Christian nobleman. Then she discovers the baby's own life is at risk from greedy relatives, and her real adventure begins. Sound intriguing? Read more at the author's website. Doubleday Canada, February 2011.
Sometimes, completely serendipitously, two or more authors come out with historical novels on very similar subjects. Joan Thomas's Curiosity tells the story of Mary Anning, a cabinet-maker's daughter turned fossil hunter in 19th-century Lyme Regis, England. I'm far from the first person to group it together with Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures, as reviewers from the Vancouver Sun and Toronto Star have done the same. The books interpret the same character very differently, so the reviews say, so why not try both? McClelland and Stewart, March 2010.
Jack Whyte moves from his trilogy about the mysterious Knights Templar of the medieval Middle East to Scotland in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The life of William Wallace ("Ye canna take our freedom!" per a certain Mel Gibson flick) is rendered with a greater eye for authenticity in this first book of the Guardians trilogy. Books 2 and 3 will cover Robert the Bruce and the Black Douglas, respectively. Viking Canada, September 2010.
I'm a fan of Richard Wright's Clara Callan, a multi-award winning saga of two sisters living in small-town Ontario during the Depression. Why Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard isn't published in the States is a mystery to me, as it has the elements American historical fiction readers crave: a marquee name, a setting of Elizabethan London, and the promise of secrets to be revealed about a beloved historical character. I can't resist poking fun at popular reading tastes, but Wright's latest novel did get a very positive review in the Globe & Mail a few weeks ago, which convinced me to buy it. Kailana of The Written World recently reviewed it as well. Phyllis Bruce Books (HarperCollins Canada), September 2010.