Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

The Help

November 28, 2012


Title: The Help
Author: Stockett, Kathryn
Publication Date:2009
Pages:464 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: The Sixties (20th century)
Genre:Historical fiction
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:
The author tells a sombre story using three women’s perspective as they share their experiences in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 60’s. Aibileen and Minny are African American women working as maids in white holds. Aibileen, though has had her own share of personal tragedies, however she is dutiful, loyal and loves the white children she takes care of. Minny on the other hand is sour, resentful and does not hesitate to speak her mind. Skeeter, a young white graduate has an inner struggle about finding who she is and settling down like all of her friends. As the story develops, Skeeter an aspiring writer, feels compassion for the plight of these black maids as they are mistreated while working for these families. She tries to convince the maids to tell their story about how it feels to cook, clean and take care of these white children under such degrading circumstances. As we learn about these women’s lives, we also get an insight into the racial prejudice and discrimination in the the south during the mid 1960‘s. The story moves very fast urging you to follow the characters they develop to find out what eventually happens.
Despite the evocation of sadness and melancholy in the story, the occasional interjections of humor help liven up the overall tone of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights Movement, College graduates,
Domestic workers, Housekeepers, Interracial friendship, Race relations, The Sixties (20th century)

Three Appeal Terms: Fast-paced, Compelling, Thought Provoking,

Appeal: Touching, thought-provoking, humorous and compelling, provocative, lively, dialect-rich, upbeat, moving, strong sense of place, engrossing, captivating, Fascinating

Fiction Read-Alikes:

The healing by Odell, Jonathan
A historical fiction – a personal account of a former slave’s experiences during pre civil rights movements in the south. This is a great read alike for those who truly enjoyed The Help and are curious about the lives of the slaves and how they coped.

We are all welcome here by Berg, Elizabeth
Here again, like the The Help we find three women but facing different types of struggles and survival – a bedridden mother, a teenager looking for freedom and an African American caregiver. The author portrays the relationship between race and class during the civil rights movements. This book would appeal to those interested in women’s quest for survival under grave circumstances, but with a lighter tone than in The Help.

Roots: the saga of an American family by Alex Haley
This award winning novel takes you right into the authentic story of slavery portrayed by this African American family. You follow the protagonist Kunte Kinte directly from capture in Africa, his resistance and eventual arrival and forced into slavery. This story spans seven generations of this family recounting their history through work in plantation, civil war and reconstruction period.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Song in a weary throat: an American pilgrimage by Murray, Paulie
Find a real personal account of Pauli Murray on the civil rights movement, women rights and advocacy. This will appeal to those who would like to learn more about race integration and major works on women’s rights.

Civil rights movement: people and perspectives by Michael, Ezra
For those who are interested in civil rights movements and its effect on the nation, this is a great resource. The book is comprehensive and gives various perspectives on the events of the civil rights era.

W.E.B. DuBois: biography of a race, 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis
The biography of DuBois is an intelligent and detailed work. It is a great resource with in-depth account and analysis of the history of racism, civil war and civil rights movements. A well researched book and a credible source. Those intrigued by the level of racism and prejudice as portrayed in The Help would appreciate this resource.

When the Emperor Was Divine

November 27, 2012

Author: Julie Otsuka

Title: When the Emperor Was Divine

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multi-cultural

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 144

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: 1942-1945

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This is a historically detailed story about a family that was in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The novel, which is written in third person, begins with the mother and two children still at home after their father was arrested. This was a few months before the rest of the family goes to the internment camp. The rest of the novel the characters reflect there unfortunate journey and lives while in the Japanese Internment Camp and their lives after the war. Even though living in the internment camps for over three years was horrible, it was bittersweet because they have pleasant moments and dreams. This family-centered novel provides the readers with a character-driven perspective of the lives in the internment camps in the United States during the Second World War

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans – Mass internment, 1942-1945; World War II – California; Japanese-American families; concentration camps — California

Appeal: atmospheric; bittersweet; character-driven; closely observed; detailed setting; emotionally intense; family-centered; historical details; leisurely paced; multiple points of view; nostalgic; reflective; richly detailed; strong sense of place; thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bittersweet; family-centered; historical details

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Davenport, John C., The attack on Pearl Harbor: The United States enters World War II (explains the historical details of how and why the Japanese were put into the internment camps)

– Grant, Kimi Cunningham, Silver like dust: one family’s story of America’s Japanese internment (an actual individual family-centered account of the internment camps)

– Grapes, Bryan J., Japanese-American internment camps (several articles and stories of people who were in the internment camps)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Appanah-Mouriquan, Nathacha, 1973-, The last brother (bittersweet, family-centered, World War II story)

– Finney, Ernest J., California time (family-centered story about a Japanese American families relationship with Portuguese and Italian families, and how World War II affected the relationship)

– Salisbury, Graham, Eyes of the emperor (thought-provoking, Japanese American story during World War II, story through the eyes of individual who fought in the war and was still discriminated against)

Name: Samantha Biegel

The Apothecary Rose

October 17, 2012

Author: Candace M. Robb

Title: The Apothecary Rose

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 256 pages

Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 1363

Series: Owen Archer Mysteries, 1

Plot Summary: Owen Archer,  a former Captain of the Archers, turned spy and masquerades as an apothecary apprentice; all in order to discover who murdered two pilgrims at York and for what reason.

Subject Headings: Archer, Owen, 14th Century, Civilization-Medieval- England

Appeal Terms:

suspenseful, murder investigation, authentic, tangled relationships, detailed settings, poison, 14th Century England, religion, Medieval culture, pilgrimages

3 Best Appeal Terms:

  • suspenseful
  • authentic
  • detailed

Similar Fiction Authors:

  • The Nightingale Gallery by P.C. Doherty;1991 (historical mystery series, Medieval Great Britain)
  • The Last Templar by Michael Jecks; 1995 (14th Century, historical murder mysteries, Knights Templar)
  • A Shrine of Murders by C. L. Grace: 1993 (15th Century Great Britain, woman protagonist, Medieval murder mystery series)

Similar Nonfiction Authors:

  • The Lust for Blood: Why We are Fascinated by Death, Murder, Horror and Violence by Jeffery A. Kottler; 2010                                                                                                 For those readers who say “why am I reading murder mysteries when I am squeamish about blood?” you aren’t alone. This scientific book takes a hard and gritty look at why people continue to be infatuated  with blood and violence, starting with the gladiators of Rome all the way to popular culture figures such as zombies and vampires. (science, gritty, from the ancients to contemporary times)
  • Dead and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the dark scandal that rocked the throne by Chris Skidmore :2011                                                                                              For readers that like to know if any of these murders were even possible, try some true crime from the 16th Century. Written as an exploratory study of the death of Anne Robsart using forensics, science and history buffs should enjoy this little hidden gem (16th Century Great Britain, true crime, journalistic, compelling)
  • Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes by Bertram Fields: 1998                                                                                                                                                         Here’s another forensic mystery that might change the history books. This one has no resolution, but for those who like cold cases, this is bound to be interesting.  (true crime, 15th Century Great Britain, forensics)

Name: Jennifer Palermo

Memoirs of Geisha

September 26, 2012

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur, Golden

Publication Date: 1999

Time Period: Japan – 1920s to the 1940s.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 503

Plot Summary: Arthur Golden weaves a compelling story in this memoir about a poor girl Sayuri sold and taken to the big city and is forced into a  kind of  life she was totally unprepared for. She finds herself in the world of Geisha, and learns the Geisha trade where she eventually becomes one of the most desired Geisha in Japan. Told from a first person point of view, this book explores in detail the daily life of  the Geisha, various stages of the Geisha training, the competitions, and  rivalries among the Geisha and the ultimate sale of the Geisha’s virginity.  Though leisurely paced, the reader is taken  through twists and turns of the plot and is made to feel real sympathetic to the  strong willed and determined Sayuri – who decides to go by the wishes of her heart rather than the dictates of the society. You find  a lot of cultural elements and language that evokes  a strong sense of place that depicts the culture and tradition of the Japanese in a very realistic fashion..

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling; lyrical; richly detailed, leisurely paced, atmospheric; reflective, introspective, insightful, inspiring, detailed, homespun; Leisurely-Paced; Evocative, sympathetic, introspective – Japanese culture, single character development over time, explores interesting multiple  characters

Subject Headings: Geishas, Artisans, competition in women, Women entertainers,

Prostitution, Women friendship, Men/women relationships, Jealousy in women, First loves, 20th century

3 Best Appeal Terms: Leisurely paced, Compelling, Reflective

Similar Fiction: 

My Antonia by  Carter, Willa – Shares similar tone and plot  as Memoirs of a Geisha -The story of an orphaned girl who struggles from a young age…

Reflective, Homespun, Bittersweet, Narrative style –

The whistling season by Doig, Ivan – Set in the early 1900s, has a very strong sense of place, Moving, Reflective, Nostalgic, Descriptive, Atmospheric. Readers who loved these elements in Memoirs of a Geisha would also love this novel.

The commoner by Schwartz, John Burnham

Those who loved Memoirs of a Geisha will also love this because they both share similar themes –  Where one from a lowly beginning finds love and rises to top – a commoner marries into royalty. Novel set in Japan, evokes language and cultural elements.  Gives a good insight into the culture and tradition of the Japanese. Has similar narrative style, from first person point of view.

Similar Non-fiction:

Autobiography of a Geisha by Masuda, Sayo

Masuda recounts from a first person point of view life as a Geisha.  This book exposes both the glamour and the indignity surrounding “Geisha”. Readers of Memoirs of a Geisha would be enthralled.

Japanland: a year in search of wa by Muller, Karin

An american film maker travels to Japan to explore the customs and traditions of the people.  We get an insight into the life of geishas, samurai and other communities.  Readers who loved memoirs of a Geisha would thoroughly enjoy this true life account on what goes behind closed doors of these customs.

Women of the pleasure quarters: the secret history of the geisha by Downer, Leslie

This is a well researched  book that delves more into the history of the Geisha.  A fascinating read by anyone curious about how “Geisha” came to be.

By: Vera

 

Under the Poppy

September 26, 2012

Author: Koja, Kathe

Title: Under the Poppy

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 360

Geographical Setting: unspecified city, most likely Brussels in Europe

Time Period: 1870’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Under the Poppy is a book about a brothel with the same name in a historical city, possibly nineteenth century Brussels. Its setting of theatrical atmosphere and cabaret scenery coordinates perfectly with the flamboyant and vivid main characters. In the first part of the story three friends meet again after not seeing each other for years. Rupert, who owns the brothel, Decca, his co-owner and the madam of the place and who is in love with Rupert, and Istvan, Decca’s brother, with whom Rupert is in love. The complicated love triangle begins while Istvan, also a puppeteer master, comes back to town. It’s a story about the war too, from which Rupert and Istvan want to escape by getting involved in the circles of the upper class society of the decadent 1870s Brussels.

Koja’s use of language is undeniably genius, rich, refreshing, and engrossing; the entire story is eccentric and requires lots of patience for the extravagant style. It has plenty of distinct and provoking sex scenes, but they are tastefully written.

Subject Headings: Friendship; Sexuality; Gay Man; Nineteenth Century; Houses of Prostitution; Triangles (Interpersonal Relations); Puppetry; War and Love; History and Drama.

Appeal: fast-paced; intense and sophisticated prose; rich and unexpected dialogues and narrative; theatrical; flamboyant; refreshing language; decadent and dark world; text dense of double-maenings; heartbreaking drama; descriptive, sexy.

Three Terms for Book: theatrical scenery, engrossing prose, intoxicating characters.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Carter, Angela, Nights at the Circus – Provocative touring circus among European Cities; gothic and magical scenery plus unconventional 19th century characters.

2. Diamant, Anita, The Last Days of Dogtown – Stories of an old Massachusets town in the 1800s, populated mostly by extraverted and decadent community members. It’s a piece of  quirky, uneasy, still very sensual Historical Fiction.

3. Valentine, Genevieve, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti – Apocalyptic and Fantasy Fiction with an edgy and melancholy tone.  There are adventures of th post war circus Tresaulti’s Troupe. Gorgeous prose.

 Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

1. Blumenthal, Eileen, Puppetry: A World History – Explores the ways puppetry played in the past cultural history of Western Europe and North America. Some photos can be shocking, but true to the topic.

2. Schwarzenbach, Annemarie, All the Roads Are Open: The Afgan Journey – This is the only one translated into English. A lyrical essay and memoir of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who was a bohemian, free spirited, bisexual, cult figure in early years of the 20th century.

3. State, F. Paul, Historical Dictionary of Brussels – An interesting insight into hundreds of years of Belgium, Brussels, including the often colorful times of 19th century culture.

 

Code Name Verity

September 26, 2012

Title:  Code Name Verity

Author:  Elizabeth Wein

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  343

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Geographical Setting:  Great Britain and France

Time Period:  World War II (1943)

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: 

An unnamed young woman, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, agrees to turn over information about the British War Effort.  Her confession weaves together characters and conditions of her current situation with stories from her past, describing her friendship with Maddie, the pilot of the plane who flew them to France and crashed.  Though Code Name Verity is a suspenseful spy novel, above all else it is a story of friendship and survival, courageous and heart breaking.

Subject Headings:  World War, 1939-1945; Great Britain History; France History German occupation; Insurgency; Nazis; Women air pilots; Espionage; Friendship.

Appeal:  character-driven; suspenseful; compelling; intense; moving; thought-provoking; cross-class friendship; courage; survival; details about period aircraft and flying; women’s involvement in the war effort; stylistically complex; intricately plotted; unreliable narrator; multiple narrators; diary fiction; flashbacks; closed ending; war story; spy story; World War II story.

3 appeal terms that best describe this work:  compelling, character-driven, friendship

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Fiction):

Tamar by Mal Peet

After the death of her beloved grandfather, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages, leading her on a journey to uncover the truth about her family and its secrets, stemming from involvement with resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  Tamar and Code Name Verity are both compelling, suspenseful, intricately plotted stories involving secrets and betrayal, set during World War II.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death narrates the story of Liesl, a young girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany, for whom stealing books, with their stories and later her own, is a way to survive the horrors of war.  Readers who enjoy moving, character-driven, stylistically complex stories may enjoy The Book Thief and Code Name Verity; both books also involve secrets and survival during World War II.

Yossel by Joe Kubert

A graphic novel set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, Yossel portrays the harsh life and conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland, told by a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy through his sketches.  Readers interested in exploring more stories about World War II and the Resistance movement that are moving, thought-provoking, and character-driven may be interested in this book.

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Nonfiction):

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

After WWII, Vera Atkins, a high-ranking female officer of a British Intelligence unit, investigated the fates of agents who had disappeared during the war.  Readers interested in learning more about the British Intelligence unit and its involvement with the resistance movement during WWII may enjoy this book, as could readers interested in reading about the involvement of women in the war effort.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, helped many Jews escape the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII by hiding them in their home and in the empty cages of the Warsaw Zoo, which had been heavily damaged during a Nazi bombing of the city.  Readers interested in finding more stories about courage and survival during WWII may be interested in this dramatic tale of compassion and heroism in the midst of war.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

In this graphic novel memoir, the author/illustrator portrays his father’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.  Readers looking for intense, moving and thought-provoking stories about survival during WWII may be interested in discovering this title.

Name:  Nicole

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author: Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and war-torn Europe

Time Period: Fall 1940 – Summer 1941

Plot Summary: Set in the early 1940s when World War II was raging in Europe, The Postmistress interweaves the stories of three women as their lives are touched by the war. Iris James, the single, 40-year-old postmistress in the coastal town of Franklin, Massachusetts, prides herself in delivering the mail (what she considers delivering secrets). That is, until one day when she reads a letter that she slips into her pocket, where it remains undelivered. Meanwhile, Iris quietly observes the town doctor’s new wife, Emma Trask, as she desperately waits for word from her new husband who ran off to London to offer his services to victims of the war. Both Iris and Emma tune into the radio to listen to American radio girl Frankie Bard as she reports from the London Blitz and other areas in Europe and shares her dramatic personal accounts of the terrors she witnesses. On the eve of America’s entrance into the war, the stories of Iris, Emma, and Frankie collide when Frankie returns to the Cape Cod town with a vow to deliver a secret letter…

Subject Headings: Postmasters – Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Massachusetts—Franklin—Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Radio broadcasting and the war—Fiction; London (England)—History—Bombardment, 1940-1941—Fiction.

Appeal: Character-centered, historical details, unsettling, descriptive, small-town, detailed setting, lyrical, dramatic, engrossing, tragic, romantic, leisurely-paced, well-developed characters

Three appeal terms:  Character-centered, historical details and setting, dramatic

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Another historical fiction novel set during the time period of World War II, Sarah’s Key will appeal to fans of The Postmistress because of its similar historical context, character-driven storyline, and lyrical style. In Sarah’s Key, a family history full of secrets is unraveled as American journalist Julia Jarmond investigates the 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, and learns about the ordeal of a young girl named Sarah who was arrested with her family during this raid by the French police during the war.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

The book 22 Britannia Road is another historical fiction read that takes place during World War II. Similar to The Postmistress, this book is character-centered, and tells the stories of different characters whose lives are connected in some way. It allows the readers to connect with these characters and understand the impact of the war on each of their lives.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A suggested readalike for Sarah Blake, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in London at the end of the Second World War, and focuses on writer Juliet Ashton as she seeks a subject for her next book. When she begins correspondence with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a book club formed when Guernsey was under German occupation) Juliet is drawn into the world of the society’s members and ends up making connections that change her life forever. This is another title with a set of well-developed characters whose stories are told through a series of letters. Through the letters Juliet exchanges with the members, the reader learns details about each member and how the German occupation impacted their lives.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

World War II London Blitz Diary by Ruby Side Thompson

This diary is the personal account of Ruby Side Thompson’s experiences during the World War Two London Blitz. Ruby’s detailed entries chronicle her struggles to cope in a war-torn city where bombs were being dropped nightly while still having to deal with the issues of everyday life. This book offers readers a unique look at this horrific time in history through the eyes of someone who fought to survive through it.  I chose this title because it provides a non-fiction account of World War II, but has appeal for readers of The Postmistress because of its focus on a person and the connection of viewing the war from her point of view. I felt it would have a more lyrical style and be more enticing than just a dry, factual account of events.

Letters from the lost: a memoir of discovery by Helen Waldstein Wilkes

Author Helen Waldstein Wilkes’ parents were among the few Jews who were able to leave Europe in 1938. In this emotional memoir, Wilkes reveals the letters that were written between her parents and the family they had to leave behind. This book provides a compelling glimpse into this tragic time in history through the personal letters of those who witnessed the horrors firsthand, and I feel would be relevant to readers of The Postmistress for the connection to the characters (in this case actual people witnessing the war), and for the historical elements of World War II.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

Erik Larson, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City, writes this compelling narrative about the city of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign. The story focuses on William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his daughter, Martha, who becomes mesmerized by the glamorous lifestyles of Berlin’s salon society.  This relates to The Postmistress with its subject of World War II, and the character-centered appeal. Also, because it is written by a best-selling author, this fact alone might intrigue readers who are interested in this time in history.

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author:  Sarah Blake

Title:  The Postmistress

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  384

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts and London, England

Time Period:  1940-41:  War-torn London/Pre-WWII America

Series: N/A

Plot summary:  After leaving a letter with the local Postmistress to be given to his young wife should he not return, a doctor departs his small, Massachusetts town for London in 1940 to volunteer his services to care for those injured in the Blitz.  A gritty, female war correspondent, devastated by all she has witnessed in war-torn Europe, travels to Massachusetts in 1941 to deliver news of the doctor to his wife.  She soon suspects that the Postmistress may be keeping a devastating secret similar to her own.  The novel offers an engrossing portrait of a small American town’s growing understanding of the issues at stake in the war, and is heartbreaking in its depiction of the impact war can have on those not caught in actual battle.

Subject Headings:  World War II; London Blitz; Radio; War Correspondents; American Home Front; Small-town Life; Postmasters; Secrets

Appeal: compelling, atmospheric, emotionally-charged, romantic, dramatic, foreboding, heartbreaking, well-developed characters, multiple plot lines, character-driven, thought-provoking, historical details (World War II), small-town, descriptive, lyrical

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book:  emotionally-charged; small-town, historical details (WWII)

Fiction Read-alikes:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

A British author strikes up correspondence with the members of a literary society on the German-occupied island of Guernsey during WWII, and quickly becomes invested in their lives.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the impact of WWII on a small community not caught in the midst of battle.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald.

BBC radio staff struggle to report the news and maintain morale during the chaos of WWII London.  Like The Postmistress in its depiction of the impact of war on the personal lives of civilians, and the quest to get information out to the public.

Coventry by Helen Humphries.

The lives of a widow, a single-mother and her son intertwine as they struggle to escape the chaos and carnage of Coventry, England after it is destroyed by German bombs in 1940.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the devastating impact of war on civilians and the strength of women in dealing with the realities of war.

Related Non-fiction:

WWII on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation by Mark Bernstein.

The story of Edward R. Murrow and his fellow radio broadcasters who brought news of WWII to Americans at home.  Includes recordings of historic broadcasts.  In The Postmistress, the fictional character of Frankie Bard worked for Murrow.

Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940  by Margaret Gaskin.

An historical account of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, the event that drives the story of The Postmistress from afar.

Women of the Homefront: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans by Pauline E. Parker.

A collection of personal stories that illustrate the impact of WWII on American women at home, a perspective shared by The Postmistress.

Becky King

300

August 8, 2012

300

August 8, 2012

300

Author: Frank Miller

Title: 300

Genre: Historical Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 88

Geographical Setting: Sparta

Time Period: Ancient Greece

Plot Summary: This is a historical fiction graphic novel which tells the tale of the brave Spartan 300. Led by their King, Leonidas, they fought alone against the invading Persian army. The Persians led by Xerxes, numbering over a hundred-thousand strong, are repelled at the battle of Thermopylae by the Spartan 300. Brilliant illustrations abound in this epic graphic novel.

Subject Headings: Ancient Greece – Graphic Novel; Sparta — Graphic Novel; Historical– Fiction; War – Graphic Novel

Appeal: Bloody, Historical, Thrilling, Action, Diabolical, Dangerous, Dark, War-torn, Suspenseful, Brilliant, Fast-Paced, Artistic

Three appeal terms:  Bloody, Historical, Dark

Three fiction read-alikes:

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

This graphic novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic totalitarian England. It follows a man donned in a Guy Fawkes mask that uses terrorist style attacks to bring down a regime that holds the nation hostage. It has themes of freedom and the loss of one’s identity.

Kick-Ass by Mark Millar

This graphic novel follows Dave Lizewski, a teen-ager, who decides to become an actual super-hero. Go with Dave on his crazy adventures as he turns into the hero Kick-Ass and teams up with vigilantes Big Daddy and Hit Girl as they try to take down a ruthless-gangster.

The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel by Sean Michael Wilson

This graphic novel is the illustrated adaptation of the great samurai Musashi Miyamoto’s work: The Book of Five Rings. It is a guide, not only of strategy and the samurai way, but also a look into the battles that Musashi himself fought.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Complete Maus: A Survivors Tale by Art Spiegelman

This graphic novel is a look at the horrifying holocaust brought about by the Nazi’s in World War II. Following the story of the author’s father, Vladek Speigelman, and his son (author) coping with his father’s story of surviving the holocaust. In the novel the Nazis are drawn as cats and the Jews are mice.

Nevsky by Ben McCool

This graphic novel is the true account of one of Russia’s greatest heroes Alexander Nevsky. It follows his great exploits where he helped to create a Russian nation by defending his country against the Teutonic Knights from the Holy Roman Empire. With his army of mostly ordinary citizens Nevsky defeats the invading knights at the battle of Lake Peipus while greatly out-numbered.

Onwards Towards our Noble Deaths byShigeru Mizuki

This graphic novel is a semi-biographic look at a Japanese infantry unit at the end of World War II. These soldiers were instructed to follow the samurai way and go into battle and die a hero’s death for the greater glory of Japan. Refusal to do this also meant death, what will they do?

– Charles Ford