Monday, September 12, 2011

An Australia & New Zealand historical fiction showcase

This post is thanks to Marg because in the comments for one of my recent posts, she told me about FishpondWorld, an online Aussie bookstore that ships free internationally.  The one thing that's prevented me from buying more historical novels from Australia and New Zealand is the outrageous postage charges, which are often higher than the books' cover price.  Getting them via interlibrary loan isn't really practical from the US.  So, having just gotten paid for an article I wrote, I clicked onto this new site and went to town.

A couple of these were actually recent purchases from Bookcloseouts, but they fit the subject and I figured I'd add them to the pile.

The books look even more appealing when you see the covers, so here they are below.

This is a huge trade paperback, 550pp long.  Belinda Alexandra is an Australian historical novelist who has set her novels all over the world.  I'd call them romantic epics.  Tuscan Rose centers on a young woman living in Florence, Italy, in the 1930s and '40s, who is compelled to uncover her true identity at a time when Fascism takes hold of her country.  HarperCollins Australia, 2010.

An unlikely love story unfolds in the gold rush settlement of Arrowtown in 19th-century New Zealand, as a young Chinese woman named Ming Yuet disguises herself as a miner.  Penguin New Zealand, 2008.

This is another gold rush-era romantic story set in Old Ballarat, a mining boomtown near Melbourne.  I won't reveal more of the storyline, because this is 3rd in a series after Kitty and Amber, tales of strong women during the early days of Australia and New Zealand.  HarperCollins New Zealand, 2010.

I just love this cover design.  The tagline says: "A daring heroine tests her wits against secrets, spies, and smugglers on a remote Australian island."  Mary Watson was a real person from 1879 Queensland, an adventure-seeking woman who left behind a few brief diary entries hinting at her fate.  This literary fiction novel picks up where those fragments leave off.  4th Estate, 2011.

This compact little novel (311pp but dense in terms of weight) tells the historically-based story of the migrations from Nova Scotia to Australia in 1817, and the colony's subsequent settlement in New Zealand in 1854, under the leadership of Norman McLeod.  Kidman tells the story from the viewpoint of three generations of women, whose stories date from 1812 to 1953.  Vintage New Zealand, 1988.

This is one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen anywhere, and it's on a book I'd been looking to buy for over a year.  Fiona McIntosh is best known as a fantasy writer, and this is her first installment of a family saga based on her the history of her ancestors. It begins at the end of the Great War.  "From the windswept clifftops of the Cornish coast to the goldmines of southern India, this is a page turning story of high adventure, devastating tragedy and enduring love."  Penguin Australia, this edition 2011.

And here is the back cover, which is just as spectacular.

I first read about La Rochelle's Road at Cat's blog Tell Me a Story; she's a NZ blogger who specializes in historical fiction.  In 1866, Hester Peterson discovers the journal of a past resident of her family's home - Etienne La Rochelle, who caused a scandal by taking a Maori lover. What she learns sets her on a dangerous path of beauty, darkness, and illicit love.  Black Swan (NZ), 2011.

Now which one should I read first?


  1. Oh nice! Interesting looking pile! I bought Tuscan Rose the first day I saw it in the shops here. Still haven't read it. I did really like her book, Silver Wattle and also quite liked Wild Lavendar.

    Apparently I have been a bit slack by not yet reading Tuscan Rose. Just noticed that she has another new book coming out really soon!

    Enjoy all your books!

  2. Thanks, Marg! I hope I chose wisely! Belinda Alexandra is an author I've been meaning to read for a while. I just found info on her upcoming book at the publisher's site. It sounds equally good.

  3. I really wish she had a website though!

  4. I agree - I looked for one too but couldn't find it.

  5. Very nice! A couple there I don't recognise and will have to seek out.
    I like the sound of the Judy Johnson but have to admit I didn't like Fields of Gold much.
    What ever you choose I hope you enjoy!

  6. This is a great and very useful post-thanks very much.

  7. Wonderful, will check this out. Thanks.

    I would love to read hist fic from Australia/New Zealand and the US but not easy to get here in UK


  8. Cat - I remember your review of Fields of Gold too. The storyline intrigued me so we'll see how it goes! I enjoy your blog because I see books reviewed there that I haven't seen anywhere else.

    Mel and Carol - Thanks! The new free-shipping venues are opening up a new world of reading for me.

  9. Fiona McIntosh is one of my friends favourite authors. I really must read her at some point. The other books sound good, too!

  10. I hope there are some real artists making real money from the pretty covers of these books....

  11. What a wonderful find! I appreciate the recommendation -- will have to take a look at their offerings. I'm drooling over all your selections -- I hope they're as good as they look!

  12. Anonymous10:59 AM

    I recently read LAST TRAIN FROM LIGURIA by Christine Dwyer Hickey, which appears to be the first of her novels published here in the US. It too is set in Italy during the 1930s and deals with the rise of fascism. There is a parallel narrative involving the heroine's granddaughter in 1990s Dublin.

    Sarah Other Librarian

  13. Sorry I've been neglecting the comments. It's been too busy of a week.

    I've never read Fiona McIntosh's fantasy novels. Someday!

    I hope they're as good as they look too. I seem to be drowning in review assignments so it may be a little while before I get to one - but I'll report back when I do!

    Good recommendation, Sarah (I bought Last Train to Liguria not long ago) - I hadn't thought about a comparison to Tuscan Rose before, but now that you mention it, the timeframe is similar.

  14. Lovely to see some local stuff on display :)

    Maxine Alterio's novel "Ribbons of Grace" is excellent, but a real heart-breaker, and Deborah Challinor always writes a reliably good story.

    The copy of Fiona McIntosh's "Fields of Gold" on sale here is this one with the landscape seen through the gate. I initially thought it was another of her fantasy novels, as the cover has a similar look to those.

  15. That one does look like a fantasy saga cover, Annis. I'm glad I got the version I did :)

  16. Lovely to see you giving so much time to Aussie authors. And Fishpond providing free international delivery is great for both overseas readers and aussie authors. White Gardenia was Belinda Alexander's debut novel and was fascinating - about white Russians in China druing WWII.

  17. I'm grateful to Marg for telling me about the site. I foresee a lot of shopping in my future! White Gardenia does sound fascinating.