More than 850 book reviews

Historical Novels rss

A murder mystery set in the Holy Roman Empire

July 16, 2017

Wolf on a String: A Novel, by Benjamin Black @@@@ (4 out of 4) Except for the title, which I found unfathomable, I enjoyed this novel immensely. The author, Irish writer and Booker-Prize-winner John Banville, writes murder mysteries under the pen name Benjamin Black. Wolf on a String is indeed a mystery, and a puzzling one at that,… Read More ›

In an alternate history, the Nazis occupy England

SS-GB, by Len Deighton @@@@ (4 out of 5) In the literature of alternate history, Nazi Germany often wins World War II. Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Fatherland by Robert Harris, and Jo Walton’s Farthing Trilogy (Farthing, Ha’penny, and Half a Crown, all reviewed here) are prominent examples. There are many others,… Read More ›

A deeply affecting novel of the Holocaust

The German Girl: A Novel, by Armando Lucas Correa @@@@ (4 out of 5) In a moving first novel, Armando Lucas Correa tells the story of The German Girl, a tale of the Holocaust loosely based on historical fact. The “German girl” is Hannah Rosenthal, the blonde, blue-eyed, 11-year-old daughter of a wealthy and prominent… Read More ›

The human cost of World War II

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Here is Britain’s World War II as viewed through the perspective of five young people. Their varied and often cruel experiences stand in for the evil and disruption of the war that comes to upend all their lives. The action unfolds month by… Read More ›

Keeping a secret in Victorian England

Belgravia, by Julian Fellowes @@@ (3 out of 5) In all six seasons of Downton Abbey on PBS, I don’t recall a single upper-class character who could fairly be described as nasty. Julian Fellowes, who created and wrote all of the series, served up aristocratic characters who most reasonable people would call “nice.” However, perhaps… Read More ›

Film stars, partisans, and Nazi generals in 1945 Italy

A review of The Girl From Venice, by Martin Cruz Smith @@@ (3 out of 5) Martin Cruz Smith is best known for the eight novels featuring Moscow police investigator Arkady Renko. I’ve read and admired them all. (You can find reviews of three of those novels here, here, and here.) However, before creating the… Read More ›

An historical thriller that doesn’t thrill

A review of Black Water: A Novel, by Louise Doughty @@@ (3 out of 5) Imagine: you’re going to write a book about a man nearing the age of 60, who was born in 1942 in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia. (Yes, it’s 1998 now.) His mother was Dutch, his father a dark-skinned Dutch-Indonesian… Read More ›

A terrific political history novel

Dewey Defeats Truman: A Novel, by Thomas Mallon @@@@ (4 out of 5) For at least a year before the 1948 presidential election, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey was almost universally expected to beat the incumbent, former Vice President Harry Truman. (Apparently, even Truman himself thought he would lose.) The title of Thomas Mallon’s… Read More ›

Inside the fight for Israeli independence

City of Secrets: A Novel, by Stewart O’Nan @@@@ (4 out of 5) A Latvian Jew freed from imprisonment in World War II internment camps makes his way to Palestine in 1948 and joins the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that led the fight for Israeli independence. His new name is Jossi. He operates as… Read More ›

A gripping historical thriller

The Devils of Cardona, by Matthew Carr @@@@@ (5 out of 5) The Devils of Cardona is superb historical fiction masked as a thriller. It works beautifully on both levels. A gripping historical thriller This gripping historical thriller is set in 1594, more than a century after Ferdinand and Isabella set in motion the Spanish… Read More ›