Pip Williams takes us back to a converted garden shed where a group of hardworking lexigraphers collected words from all over to compile the first Oxford Dictionary.
It is under tables in the Scriptorium where Esme collects her own words at the feet of her father and fell in love with the power of words.
Esme is watched over by a lovable housekeeper, Lizzie and a family friend Aunt Ditte but it is still an unusual upbringing. Years pass and finally Esme's dream of assisting the team is realized. It is also when Esme finds importance in the words that are omitted, mainly spoken by women, and compiles a dictionary of her own. This is a wonderful mashup of real events and the imagined life of what it was like to be an ambitious woman in a man's world. An amateur lexicographer's dream story but also a coming of age love story about relationships between all kinds of mothers and their charges. 4 stars
Hettie is in love- not with what her mother would consider a qualified suitor. Hettie has been in love with a 3 year old elephant named Violet since the first day they acquired her for the zoo. Now she works there and has a very special relationship with Violet. War and zoo animals don't mix so when bombings begin in Belfast hard choices must be made and Hettie makes her choice. She will do whatever it takes to protect Violet in ways that she feels she is unable to protect her family. Sweet story that once again show the capacity for goodness and evil in people trapped in catastrophic conditions. This clever debut will appeal to animal lovers as well as WWII history readers. 4 stars
Ada is the daughter of a dirt poor trapper living on the edge of Mississippi swamp. Her father is abusive and cruel and even more so when she comes back home pregnant and alone. Matilda is a sharecropper's daughter living in a shack with nothing they can call their own. A violent act brings these two young women together and they form a close friendship despite the different color of their skin and racial tension of the 1920's South. They help each other despite the danger and violence all around them. Ada has dreams of being a seamstress and Matilda just wants to head North where she can be free of the secrets. Historical fiction once again featuring tough women in tough times putting up with the men who have total control over their lives.
A single mom of an infant balancing little sleep, hormones and a job with the BBC is stunned when she sees her sister on a security camera in a robbery and working with the IRA. Tessa and Marion are close and Tessa cannot believe that her sister would be a part of this but she will not turn her sister in.
Soon Tessa is pulled into a very dangerous game of helping Marion pass information to MI5. If either of them is caught there will be no second chance or time to say goodbye to Finn. This tight political thriller shows us both the violent and very human side of these activists. This tie to motherhood and family loyalty shows us a very different side to what you see on the news. 4 stars
I listened to the audiobook and was pulled deep into the disbelief and shock of London during the Blitz. A young woman and her friend arrive from the country to London hoping to work in a shop only to find herself working in a book shop for a man that clearly doesn't want her help. She begins reading from the recommendations of shop patrons and soon she is steering the shop into success as well as adjusting to how she can help in the war effort and the grief that comes with war. Part romance, part historical this is a story with a bit for everyone and it is wonderful in audio. The fear, the resilience and the spirit of London is inspiring not to mention seeing the birth of marketing techniques that are still used today. 4 stars
An atmospheric and unique look at the Reconstruction era in New York and Haiti. Libertie grows up with one of the first black female doctors in New York in a time where freedom from slavery adds a responsibility to achieve. Libertie's mother assumes her daughter will follow in her footsteps so that is the path that Libertie starts on but when she falls in love with a quiet man from Haiti she chooses to follow his path instead. Once in Haiti Libertie must deal with a world very different from the one she left behind as well as the pain and grief of leaving her mother and her mother's dream behind.
This will appeal to readers of Black history as well as those interested in rich cultural historical fiction. 4 stars
A sweeping saga based on the author's ancestor Georgianne who leaves her comfortable life in the North to become a battlefield nurse under the famous Dr. Blackwell. It is also the story of life on a plantation in the South told from Jemma, a slave and Anne-May her mistress. The book parallels the classic GONE WITH THE WIND with the horrors of slavery along with the realities of running a plantation once the men have gone to war and the division of families. I was very interested in Georgianne's story and the experiences of a war nurse. As with her other books in the Lilac Girls series, this is a solid choice for riveting historical fiction that can be easily read as a standalone. 4 stars
We are all aware of Lisa Scottoline's legal thrillers and the hilarious essay collections she writes with her daughter but now she has mastered another genre - historical fiction. The author shares with us an intimate view of Rome in WWII that centers around three fictional characters but feels very personal. Three teens bound by love and friendship find themselves in a city poised for war and fractured by hate. Marco and his family are involved in the Facist movement and government. They believe in it but later will begin to question the injustice they are seeing. Sandro and his family are Jewish and scholars who see Rome as the eternal city of light and learning and an integral part of the community. Elizabetta is the love interest of both of them. She is smart and is in love with both boys for very different reasons. She will endure much loss and grief yet continues to look and find decency in the people of her city. It is a history lesson, a sweeping love story and a tale of hope that human decency and kindness will prevail even in the darkest periods. For historical fiction lovers especially those that want to get swept up in their stories. Best read with a good bottle of red wine and fresh pasta! 4 1/2 stars
A unique "what if" look at the life of Marie Curie. Most historical fiction looks at the life of a famous person or time and fills in the blanks but this unusual story is told in alternating chapters of the life Marie Curie had as a scientist and discoverer of radium alongside her husband Pierre along with the imagined life she would have possibly had if she had married her childhood sweetheart and stayed in Poland. Would she have gone onto do great things if she had married for love and became housewife Marya Zorawski? I considered Madame Curie to have had the best of both worlds. She fulfilled her dreams of becoming a scientist and married a man she loved dearly who appreciated her mind and her heart. For fans of the numerous historical fiction books that highlight the strong woman behind the famous man. 3 1/2 stars
The mistress of intriguing historical mystery has given us what I believe to be her best book to date. Three women from very different backgrounds and personalities come together in the most unlikely place - Bletchley Park where top secret codes are hacked and passed on. As is her way Quinn presents a dual timeline 1940 and 1947. Osla saddled with the "Dizzy Deb" handle she hates, statuesque Queen Man who doesn't put up with anything from anyone and mousey Beth who is desperate for a life away from taking care of her domineering mother. The three part ways after a friendship crushing accident and unshared information but in 1947 it is up to Osla and Mab to put aside their differences and come to the aid of one of their own as well as solve a mystery that has haunted one of them. This is another adrenaline- filled story with tough smart women who manage to forge ahead in a time where women received none of the glory and were forced to remain silent witnesses to the history unfurling around them. Amply researched, hugely entertaining and enlightening, Kate Quinn's books strike just the right balance between fact and fiction. You will be missing much if you skip the author's note at the end to find out more about her muses and her research. 5 stars
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