Over the last little while, I've had some book purchases arrive at my door, and I hope to showcase more of these in upcoming posts. The historical novels in the pile below come from around the world, five of them via English translations. I didn't have to travel far to get them, though; all were bought from Amazon US with the exception of the Haasse and Falcones, which came from Book Depository.
Sally Armstrong's The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor (Vintage Canada, 2008) is historically-based fiction written by the title character's 3x-great granddaughter. Armstrong imagines her ancestor's life, tracing her journey from 1775 England to the West Indies to northern New Brunswick, where she takes refuge with the Mi'kmaq. The cover says "national bestseller," so Canadian readers will likely know it already, though I just discovered it recently.
I finished Oliver Pötzsch's The Hangman's Daughter (AmazonCrossing, 2010) two days ago. Who'd have thought a 400-page historical mystery set in a small town in 17th-c Bavaria would be a bestseller in America? It's published by AmazonCrossing, Amazon's new imprint for translated fiction, and I understand they've been advertising it to Kindle readers... so the word has spread quickly. It's proved so popular that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has snapped up print rights to it and its three sequels, for publication beginning this August. In his tale of serial murder and supposed witchcraft in 1659 Schongau, the author keeps a steady balance between the setting's grim reality and the warm-hearted humanity of his main characters. First published in Germany in 2008.
Margaret Sweatman's The Players (Goose Lane, 2009) is another Canadian find, "a voyage of discovery straddling libertine Restoration England and Canada's northern wilds" that follows actress Lilly Cole from the English stage across the Atlantic. The 17th-century is one of my favorite periods to read about, and this looked like a new perspective on the era.
We're moving into doorstop territory now. Lin Zhe's Old Town (AmazonCrossing, 2010) is another book from the online bookseller's translation imprint. To select titles for its catalog, Amazon looks at bestselling titles from its international stores and, based on their contents and ratings, decides which are likely to succeed as English translations. Lin Zhe is described as "one of China's foremost authors," and this is her saga covering a century of change in that country over three generations. I love long novels with family trees, and based on the two printed in the first few pages, Old Town looks to have a lot of personality. There's an "Eldest Sister" who marries a guy named "Rotten Egg" Zhang, and under the name of "Second Son," there's a note that says "ran off with prostitute." I look forward to reading their stories.
It's been over ten years since I've had the pleasure of reading one of Hella Haasse's novels; unfortunately I'm not fluent in Dutch. Her In a Dark Wood Wandering, set in 15th-c France, is a favorite, though I admit I never got on well with her Threshold of Fire (5th-c Rome). The Tea Lords (Portobello, 2010) is set amidst the Dutch colonial experience in the East Indies in the early years of the 20th century. First published in Dutch in 1992. That's a very long time to wait for a translation, though at least we got one.
Dalene Matthee was a well-known South African writer, and her Pieternella, Daughter of Eva (Penguin South Africa, 2008) tells the story of the first white settlement in the Cape of Good Hope. Pieternella was a mixed-race child, the daughter of a Dutch surgeon and a woman of the Hottentot tribe, and Matthee's novel is based on a true story. See the author's website for more. This is a translation from Afrikaans.
The nearly 900-page The Hand of Fatima (Doubleday UK, 2011) is Spanish writer Ildefonso Falcones's latest novel, following his bestseller Cathedral of the Sea. I'm probably crazy buying a novel this long, given my growing TBR pile, but I couldn't resist a novel set in the Kingdom of Granada in 1564, about the extended conflict between the Moors and Christians. I had this on preorder from Book Depository for nearly a year, and it finally arrived last week.
Sorry if you're seeing a duplicate post in your RSS reader. This posted once before I was done writing!