Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Kelda’s Pick: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Kelda Staff Pick photoI appreciated the audiobook Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter because it served as a jumping off point for further reading, viewing, and listening. I became interested in reading books about the Golden Age of Hollywood, viewing movies of that era, particularly Cleopatra, and listening to more books read by the actor Edoardo Ballerini.

Book Discussion Questions: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title:  News of the World
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven

Summary:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.

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:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?

22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide

READALIKES:

Bohemian Girl book coverBohemian Girl
by Terese Svoboda

True Grit book coverTrue Grit
by Charles Portis

Far as the Eye Can See book coverFar As the Eye Can See
by Robert Bausch

Historical Fiction about Real Women

Celebrate Women’s History Month by reading a novel about an innovator who made her mark! Whether your interest is in world leaders, trailblazers, or those who persevered, you’ll find a tale in which biographical fact is presented with an emphasis on story. Visit our new display on the second floor or choose from this sampling:

Leading the Way

Hild book coverHild
Nicola Griffith
Black Rose book coverThe Black Rose
Tananarive Due
Jami Attenberg

 

Art of Inspiration

Georgia book coverGeorgia
Dawn Tripp
Velveteen Daughter book coverThe Velveteen Daughter
Laurel Davis Huber
Jennifer Cody Epstein

 

Women Who Rule

Nefertiti book coverNefertiti
Michelle Moran
Warrior Woman book coverWarrior Woman
Dark Rain and James Alexander Thom
Elizabeth Chadwick

 

Black History Month Spotlight: Alyssa Cole

One of the inspiring opportunities of Black History Month is thepicture of author alyssa cole chance to be introduced to talents we might otherwise miss without intention. In this third spotlight (see the first here and second here), our gaze turns to author Alyssa Cole.

Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s portfolio is diverse, ranging from contributing to RT Book Reviews, Shondaland, and The Toast, to writing sci-fi to working as a science editor. Her latest venture is into historical romance with The Loyal League. Starting with The Extraordinary Union (2017), forbidden love and spies set during the American Civil War make for a steamy compelling read. Cole continues her tradition of writing strong, intellectual woman in A Hope Divided (2017), which follows a healer secretly working for the Union and protecting an escaped prisoner.

 

an extraordinary union book coverAn Extraordinary Union
by Alyssa Cole
Book 1
A Hope Divided book coverA Hope Divided
by Alyssa Cole
Book 2

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

Andrea’s 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.