Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Canadian historical fiction showcase, part 2

I've been getting a lot of visitors to my first visual preview of Canadian historical fiction so decided to do a followup.  Most of these historical novels will be appearing in fall 2011.

In addition, no cover art is available for this one yet, so I haven't listed it below, but I wanted to make a special note of one book I'm highly anticipating.  Michael Ennis (author of the fabulous Duchess of Milan) will have a new novel out in late January from McClelland & Stewart.  A Most Beautiful Deception is a fact-based historical thriller set in the world of Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci.  Ennis isn't Canadian, but the novel doesn't appear to be published elsewhere.

Happy browsing.  Did I miss any important titles?  Let me know! 

In a series of connected short stories spanning 1901 to 1999, DeGrace takes readers through a century of change in the company of a large cast of characters.  The setting moves through the vast Canadian landscape, from early 20th-century Ontario to 1920s Montreal to Depression-era Saskatchewan and beyond.  McArthur & Co., Sept.

The story of Molly Norton, the half-native daughter of the governor of Hudson's Bay Company in 18th-century Manitoba, and Samuel Hearne, the explorer she married.  A sensitive rendering of a tragic clash of cultures that took place over two centuries ago.  The characters are based on historical figures. HarperCollins Canada, March (it's already out, and my copy arrived in yesterday's mail).

The love triangle between novelist Victor Hugo; Hugo's long-suffering wife, Adèle; and Hugo's would-be friend, French journalist and literary critic Charles Sainte-Beuve, set during the reign of Napoleon III.  HarperCollins Canada, Sept.; published in the UK in July by Serpent's Tail.

Maureen Jennings' Detective Murdoch mysteries set in late 19th-century Toronto are hugely popular in Canada.  Season of Darkness, first in her new series, takes place in rural Shropshire a year into WWII.  A detective who expected to be bored by his seemingly dull assignment finds himself investigating the death of a land girl.  Read the review from the NY Times.  McClelland & Stewart, Aug.

Another of Johnston's literary epics, this time set in late 19th-century Newfoundland, New Jersey, and North Carolina. When his personal circumstances turn sour, a man turns to his wealthy former Princeton classmate, George "Van" Vanderluyden, for help, and gets drawn into his deceitful net. (Van is based on George Washington Vanderbilt II, who constructed Biltmore.)  Knopf Canada, Aug.

It's been four years since McKay's debut, The Birth House, her celebrated and bestselling novel about the trials of a determined young midwife in an early 20th-century Nova Scotia fishing village.  Expect plenty of demand for The Virgin Cure, which was inspired by her great-great-grandmother's story.  Moth grows up in the slums of New York's Bowery district, where she befriends a female physician and become wise to the cruel ways of the adult world.  Knopf Canada, Oct; to be pub by HarperCollins US in Feb 2012.

The Forgetful Shore by Newfoundlander Trudy Morgan-Cole reveals the stories of two friends, closer than sisters, who grow up in a small coastal town in the early 20th century.  Although they remain in touch after their adult lives diverge, their friendship abruptly changes when a long-held secret emerges.  The author has also written novels about biblical women as well as The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson, about a shadowy woman who was Jonathan Swift's good friend and possibly more. Breakwater, Sept.

Gayla Reid is a multi-award winning Australian-Canadian writer, and her latest work incorporates elements from the history of both countries.  It tells the story of an Australian nurse longing for news of her Canadian lover, a volunteer on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War.  While she waits, she reveals her life story to her daughter.  Cormorant, Aug.

Polish-Canadian writer Stachniak's third work of fiction is an epic historical novel about Catherine the Great's rise to power in mid-18th century Russia, as seen from the viewpoint of her servant, Varvara.  The US publisher is gearing up for promotion already (my copy arrived last week) and I'm sure we'll be seeing much more of it this winter.  Let's hope this means Russian settings are on the upswing.  Doubleday Canada, Dec; also Bantam US, January, and Doubleday UK, January.

Vanderhaeghe, an author of significance in modern Canadian literature, presents his 3rd epic of the American and Canadian West in the late 19th century.  The first two books in this loosely formed trilogy are The Englishman's Boy and The Last Crossing.  McClelland & Stewart, Sept., and Atlantic Monthly (US), Jan.

In 1788, Lt. George Cartwright's trading expedition set out to make peaceful contact with the Beothuk, the native inhabitants of Newfoundland, in 1768.  Literary historical adventure along the early Canadian frontier.  Breakwater, Sept.


  1. Thanks, Sarah - there are some great looking reads here to add to theTBR wishlist :) And how cool to hear that Michael Ennis has come up with another novel after all this time- "Duchess of Milan" and "Byzantium" are on my list of ever-green favourites.

  2. Thanks for the post, Sarah!

    As a Canadian I'm always on the lookout for historical fiction set in Canada. Your posts are an immense help to me in this regard. I'll definitely be checking out Ami McKay's latest, as well as the new Wayne Johnson and Pauline Holdstock novels. Even though their novels aren't set in Canada, Helen Humphreys and Eva Stacniak upcoming releases are definitely on my wish list.

  3. I really want to read The Winter Palace! I've heard of The Duchess of Milan so I might have to check it out.

  4. Annis, it was definitely exciting to see a new one from him at last. I still haven't read Byzantium but will move it up on your recommendation! Duchess of Milan would be an ideal choice for reprinting in this age of Italian Renaissance fever :)

    Melissa - glad to hear it, and thanks! I reviewed The Birth House way back when and am looking forward to the new one. I'll wait for the US release for it but will be getting some of the others direct from Canada.

    Daphne - if you haven't read Duchess of Milan, it's well worth it. It's of my favorite novels about the period.

  5. Still a while yet until Spring but Gold Mountain, the third in the Klondike Gold Rush series by Vicki Delany, will be released by Dundurn in May. In the meanwhile, the first two books, Gold Digger and Gold Fever, are available.

  6. Thanks, Vicki, and glad to hear there'll be a 3rd one. I'll note it for next time!

  7. I LOVED Duchess of Milan...will have to look for the new one. Thanks for the heads up on the other Canadian HF...a couple have already hit the library shelves :)

  8. If you read any of them before I do, let me know what you think - most of these won't be appearing in the US so I'll have to buy them if I want them.

  9. Anonymous3:15 PM

    I read THE DUCHESS OF MILAN - fascinating, but a very violent period in history.

    I have one of Eva Stacniak's earlier novels which I got from BookCloseouts based on the life of a Polish countess - interesting part of 18th century history.

    And I remember going to Winnipeg's McNally and Robinson bookstore in pre-Amazon days and being amazed at the wealth of Canadian (i.e. non-USA) titles which I could browse. More grist for my reading mill! Plus, at that time Joanna Trollope had a year lag between the UK and the USA so I was able to get some of her titles.

    Sarah Other Librarian

  10. "Byzantium" is the story of the legendary 11th century Viking warrior-king, Harold Hardrada, and focuses on the time he spent as captain of the Varangian guard in Byzantium. It's written in the grand, romantic epic style, but a warning for those who don't like violence- given the time and place, there's plenty of it!

    Harald was part of a culture which believed that fame - the story of a man's bold and brave deeds -were all that would be left of him after his death. Adam Williams gives a wonderful account of how Harald made sure his deeds would be recorded accurately in his blog post called History and a Good Story- go to the end of the post.

    Here's an extract:
    "Apparently, even as he was wielding an axe at Stamford Bridge, seeing his army die around him, he had behind him a scribe – and as he was fighting what he knew was his last battle he was composing verses about his own death, because he wanted to get the record straight. Lopping off heads, he composed a stanza, and then had the scribe repeat it back to him. He thought it infelicitous and composed another (this as he was plucking arrows from his pectorals). Now THERE is a dedicated historical novelist!"

  11. I bought Stachniak's first novel from Bookcloseouts too. Wouldn't have come across it otherwise. One of these days I will read it. A friend from the Winnipeg area's told me about the McNally & Robinson bookstore there. I've never been to one, though I've been to many a Chapters store in Toronto and London (yep, the big evil chain). I did a ton of shopping there. Not cheap!

    Annis, thanks so much for that link. Adam Williams is another novelist whose books I ought to read! (Unfortunately Book Depository cancelled my order for his latest, and I didn't get it elsewhere yet...) What a great story, and I like the ending of his piece, too. "The story is all."

  12. Anonymous12:17 PM

    I've heard that Book Depository is in the process of being bought by Amazon.

    Sarah other Librarian

  13. Amazon's giving it a fair try. Can't say I'm happy about that. Whether the sale is allowed to proceed in the UK is still pending.

  14. Yay, I love Canada! I almost moved there a few years ago...

    Good picks!

  15. Thank you for telling us about these books; the only one of them I've heard of is "The Winter Palace."
    Luckily the book I most want to read (The Virgin Cure) is being published in the U.S. Sadly, it's hardcover; no Kindle release listed yet, either.