Tag: Books: Historical Fiction


Two Book Reviews

Posted 5 June, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The following are two reviews (sort of) that didn’t warrant a post of their own. Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but I also didn’t want to pass them off and not post about them, if that makes any sense lol.

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Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
By: Sjon
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The year is 1918 and in Iceland the erupting volcano Katla can be seen colouring the sky night and day from the streets of Reykjavik. Yet life in the small capital carries on as usual, despite the natural disaster, a shortage of coal and, in the outside world, the Great War grinding on.

There, sixteen-year-old M路ni Steinn lives for the new fashion – the movies. Asleep he dreams altered versions of them, their tapestry of events threaded with strands from his own life. Awake he hovers on the fringes of society. But then the Spanish flu epidemic comes ashore, killing hundreds and driving thousands into their sick beds. The shadows of existence deepen and for M路ni everything changes.

Capturing Iceland at a moment of profound transformation, this is the story of a misfit in a place where life and death, reality and imagination, secrets and revelations jostle for dominance. With not a word wasted, this mesmerising and original novel is the work of a major international writer.

It’s funny, I was actually eyeing this book the last time I was in Iceland but didn’t pick it up at the time. So this time around when I went I did have it on my mind to pick up a copy 馃槈

It’s my first Sjon novel so I’m not sure how it holds up compared to his other books. I thought it was an interesting read, reading how the Spanish flu affected Iceland, what life was like in Reykjavik in the early 20th century. There is also the added factor of what it was like to be a homosexual in Iceland in the early 20th century (though Mani I think was bi? I wasn’t sure if it was intrigue or infatuation re: Sola).

All in all it was an interesting read, although the epilogue chapter seemed tacked on and a bit of a leap for me. Nonetheless I’m glad to have picked it up and to have finally read a novel by Sjon.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Visit the author’s official website

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Waitress in Fall
By: Kristin Omarsdottir
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

For over three decades, the work of Kristin Omarsdottir has thrived in the vanguard of Icelandic literature. Waitress in Fall offers anglophone readers the first substantial selection of her poems in translation. Spanning thirty years and seven collections – from her first to her latest – this wide-reaching introduction celebrates a vital voice in contemporary European poetry.

Kristin Omarsdottir’s work resists the sweet, the neat or the certain. Her poems delight in the lush mess of actual life, in its hands and fingers, lemons and clocks, socks, soldiers, snow, knives, mothers, nightstands, sweat, and crockery. The domestic is at the heart of the poems, but it is a domesticity tinged with threat: something `clear and ominous’ persists between the lines.

These are surreal, unsettling landscapes, in which children lap milk from trees and car tyres are `soft as skin’. But Kristin’s poems are also full of laughter, sex, and love. They accept vulnerability as a condition of intimacy. Erupting `wherever thirst is ignited’, they are not afraid to strike, to rage, recognising a right – a responsibility – to risk the necessary word, even to `wound the language’.

This book kept following me in Iceland: at the bookstore, then at the airport, so I decided to pick it up, lol. As I haven’t heard of this poet until I visited Iceland this time around, picking up a book that spans much of her work these last few decades seem like the best place to start. It’s a great collection that indeed touches on the above topics, especially that of love and intimacy, and certainly raises that of everyday things we see, touch, and do to new heights. Definitely worth checking out.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: The Midnight Sun

Posted 3 June, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The Midnight Sun
By: Cecilia Ekback
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Sweden, 1855. Worst thing I ever saw… The Minister of Justice has received a disturbing message. There’s been a massacre on one of Lapland’s mountains: a priest, a law enforcement officer, and a local settler have been slaughtered by one of the indigenous Sami people. The murderer is in custody, but he refuses to talk. The Minister dispatches his son-in-law, a geologist, to investigate, as there is another reason to visit Black脗sen: it is a mountain with many secrets, a mountain whose rich mineral deposits have never been exploited. But Magnus does not journey alone. The Minister’s daughter, in disgrace, is sent with him.

The two unlikely companions venture out of the sweltering city to the wild landscape of Sweden’s far north under the strange, insomnia-inducing light of the midnight sun. There, the shocking truth they discover about the murders and what lies behind them will only be matched by what they discover about themselves. For Lovisa and Magnus贸and for the people of Black脗sen贸 nothing will ever be the same again. In The Month of the Midnight Sun tells a riveting story of the collision of worlds old and new, and cements Ekback’s status as a master of Nordic noir.

I completely forgot but I actually read her first book, Wolf Winter (review), a few years ago. Oops; clearly read too many books at this point :3 Anyway, I picked this book up on a whim (which is something of a rarity these days) and took it with me when I went on holiday a few weeks ago.

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Review: Jeremy Poldark

Posted 27 May, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Jeremy Poldark (Poldarks #3)
By: Winston Graham
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Ross Poldark faces the darkest hour of his life in this third novel of the Poldark series. Reeling from the tragic death of a loved one, Captain Poldark vents his grief by inciting impoverished locals to salvage the contents of a ship run aground in a storm贸an act for which British law proscribes death by hanging. Ross is brought to trial for his involvement, and despite their stormy marriage, Demelza tries to rally support for her husband, to save him and their family.

But there are enemies in plenty who would be happy to see Ross convicted, not the least of which is George Warleggan, the powerful banker whose personal rivalry with Ross grows ever more intense and threatens to destroy the Poldarks.

And into this setting, Jeremy Poldark, Ross and Demelza’s first son, is born…

At long last I’ve gotten around to the third book in the series. I was in a bit of a historical fiction mood before I went on holiday so apologies on how brief the following review will likely be; it’s been a while between the time I read the book and the time I’m typing this out.

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Review: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

Posted 13 February, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos
By: Dominic Smith
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can’t shake them, even long after the reading’s done. In his earlier, award-winning novels, Dominic Smith demonstrated a gift for coaxing the past to life. Now, in The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, he deftly bridges the historical and the contemporary, tracking a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the golden age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.

In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke’s in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain–a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she’s curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. As the three threads intersect, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerizes while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.

I found out about this book from Mel @ Book Musings and had it on my wishlist for a while. I then encountered it again for a very good price and decided to pick it up. I enjoy reading about art and discovering the world of art dealing and whatnot through these thriller/suspense/historical fiction novels.

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Review: Mikhail and Margarita

Posted 14 September, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Mikhail and Margarita
By: Julie Kestrom Himes
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

It is 1933 and Mikhail Bulgakov’s enviable career is on the brink of being dismantled. His friend and mentor, the poet Osip Mandelstam, has been arrested, tortured, and sent into exile. Meanwhile, a mysterious agent of the secret police has developed a growing obsession with exposing Bulgakov as an enemy of the state. To make matters worse, Bulgakov has fallen in love with the dangerously candid Margarita. Facing imminent arrest, and infatuated with Margarita, he is inspired to write his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, a scathing novel critical of both power and the powerful.

The Master and Margarita was never my favourite Soviet novel; I had read it twice and it just never struck me one way or the other. I do however appreciate why it was seen as a sharp appraisal of the Soviet regime and its lackeys and I was curious to read this book because it was looking at the author behind the book and the people he associated with.

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