Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Books: If You Like The Crown

Season Two of Netflix series The Crown drops today, and you may be inspired to choose your next read based on the drama played out through these fascinating characters and their situations:

Becoming Elizabeth II

Lillibet book coverLilibet
Carolly Erickson
Young Elizabeth book coverThe Young Elizabeth
Kate Williams
Brian Barker

 

Regal Relationships

Elizabeth and Philip book coverElizabeth and Philip
Geoffrey Bocca
Royal Sisters book coverRoyal Sisters
Anne Edwards
Sonia Purnell

 

Fiction about Women of Influence

Victoria book coverVictoria
Daisy Goodwin
Royal Nanny book coverThe Royal Nanny
Karen Harper
Elizabeth Loupas

 

Spotlight on Major Players

Churchill book coverChurchill
Martin Gilbert
Philip book coverPhilip
Tim Heald
Christopher Warwick

 

November Is Native American Heritage Month

In celebration of Native American/First Nations fiction and fiction authors, we offer these six fantastic novels. Whether you are looking for modern or classic, mysticism or military, love story or survival, there is at least one story here that will engage you, challenge you, or quite possibly, stir your soul.

Flight by Sherman AlexieOn the verge of committing an act of violence, a troubled, orphaned Indian teenager finds himself hurtled through time an into the bodies of a civil rights era FBI agent, an Indian child during the battle at Little Big Horn, a nineteenth- century Indian tracker, and a modern-day airline pilot, before returning to himself, forever altered by his experiences.

Love Medicine by Louise ErdichThe members of the Chippewa Kaspaw and Lamartine families describe their simple existence as they both deny and discover their native heritages.

Three Day Road by Joseph BoydenThe nephew of a Canadian Oji-Cree who is the last of a line of healers and diviners, Cree reserve student Xavier enlists in the military during World War I, a conflict throughout which he and his friend, Elijah, are marginalized for their appearances, their culturally enhanced marksmanship, and their disparate views of the war.

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott MomadayA young American Indian returning from World War II searches for his place on his old reservation and in urban society.

Perma Red by Debra Magpie EarlingExplores life on the Flathead Indian Reservation during the 1940s through the eyes of Louise White Elk as she struggles with problematic relationships with three men.

Two Old Women by Velma WallisThe retelling of a classic Alaskan legend about two elderly women abandoned by their tribe during a severe winter famine depicts their friendship, fierce determination, desperate struggle for survival, and ultimate need to forgive.

 

 

Book Discussion Questions: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl book cvoerTitle: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Page Count: 322 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Reflective

Summary:
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1) When Aaron courts Addie, he says he’s going to turn her into a real Boston girl by taking her to the symphony, Red Sox game, and Harvard Yard. Where would you take someone to turn them into a real Chicago girl?

2) One definition of historical fiction says that the goal of historical fiction is to bring history to life in novel form. Did Diamant succeed?

3)Did you learn something from The Boston Girl?

4) What impression do you think would you get of the United States if you were from another country and reading this book?

5) Where the characters beliefs and mannerisms appropriate for the time?

6) Diamant titled the book The Boston Girl. With what you know about Boston, do you think her life would have played out the same way in another city? How important is location to the story line?

7) How would you describe it the tone and style of The Boston Girl? Did that work for you as a reader?

8) Addie’s granddaughter asks her what made her the woman she is today. Addie’s answer is a monologue. Would The Boston Girl have been as effective told in a different way?

Diamant says that she was concerned that Addie’s story leading to a happy marriage might be too small and mundane to keep readers turning the pages. From Diamant: “But once I made Addie the narrator, I realized- or remembered- that we don’t experience history in the abstract; we live inside of it. Addie experiences the momentous events of the early 20th century at eye level. A girl bobs her hair. A veteran of the Great War collapses on the beach. A friend dies because she ignores the warnings about the flu epimic and goes dancing. In Addie’s life, the geopolitical is personal, the immigrant success sage is hantued by loss and despair: war and disease are tests of reliance, even for those on the sidelines. Even for those who survive.”

9) What national or global events happened during Addie’s lifetime?

10) Which ones does she mention? Do you feel she was deeply affected by them?

11) If you were retelling your life story, what weight would you give large scale events?

12) Some critics unfavorably compared this to The Red Tent, which has a more serious mood and is told in the third person. Do you think literary fiction is as effective when the tone is cheerful? Why or why not?

13) Describe Addie’s mom. Are Addie and her sisters equally affected by her?

14) Celia was the most loved by Mameh and had her whole family’s love. She married Levine, a kind man. Why do you think Celia found life so very difficult?

15) Her other sister, Betty, is described by Addie as the most like her mom. What made Addie say that? Do you agree? Did your feelings for Betty change as the story progressed?

16) How would you describe Addie? What do you think made her able to stand up to her mom?

17) This is how Addie describes her father: “I didn’t know my father very well. It wasn’t like today, where fathers change diapers and read books to their children. When I was growing up, men worked all day, and when they came home we were supposed to be quiet and leave them alone.” It seems as if Addie absolves her father of responsibility to his family because of the times. Do you agree? Was he at all to blame for the home dynamic?

18) How does Addie’s world begin to expand beyond her home?

19) Who were some of the people who gave her a chance? Do you have a favorite, or one character that you think made the biggest difference in her life?

20) She had a lot of good fortune with the people she met- people willing to give her friendship, learning opportunities, vacation destinations, and jobs. Was this a realistic portrayal of life for a young female, Jewish daughter of immigrants? Is it within the realm of possibility?

21) Some people Addie mentions were definitely not friends, but she included them in her answer to Ava about how she became the woman she is today. One of them was her first romantic interest, Harold, “the wolf.” Why do you think she told her granddaughter about him? Why do you think she continued to see Harold?

22)Addie says, “I’m still embarrassed and mad at myself. But after seventy years, I also feel sorry for the girl I used to be. She was awfully hard on herself.” What does she mean?

23) It’s actually Harold who calls her, “My favorite Boston girl.” (p 82) If you were going to call yourself _______boy/girl, how would you fill in the blank?

24) Addie’s next boyfriend is Ernie. She doesn’t seem too emotional about him, and decided to let him go, so why do you think he is included in her story about what shaped her? What did she learn from him?

25) Addie says that many young women were focused on getting married. What do you believe she was focused on?

26) The chapter where Addie meets her future husband, Aaron Metsky, is entitled “Never apologize for being smart.” What connections do you make between the title and Addie and Aaron’s relationship?

27) Addie spends more time talking about her jobs along the way: cleaning for the summer, working for her brother in law, the newspaper office than she does about her current job. How were these experiences important enough to relay to her granddaughter?

28) Addie tries on pants for the first time (p.108) when she and Filomena visit Leslie and Morelli. Addie says, “It makes me want to try riding a bicycle and ice skating and all kinds of things.” Leslie asks what other kinds of things and Addie answers, “I’d go to college.” Do you believe that clothes so powerfully affect what a person feels capable of doing?

29) Would you say Addie had a blessed life, or a difficult one?

30) Based on Ava’s question at the beginning of the book, “What made you the woman you are today?”, how would you speculate Ava saw her grandmother?

31) Addie answers through a book’s worth of stories. If you were to sum it up, what made Addie the woman she is today?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

Other Resources:

Reading Group Guide from publisher
Washington Post book review
Q&A with Anita Diamant
Anita Diamant interview with Jewish Book Council
Biography of Anita Diamant

Readalikes:

Someone book coverSomeone
by Alice McDermott

Florence Gordon book coverFlorence Gordon
by Brian Morton

Triangle book coverTriangle
by Katharine Weber

Staff Pick: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

Picture of Summer Reading House headerThere are 15 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

Picture of AndreaIt’s 1945, and thousands of refugees, fleeing the advancing tide of the Soviet army, stream across the freezing Prussian landscape. Fearing death if the Soviets reach them, or worse if the Nazis do, Joana, Emilia, and Florian stumble into the same barn for shelter. Soon, they are picking their way across country to the coast, their best hope for escape.

By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, Ruta Septys’ Salt to the Sea is a beautiful story of some of the lesser-known casualties of World War II, and an excellent choice for fans of Code Name Verity and The Book Thief. Grab a tissue – you’ll need it!

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This book may be counted as a book from your favorite or a new to you genre (historical fiction).

For the Master Class Designers…
This may count as a sad book or as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Picture of Summer Reading House headerThere are 23 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

 

Imprisoned in the famed Hotel Metropol, we meet the Russian Count Alexander Rostov. He has been sentenced to house arrest for having written an allegedly incendiary poem critical of the revolution, and at once finds his life of aristocratic luxury reduced to a small room atop the regal hotel. The Count, however, retains his affable charm and noble bearing, engaging with the various menagerie of guests who visit the hotel over the years. Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is a lovely story of historical fiction with an elegance all its own.
Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This book may count as a favorite or new-to-you genre (historical fiction) or a book with a big-city setting.

For the Master Class Designers…
This may count as a humorous book, one with a big-city setting, or one highlighted on the MPPL website.

Graphic Novel: The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

50 Days of Summer Reading BannerThere are 31 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

Professors Daughter book cover

Few couples are as star-crossed as a 19th-century gentlewoman and a mummified Pharoah, but their story is one of the most charming romps you’ll find. From their opening stroll in a London park to an unwitting murder and a daring prison break, the tale of Lillian and Imhotep IV is one filled with drama and adventure. The Professor’s Daughter, created by French masters Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, also tantalizes with beautifully rendered art panels made up of delicate illustrations, period sepia tones, and fine watercolor washes. Readers new to graphic novels as well as those with more studied appreciation will be tickled by this delightful, fast-paced confection.

Read this for Summer Reading!

For the DIY Designers…
This book may count as a graphic novel or as a book under 150 pages.

For the Master Class Designers…
This may count as a book translated from another language or as a book highlighted on the MPPL website.

Fiction: The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

50 Days of Summer Reading BannerThere are 39 more days until the end of Summer Reading! Every day during our countdown we will be featuring slices of library life, books, and topics designed to help you out as you work through 2017 Summer Reading at Mount Prospect. Read more about how you can join in on this celebration of reading and enter to win prizes!

Gently based upon the true story of transgender Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff is a story of love and self-realization, and the importance of living your life as the person you were meant to be. Einar is a well respected landscape painter and professor, shy and soft spoken. His wife Gerda is a large, strong, blond-haired portrait artist, who has left her wealthy California family to live and paint with Einar in the Widow House, in Denmark. When Gerda’s female model is unable to make it for a sitting, Gerda persuades Einar to put on her dress and stockings and pose in her stead. This unleashes Lili, who over time becomes a larger part of of Einar’s life and, with the encouragement of Gerda, takes her place in their lives. However Lili must also confront the culture of early 20th century Europe and the infancy of the medical sex reassignment field, in order to truly live her life as herself, whatever the risks.

For DIY Designers…
This could count as a book from a genre you haven’t tried (historical fiction) and a book that was made into a movie.

For Master Class Designers…
This could count as a book made into an Academy Award winning movie.

Book Discussion Questions: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun book coverTitle: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Page Count: 496 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Tone:  Atmospheric, Commanding

Summary:
Brings to life a fearless and captivating woman from recent history: Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Historical fiction based on real people has become a popular genre.  Why do you think this is?  How do you feel about novels based on real people?

2. Biographies have been written about Beryl Markham, and Markham herself wrote a memoir, West with the Night.  In your opinion, would having access to these works make it more or less challenging to create a fictionalized account of her life?

3. Were you familiar with Beryl Markham before you read Circling the Sun?  Did reading this book contribute to your understanding of her?

4. Are you curious about the parts of Markham’s life that McLain chose to not include?

5. How do you think the author meant to portray Beryl Markham?  Do you believe Beryl is portrayed in a positive light?

6. Do you believe first person narration helped you connect with Beryl as a character?

7. Does Beryl have a lot of agency in her own life?   How does she handle circumstances not within her control?  Did you disagree with any of her choices?

8. How did Beryl conduct her life within or against gender norms of the time?

9. Karen tells Beryl she admires her independence, to which Beryl replies, “I have fought for independence here, and freedom, too. More and more I find they’re not the same thing” (pg. 161).  How are the themes of independence and freedom explored in Circling the Sun?

10. Does the colonial setting complicate your opinion of the book?

11. Some readers have critiqued the novel’s emphasis on romantic pursuits at the expense of additional exploration of Markham’s accomplishments in horse training and aviation.  What are your thoughts on this?

12. Marveling over the new foal Pegasus, Beryl thinks, “Somehow this miraculous animal belonged to me: a bit of grace I hadn’t even known I was desperate for” (pg. 61). In her youth and early adulthood, how does Beryl connect with animals, and horses in particular?

13. In her memoir West with the Night, Beryl Markham wrote, “Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia.  It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations.  … It is all these things but one thing – it is never dull” (pg. 8).  How did the setting of Circling the Sun contribute to your understanding of Africa in the early 20th century?  How important was Kenya to Markham?

14. Toward the end of West with the Night, Markham wrote, “A life has to move or it stagnates.  Even this life, I think. … Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday” (pg. 238).  Do you think Circling the Sun captures Markham’s zeal for variety?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Discussions questions written by publisher
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
McLain on the story
behind Circling the Sun
Photo gallery provided by publisher
New York Times article on Beryl Markham
NPR book review on Circling the Sun
Video of Paula McLain discussing her work
Longitude Blog’s interview with Paula McLain

READALIKES:

The Ashford Affair book coverThe Ashford Affair
by Lauren Willig

Twain's End book coverTwain’s End
by Lynn Cullen

Boleto book coverBoleto
by Alyson Hagy

Book Discussion Questions: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Dovekeepers book coverTitle:  The Dovekeepers
Author:  Alice Hoffman
Page Count: 505 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Tone:  Lyrical, Thought-provoking, Haunting

Summary:
In 70 CE, 900 Jews held out against armies of Romans on a mountain in Masada. According to an ancient historian, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic event, Hoffman weaves a tale of four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Who was your favorite character and why?

Yael’s Story

2. What had Yael’s life been like when we first meet her?

3. Why was her red hair so important?

4. What does Yael do to break free of Sia and her attempts to ruin her pregnancy? Do you think that acts of contrition have power?

5. Yael says of Ben Simon that of all the people he murdered, he did his best work on me. What did she mean? Why did she then remember him with love?

6. Yael’s father says that he sees her mom when he looks at her, but he treats her horribly. Shouldn’t this have made him more loving?

7. Why did Yael see her pregnancy as a gift instead of another burden in her sad life?

8. What about the Man from the North? Why was he important to the story?

Revka’s (the Baker’s Wife) Story

9. Her story opens with sorrowful looking back. She says, “I didn’t understand what the wind was capable of and how we must bow before it, grateful no matter where it takes us.” What has happened to her?

10. Hoffman does not hold back the details in the rape and torture scene of Zara. Why might the author have made this choice? What was your reaction?

11. Yoav becomes the Man from the Valley, apparently driven by his sorrow to distance himself from his sons and court death in battle. Revka seems to understand. What was your response to how he chose to deal with his grief?

12. It seems like a generous thing that Revka would have breathed her daughter’s soul into the mouth of her husband. Why then, does she call it the 2nd worse thing a mother could do?

13. How does she get back the voices of Noah and Levi?

Aziza’s Story

14. If Rebekah could have truly changed her gender, do you think she would have, or was it the things that men were able to do that she wanted?

15. Do you think she was blessed because she had such unique abilities or was it a burden for her?

16. Rebekah has four key men in her life. Who was most influential? Did any of them really love her?

17. What does withholding her given name say about the power of a name?

18. How would you describe Rebekah based on her relationship with her sister and brother?

19. The Man from the Valley was able to love Aziza because she was a boy. How did this thinking make sense to both of them?  Was he good for her?

20. Did Amram deserve the death he received?

Shirah’s (the Witch of Moab) Story

21. Would the story have been better without the element of magic?

22. What did you think of Shirah’s all-consuming love for Eleazor? Was he her equal?

23. She leaves Moab. What did you think of her decision?

24. Chana says you can’t have my husband and Shirah replies, “I’ve had him all along?” Powerful sentence, but it is true? What did she have?

25. In the end, was Shirah’s death a failure or a triumph?

General Questions

26. Do you have a new awareness of what daily life or warfare must have been like?

27. How did the women relate to God?

28. Were you surprised at the intertwining of superstition, magic ritual, and religious belief? Does that take away from their faith experience?

29. Were any of the father figures in this book reliable? Do you think this book was fair to men?

30. Hoffman has said that she bases her works on fairy tales because she appreciates their emotional truths, the lessons they teach about human nature, love and hatred. What seemed fairy tale-like to you? Do you agree that fairy tales teach valuable lessons?

31. Based on this story, what does Hoffman seem to believe about romantic love? Is it a positive thing?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

book review from The Washington Post
video:  How I Wrote [The Dovekeepers]: An Exclusive Interview with Alice Hoffman
audio or transcript: A Tale of Forgiveness from the Tragedy of the Masada via NPR
Masada description, photos, and maps via UNESCO
discussion guide from the publisher
additional questions from Southfield Public Library

READALIKES:

Secret Chord book coverThe Secret Chord
by Geraldine Brooks

Antagonists book coverThe Antagonists
by Ernest K. Gann

Women book coverThe Women
by T. C. Boyle

Book Discussion Questions: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Title: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
Author:  Fannie Flagg
Page Count: 347 pages
Genre: Southern Fiction, Historical Fiction
Tone: Heartwarming, Funny, Leisurely-Paced

Summary:
The best-selling author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe presents a hilarious new mystery that, spanning decades, generations and America in the 1940s and today, centers around five women who worked in a Phillips 66 gas station during the WWII years.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. How did you like the book? What about it left a lasting impression on you?

2. What, if any, were your favorite moments? How about least favorite moments?

3. After learning she was adopted Sookie said, “I’m an entirely different person than I was, even a few minutes ago. Everything has changed.” Sookie goes from identifying as a Southern Methodist English person to now identifying as Polish and Catholic. Why do people generally try to identify themselves in such short descriptors?

4. How has how we identify ourselves changed or not changed over the years?

5. Why was Lenore so obsessed with what side of the family Sookie’s traits came from?

6. What are Sookie’s similarities to Lenore? Differences?

7. Is Lenore a realistic character?

8. Why didn’t Sookie tell Lenore she was adopted?

9. If you were Sookie, would you have told Lenore you knew you were adopted? Why or why not?

10. If Sookie never learned about her adoption, would her vision of Lenore ever change?

11. How did Sookie’s relationship with her kids differ from Sookie’s relationship with her mom?

12. A lot of this book focuses on how Sookie feels about her mother. How did Sookie feel about her father? How do you feel about her father?

13. How were the men treated in this book? (Buck, Earle, Sookie’s father)

14. We don’t really see much of Winks. What was his role in the book? Did you like the letters?

15. Were you surprised to learn about the WASPs? Why are they not more known in history?

16. How did the WASP’s storyline impact your reading of Sookie’s storyline?

17. How did Sookie view Lenore differently by the end of the book?

18. What, if any, are the similarities between Lenore and Fritzi?

19. What do you think about the relationship between the psychiatrist and Sookie?

20. What makes this book Southern?

21. A lot of people said they didn’t like this book because they disliked the characters. Can you like a book and not like the characters? In what situations is that the case or not the case? Where do you draw the line for yourself?

22. Were you mad that Fritzi lied about Sookie’s mother’s death? Why did she lie?

23. Did reading The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion leave you changed in any fashion?

24. If you had to describe this book in just one word, what would it be?

OTHER RESOURCES:

Washington Post review
LitLovers discussion guide
CBS Specials: Remembering the WASPS (video)
Video chat with Fannie Flagg and Southern Living
History of filling stations in America
Information on the Women of World War II

READALIKES:

Everything she thought she wanted book coverEverything She Thought She Wanted
by Elizabeth Buchan

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by Stephanie Lehmann