Sunday, February 17, 2008

Books I'm watching for in 2008 - UK edition

Since I posted about upcoming historical novels from American publishers last month, I figured it was only fair to look at UK-published titles over the next six months as well. In contrast, I haven't read any of these novels myself, yet, so am relying purely on publisher descriptions and/or past experiences with these authors' books.

Given that I enjoyed Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman so much, her forthcoming Figures in Silk (May) is high on my wishlist. Like its predecessor, it falls into the realm of fictional biography. This time the protagonists are the two daughters of silk merchant John Lambert: Jane, who became the mistress of Edward IV, and Isabel, who became a silkweaver at court. I'm not familiar enough with the family to have heard about Isabel, but you may recognize Jane's married name (Shore). Among other novels about royalty - one of my main interests - Philippa Gregory's The Other Queen will be out in September in the US, but in April in the UK. Its focus is Mary, Queen of Scots, during the years she spent as a "guest" of the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury. I have an ARC in my hands and will be reading it next. Margaret Irwin's The Gay Galliard, subtitled "The Love Story of Mary Queen of Scots," originally came out in 1941. I don't think the title of the reissued version, The Galliard (Mar.) has quite the same historical ring to it, but you'll remember the same thing happened with Jean Plaidy's Gay Lord Robert last year.

Looking back further into the past... Gillian Bradshaw's The Sun's Bride (May) takes place off the coast of Lycia (in modern Turkey) in 266 BC. The publisher describes it as a historical adventure that begins as the Rhodian warship Atalanta encounters a pirate ship upon which a beautiful woman, mistress to a king, has been held captive. The US publication date is August, and from past experience, if you want this novel, you should order it early, as it won't be in bookshops and may sell out fast. Severn House is one of those hardcover library publishers we talked about in the comment trail a while back. Paul Waters' Of Merchants and Heroes (Feb.) will be an editors' choice selection in the Feb issue of HNR, which is enough in itself to convince me to read it, but there are also four 5-star reviews on Amazon as of today. It's described as a story of love, loss, and redemption set in Greece and Rome at the end of the 3rd century BC, and is being compared to works by Robert Graves and Mary Renault. Also in the comment trail of a past post, Sarah C pointed out Helen Dunmore's Counting the Stars (Feb.), which she described as "about the Roman poet Catullus and his affair with Lesbia." It's not on the US version of Amazon, which may mean I won't see it locally. Lord Leighton's Flaming June is on the cover, which is not exactly unique, but it's actually appropriate in this case.

Some shorter takes:
I always enjoy out-of-the-way settings in my fiction, so I have my eye on three more: Lesley Downer's The Last Concubine (Feb., an epic love story set during Japan's civil war of 1865); Linda Holeman's In a Far Country (Mar., 3rd in the author's trilogy set in 19th century India and the Middle East); and Betsy Tobin's Ice Land (Feb., a "gripping mythic love story set in Iceland a thousand years ago"). I've read and enjoyed Tobin's Bone House but haven't read anything by her since. Carina Burman's The Streets of Babylon (also Feb.), which from its Amazon description sounds morbidly quirky - click on the link to see why - could be intriguing.

My former editorial colleague Sarah Bower will have a new novel out in early May, The Book of Love, about a young Jewish girl from Isabella and Ferdinand's Spain who joins the court of Ferrara as an attendant to Lucrezia Borgia. I know little about Nerys Jones' Godiva (Jan.) besides the subject matter, which you can guess from the title. No Amazon reviews yet, though a sarcastic reviewer from The Telegraph didn't like it. Oh well. There are so few novels about the American frontier published in the UK that I'm curious about Peggy Elliott's A Small Part of History, especially as it doesn't appear to have a US publisher. It's about Rebecca, the 27-year-old third wife of John Springer, and her experience along the Oregon Trail in 1845. Lastly, the plot of Barbara Erskine's The Warrior's Princess (Jul.) sounds familiar, perhaps because it's a classic time-slip plot - a young teacher from London investigates the story of the Celtic princess Eigon, daughter of Caractacus, and finds that the present and the past begin merging.

I seem to have had an attack of blogorrhea while typing this, so I'll stop now before Blogger quits on me, and before I'm tempted to spend more money at Book Depository.


  1. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Thank you for sharing all this -- I find it very helpful.

  2. I didn't notice any blogorrhea.
    I'd be interested to know what you think of the new Philippa Gregory novel when your done with the ARC. The book Iceland looks like it would be for the TBR pile. I agree with you, Elliott's book about the American frontier would be worth checking out, not a setting that is often written about even in the US. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Lots of good ones there - and I've added a fair few of them to my list!

  4. Ooh, some things to look forward to here!

  5. Thanks for your comments, all!

    The Gregory review is for assignment, but I'll link to the review if/when it's posted somewhere. I've read a few books set along the Oregon Trail and am wondering how this will compare. I can't seem to find anything on the author, whether she's British or American, etc.

  6. Thanks for these, Sarah. I didn't know about the forthcoming Gillian Bradshaw and Barbara Erskine novels, probably for the reason you mentioned in your comment on my blog -- often lists HF under other genres. Although I'm not a fan of crime novels, I have to get hold of the Carina Burman having seen the cover and the name of the protagonist! And the author's name is almost an anagram of Carmina Burana!

  7. Great to hear about the new Vanora Bennett book. Having just finished The Sunne in Splendor by SKP, I will be looking forward to reading more about Jane Shore!