Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A visual preview of the spring season

Here we are again with another collage of historical novel covers and descriptions.  As usual, I'm running slightly behind, which means a summer preview will be posted very soon.  In alphabetical order by author, below, are previews for 15 novels set to appear between February and May 2012, chosen out of personal interest.   Realistically speaking, I'll only get to a fraction of these in the immediate future, although I don't like to admit it. I want to read them all.

In addition to these, the Historical Novel Society's forthcoming books page lists titles set to be published between now and August.  I'll be reviewing yet more spring titles here, later - stay tuned!

Jane Borodale's excellent Book of Fires, about a young woman, pregnancy, and pyrotechny in 1750s London, was the first book I reviewed in 2010.  The Knot steps back two centuries and continues its focus on ordinary people from English history.  In its story of one man's life, it looks at love, gardening, and the translation of an Herbal in rural Somerset during the Elizabethan era. HarperPress, May.

I am undoubtedly one of the few people who hasn't read Sarah's Key; I've read quite a bit of fiction about World War II lately, but not that one. (You all can tell me if I'm missing anything.)  De Rosnay's third novel in English takes place in 1860s Paris as a woman fights to save her beloved family home from destruction during the city's renovation. St. Martin's, Feb.

There's nothing like the premise of Blue Asylum to make women grateful that they're living in the 21st century.  During the Civil War, a Southern plantation owner's wife is put away in a mental hospital for daring to express abolitionist tendencies.  The story doesn't end there, of course. HMH, April.

I enjoyed Johnson's The Salt Road (it of the gorgeous UK cover) well enough to want to pick up her third mainstream historical, this one moving from 17th-century Morocco to the more familiar court of England's Charles II.  Viking UK and Doubleday Canada, Feb.

A murder mystery set in an 18th-century Shaker community?  That seems like such an incongruous notion that despite the title, I doubt there's anything simple about this storyline.  Eleanor Kuhns' A Simple Murder, taking place in 1796 Maine, was the winner of Mystery Writers of America's First Crime Novel Competition, and the author is a librarian in upstate New York.  Minotaur, May.

I posted the US publishing deal for this title last March (it's forthcoming from Amy Einhorn Books, who also published The Help and Sarah Blake's The Postmistress, among others, so we'll be hearing plenty more about it).  I've been looking forward to it since.  Americans will have to wait a bit, as this is the UK edition.  As you might guess from the spectacular cover, it takes place in Africa: the diamond fields of 1870s South Africa, to be specific.  A self-involved young Englishwoman arrives there to marry an ambitious doctor and joins him on his smallpox station on the isolated Karoo plains, where she gets caught up in local drama.  Viking UK, March.

The Song of Achilles has been out in the UK since the autumn, and reviews have been outstanding overall. An epic of love, war, and fate in ancient Greece and a retelling of events from Homer's Iliad, it focuses on the growing relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. The legendary warrior from the Trojan War is depicted here as a romantic hero.  Ecco, March.

You all may be weary of my singing Jude Morgan's praises by now, but I couldn't resist posting the cover of his soon-to-be-released biographical novel about the Bard.  I've read many novels about Shakespeare, but have high hopes that this one will show a new side to his character.  Morgan specializes in insightful fictional portraits of famously creative men and women from history, and I expect no less from this volume.  Headline, April.

Sophie Perinot's debut novel centers on two royal women you won't have read much about before in fiction: Marguerite of Provence, who married Louis IX of France, and Eleanor of Provence, who married England's Henry III.  Sisters, close friends, and occasional rivals, their relationship endures despite the distance that separates them for most of their long lives.  For my fellow chunksterers: this one will count too.  NAL, March.

This gothic-tinged cover is so different from the pastoral scene that appeared on the ARC that I did a double take.  As with his previous novel, Serena (see news on the film version), we're back in the dark, gorgeous landscape of early 20th-century Appalachia. A novel about a mysterious stranger, a woman thought to be a witch, and a secret with dangerous repercussions in WWI-era North Carolina.  Ecco, April.

Gothic romantic suspense (with ghosts) set in an England already haunted by war... sounds like my type of book.  In the years after World War I, a young woman is charged with helping a ghost-hunter dispel the angry spirit of Maddy Clare, who died by suicide. NAL, March.

A saga about immigration to America in the mid-19th century; not an uncommon subject, but what makes this one different is the author's choice to tell it in the voices of four characters with very different cultural perspectives: a young Irishman, a Spanish society girl, and a man and a woman who are slaves.  The American Civil War forms the eventual backdrop to their stories.  Doubleday, March.

Here we have a saga of a different sort, one that explores the bonds between mothers and daughters over a century, from the 1830s to the World War II years, in the mountains of rural north Georgia.  The ongoing evolution (or not) of race relations involving African Americans and the Cherokee weaves in and out of the tale, along with elements of magical realism.  Viking, March.

Turner Publishing has been around for a while, per their website, but they're new to me... and they've been buying up a number of novels from Barbara Wood's backlist, as well as some newer titles. Wood is one of the rare historical novelists who can adapt her skills to numerous settings and eras.  This Golden Land is a saga about a female healer who travels from 19th-century England to Melbourne to pursue her calling as a midwife.  (Per Amazon, it was previously published with iUniverse.)  Turner, May.

And one more by Wood with the same release date (and an awesome cover):  The story of a Germanic-Roman woman with second sight during Christianity's early years.  Turner, May.


  1. I'm certainly interested in reading the De Rosnay book. I LOVED Sarah's Key - it made me cry and was so addicting. A great selection of books.

  2. So many good books coming out. I particularly like the look of The Fever Tree!

    One of these days I will get around to reading Sarah's Key.

    I love it when you post these visual previews!

  3. Ohhh loved your list, so many gems above. Now we need to wave the wand to come up with more time to read them all.

  4. My wish list just grew larger with this post, Sarah :-) I'm especially looking forward to The Haunting of Maddy Clare.

  5. That's one reason I haven't read Sarah's Key - the idea that it may upset me too much.

    I don't see a US pub date for Fever Tree yet. Hope we don't have to wait too long.

    And yes, time is a problem. Seeing as how I've been reading the same book for the past week and a half...

    Always happy to help increase the TBR pile, Melissa :) I have an ARC for Maddy Clare and will try to get to it by the pub date.

  6. So many wonderful books! I think i want to read them all! Especially the ones by Jane Borodale.. (I read Book of Fires and loved it.), and the one by Tatiana de Rosnay. And i love Barbara Wood too! Where to start?! Where to start?! :D

  7. I love your preview posts and have already put some of these on my list to read (and I, too, have not read Sarah's Key yet, but have owned the book since it came out)

  8. What a wonderful list! The visuals are stunning! Can't wait to read "The Sister Queens" Will it remind me of being in Gascony and Provence?

  9. Some great-looking titles there! Love the diversity of your picks! I've got several on my wishlist.

  10. I'm looking forward to "Blue Asylum." I've had it bookmarked for months! It's good to see more Civil War era fiction creeping in. Of course, that comes from someone who writes Civil War historicals!

  11. They all sound wonderful but I am especially excited about The Sister Queens, Blue Asylum and The Knot! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow, more great books coming out! I love the cover of Blue Asylum.

  13. I realized I forgot the publisher/date for The Knot so added it - it's HarperPress (UK), May.

    I've found that showing the covers really increases my interest in the book - glad you all agree, too :)

  14. All of the books look really great! I'm looking forward to reading The Knot and Sister Queens--hopefully we'll see more novels featuring medieval(continental)Europe which doesn't seem to be well represented in English-language historical fiction.

  15. Gorgeous! I want one of each -- but the Shaker murder mystery one is especially appealing. Thanks for lifting these up -- adding them all to my TBR!

  16. So many of these sound good!

  17. Anonymous11:20 AM

    The movie of SARAH'S KEY was certainly affecting as well . . . so don't see that!!

    I noticed a trend after SK was published in novels with at least an obligatory flashback to WWII France (The Postmistress, A Vintage Affair . . . got to be a little much). WWII Italy seems to be the "in" place for 2012, if I may put it that way.

    But you are a bad bad Sarah for tempting me with these mostly UK editions set during 16th-18th centuries!!!

    Sarah Other Librarian

  18. Kim, you might also be interested in Sherry Jones's upcoming Four Sisters, All Queens, which expands the scope to all four Provençal sisters (out from Gallery, May).

    I'm hoping I'll be on the mailing list for the Shaker mystery. If not, I'll get my own copy.

    And Sarah - your statement about WWII Italy is the perfect lead-in to next Monday's review and guest post! I couldn't have timed it better myself. When I think of summer books to post, I'll have to come up with some more UK titles of possible interest :)