More than 700 book reviews

Tag Archive for ‘historical fiction’

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 ›

A thriller about Vatican politics

Conclave: A Novel, by Robert Harris @@@@ (4 out of 5) Over the course of my life six new Popes have been installed by the Catholic Church. Robert Harris’ new thriller, Conclave, is about the next election. Set a few years in the future, when a man closely resembling Pope Francis has either retired or… Read More ›

Inside the fight for Israeli independence

A review of 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…. Read More ›

A gripping historical thriller

A review of 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… Read More ›

A vivid snapshot of Berlin under the Nazis

A review of March Violets (Bernie Gunther #1), by Philip Kerr @@@@ (4 out of 5) In 1936, Berlin is abuzz about the civil war in Spain and the coming Olympics. Hitler’s henchmen are crisscrossing the city to erase many of the outward signs of the anti-Semitism that fuels the Nazi regime. Under cover of… Read More ›

Living the legacy of war

A review of Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3), by Jacqueline Winspear @@@@ (4 out of 5) Before the advent of World War II, the “Great War” — World War I, the “war to end all wars” — was the most tragic event in modern history. Earlier, Attila’s rampage through Asia and Europe was probably more… Read More ›

African Roots through African eyes

A review of Homegoing: A Novel, by Yaa Gyasi @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary debut novel, Homegoing, traces the story of a Ghanaian family over more than two centuries through the lives of two branches of its descendants, one in Ghana, the other in the United States. The book opens in the… Read More ›

From Hitler’s Germany to Batista’s Cuba

A review of If the Dead Rise Not (Bernie Gunther #6), by Philip Kerr @@@ (3 out of 5) If the Dead Rise Not is either the third or the sixth novel in Philip Kerr’s series about the indomitable Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. The ranking depends on whether you take into account the three much… Read More ›

A female detective like no other

A review of Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1), by Jacqueline Winspear @@@@ (4 out of 5) Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear, is the inaugural entry in a series of detective novels, now twelve in number, featuring the work of the brilliantly intuitive “Psychologist and investigator” as the 1930s unfold. In the first of the novels,… Read More ›

Wondering why nearly all my book reviews are favorable?

If you’ve read more than a few of my book reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I rate every book on a five-@ system, and that I usually award books a rating of @@@@@, @@@@, or at least @@@. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve described a book as less than @@@ more than a couple… Read More ›