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The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014)

index.aspx1930 was the year of New York Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance (his body was never found). This novel tells the story as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best: his wife Stella, his mistress Ritzi, and the maid Maria. Their story, expertly woven around these events, comes from the author’s imagination and she builds a fascinating tale of what may have happened.

Author Ariel Lawhon saves the why of Judge Crater disappearance until a twist in the very last pages. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress will transport readers to a bygone era of chorus girls, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tammany Hall corruption, gangsters, and irritating rich people.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013)

index.aspxChristina Baker Kline introduces a fairly unexplored piece of American history in this tender story of two resilient women navigating their way through the past and into the future. Orphan Train is a touching story of two characters whose lives intertwine with one another, opening up buried secrets, upheaval, and an unexpected friendship.

Foster teen Molly Ayer finds herself serving community service hours at the home of aging widow Vivian Daly. The boxes in the attic haven't been touched for years, but Vivian has finally decided that it is time to clear through her old things. Molly and Vivian take on the task together and as they sort through the possessions, memories of earlier times for Vivian reveal that the two women aren't as different as it seems. Vivian, an Irish immigrant, was orphaned in her youth in New York City, and was one of hundreds of children shipped west on what became known as the orphan train. Molly discovers that her youth and perseverance can help Vivian reveal unknown truths about her past, and in doing so, uncover some insight into her own life.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerAn unexpected inheritance. A mysterious painting. A forbidden relationship. In this mesmerizing tale, a house and a painting provide the link between 2009 and 1849 England.

In 2009, unemployed New Yorker Julia unexpectedly inherits a house in suburban London from a mysterious great aunt. In the mid-nineteenth century, Imogen’s mundane existence is transformed by the appearance of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

I was immediately drawn into the family saga spanning two centuries. I love Lauren Willig’s writing style, and how she mixes historical facts and figures with her fictional tale.

After I finished That Summer, I immediately wanted to start again to revisit those gothic twists that made me question what I’d previously read.

If you enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013) or A Vintage Affair (2010) by Isobel Wolff, or simply adore books that travel between the past and present, read this book!

Hyde by Daniel Levine (2014)

In this novel based on Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hyde seizes control. Though Hyde’s ramblings on the dark streets of Victorian London are often told with brutal detail, the novel takes an intriguing concept and tells an intelligent tale. The boundaries between good and evil are blurred and a dark and brooding re-imagined story emerges.

This retelling is a richly detailed and engrossing portrait of Stevenson’s characters, but Daniel Levine’s Hyde is not the first novel to re-spin Stevenson’s original. Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin told the tale from the point-of-view of Jekyll’s household maid.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)

This book has been on my “to read” list for years – thanks to Jez for motivating me to finally read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I loved this sweet story told through letters. Set in 1946 England, thirty-something writer Juliet is struggling with her next project. When a chance correspondence begins with the residents of Guernsey (an island occupied by the Germans during WWII), she discovers not only her next book idea, but kindred spirits.

Today is the 69th anniversary of V-E Day.
For other novels set during WWII, check out our list.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

This was a moving story of young love facing insurmountable obstacles. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place in Seattle at the start of World War II chronicling the friendship between Henry, a Chinese-American boy and Keiko, a Japanese-American girl. As the war progresses and the Japanese are forced into internment camps, Henry struggles to make sense of the world around him. Jamie Ford accurately captures life on the home front during this troubled time (find more books that take place on the home front during WWII). The audiobook is a great experience as narrator Feodor Chin effectively distinguishes between each of the many characters.

This book is one of the titles we will be giving away during World Book Night on April 23 at local businesses in the community. Visit ippl.infofor information on our participation in this international event.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (2003)

This is a story about a woman recalling what her life was like in the 1950s. The story she tells is all about her family, romance, and what it was like to have a career, which most women at that time did not have.

Lucia, Lucia made me laugh and cry. It touched upon both the humorous and the challenges of life. I love all of Adriana Trigiani’s books, including the Big Stone Gap series.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

Code Name VerityI’ve never been so tempted to flip to the end to find out what happened. But I resisted and instead frantically turned the pages of this gripping and unforgettable story of a pair of young women who forge a bond during wartime.

Told in a series of written entries, the story unfolds from the perspective of a British spy captured by Germans in Nazi-occupied France in 1943. Code Name Verity is an irresistible mix of suspense, adventure, and historical fiction. Every time you think you’ve figured out the story, the plot twists again. While on the edge of your seat, you’ll laugh and cry along with the engrossing characters created by Elizabeth Wein.

Wein followed up Verity with Rose Under Fire. We've also created a list of WWII novels.

 

The Last Runaway Tracy Chevalier

Quaker Honor Bright leaves England after her fiancé breaks their engagement.  She travels to America with her sister to begin a new life.  The trip is horrendous, but what awaits her is unexpected.  Left to be cared for by strangers Honor must find her own way.

The Last Runaway  depicts life in 1850s Ohio.  The Friends do not support slavery and many become part of the Underground Railroad.  Honor Bright is in a strange country with strange ways.  She copes by writing letters home to her family in England and by trying to help runaways.  She is also torn between loved ones and doing what’s right.

New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest novel helps the reader understand the anti-slavery movement and the Quakers

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013)

Donna Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch is a remarkably fast read, despite its size. The title refers to the tiny painting of a pet bird in captivity by the Dutch artist Carel Fabritius from 1654. The Goldfinch becomes central in Theo’s life after a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother one rainy day. Tragedy strikes at the museum and Theo is left practically an orphan. Over the next ten years, Theo struggles with the loss of his mother and the post-traumatic stress of incident. This is a beautifully written story that captures the essence of New York, the pain of loss, and power of objects.

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (2013)

The title character is a 7-year-old girl whose mother died giving birth to her, “so her birthday was also a day of death,” a day to visit the cemetery every year. Claire goes missing in the first chapter and stays missing until the very last pages, but the novel goes on to portray characters whose lives intersect with Claire and her father Nozias.

Through this fictitious Haitian village, we are brought to an understanding of life on this island nation with its extremes of poverty and excesses of wealth.

Moving back and forth through time but returning at the end to the night of Claire’s birthday, Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light has a fable like quality and is beautifully written…but it is ultimately about loss so not an easy read.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (2013)

I was excited to read Out of the Easy after I finished Ruta Sepetys' first novel (and if you were discouraged by the depressing nature of Between Shades of Gray, this one isn’t quite as dark). Her sophomore effort features Josie Moraine, a strong, spunky teen trying to improve her circumstances in 1950s New Orleans. Surrounding Josie is a colorful cast of characters from all walks of life.

I love the way Ruta Sepetys writes a story, but she always leaves me wanting just a little bit more. In both Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, there are a few plot points I wish she had addressed. Overall, though, I highly recommend her novels – while they’re classified for teens, I think people of all ages will fall in love with her characters and settings.

Check out Jennifer's review of Between Shades of Gray.

 
 

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (2012)

As the development of the characters evolved, I was drawn into the story of Enza and Ciro.  Although The Shoemaker’s Wife was relatively easy to read, the novel was packed with a variety of situations and events. The story flowed and kept me involved as a reader.

We (along with nine other libraries) created a lot of discussions and programming around Adriana Trigiani’s novel capturing the immigrant experience of the early 1900s as part of The Big Read 2013. Visit thebigread.org for more information.

Tell us: What was your favorite Big Read event or favorite part of the novel?

Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (2009)

I am not usually a fan of medieval historical fiction, but this compelling book held my interest. Set in twelfth century England and Wales, Adelia Aguilar, a doctor and forensic expert, is asked by King Henry II to investigate claims that two skeletons found near the burned Glastonbury Abbey belong to King Arthur and Guinevere. Because of the times, Adelia has to pretend to be assisting Mansur, her servant, when solving crimes. A subplot deals with Adelia’s travelling companion Emma, widow of Lord Wolvercote, who is attempting to win back his lands and castle.

The characters are well developed, and there is a nice balance between historical details and suspense. Grave Goods is the third book in Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar (Mistress of the Art of Death) series, but you don’t have to read the first two to enjoy this one.

 

Sutton by J. R. Moehringer (2012)

William Sutton or “Willie the Actor” led quite a remarkable life robbing banks, stealing an estimated two million dollars during his lifetime. J.R. Moehringer’s characterization of the notorious bank robber in Sutton is of an intelligent “Robin Hood” figure. Told from Sutton’s perspective, the story begins on Christmas Eve 1969 when Willie is released from prison for good behavior and ailing health, after spending half his adult life behind bars. A reporter and photographer from the newspaper get an exclusive with Willie in exchange for room at a luxury hotel. However, Willie insists that they drive him around to locations in New York City as he recounts his story in chronological order. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the actor Dylan Baker who does an amazing job capturing all of the different characters.