Lilli de Jong: A Novel by Janet BentonAbandoned by her lover, rejected by her family, and disowned by her Germantown Quaker community, pregnant Lilli de Jong has nowhere to turn but a Philadelphia institution for unwed mothers. But Lilli's present difficulties are nothing compared to the hardships she'll face once she decides to keep her child instead of surrendering the infant. Although Lilli de Jong is set in the 1880s instead of the Great Depression, its depiction of the plight of unmarried pregnant women sent to charity hospitals may interest readers who enjoyed Barbara J. Taylor's similarly themed All Waiting is Long.
The Lost History of Stars by Dave BolingThe Venter family are Afrikaners, white settlers of Dutch ancestry living in South Africa's Transvaal. In 1900, British soldiers destroy their farm and send them to a concentration camp. Narrated by 13-year-old Lettie Venter, this moving novel describes the family's struggle to survive imprisonment during the Second Anglo-Boer War. For more character-driven fiction that examines this conflict, try Giles Foden's Ladysmith, Wilbur Smith's The Sound of Thunder, or Ingrid Winterbach's To Hell with Cronje.
There Your Heart Lies by Mary GordonRebelling against her privileged upbringing, 19-year-old Marian Taylor (of the Newport and Park Avenue Taylors) marries her dead brother's lover, a Jewish doctor, and accompanies him to Spain, where she witnesses firsthand the brutality of the Spanish Civil War. Shifting between 1936 and the present day, when Marian's granddaughter begins researching her family history, this moving novel may appeal to fans of Victoria Hislop's The Return, in which a British woman discovers her Spanish roots, or María Dueñas' The Time In Between, which depicts Franco's Spain through the eyes of a seamstress.
Isadora: A Novel by Amelia GrayIn 1913, dancer and choreographer Isadora Duncan is at the height of her fame when a freak accident claims the lives of her two young children. In the aftermath of the tragedy, a grief-stricken Isadora flees Paris and spends a year traveling Europe, where she slowly comes to terms with her loss. Isadora's viewpoint alternates with those of her sister and her wealthy lover in this emotionally intense and introspective novel, which uses rich sensory detail and lyrical prose to place readers inside the minds of its complex characters.
Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa WingateBorn on a shantyboat in the Mississippi River, 12-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are taken from their impoverished parents by the Tennessee Children's Home Society and placed in a Memphis orphanage. As Rill recounts her struggle to keep her sisters and brother together, present-day scenes hint at the family's fate. Inspired by a real-life scandal in which children stolen from their families were sold to wealthy childless couples, Before We Were Yours is a good bet for fans of Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train.
Miriam: A Novel of Love and the Talmud by Maggie AntonEleventh-century Troyes, France is home to a thriving Jewish community, due in part to the yeshiva founded by Rabbi Salomon ben Isaac, better known as Rashi. Lacking sons, Rashi chose to educate his three daughters, resulting in three intelligent and strong-willed women. Now middle daughter Miriam, a midwife, is determined to become a mohelet. Although she isn't technically violating traditional Jewish law, many in the community believe that women have no role in the covenant of circumcision. This well-researched 2nd book in the Rashi's Daughters series explores Jewish life and culture in medieval Europe. To read about Miriam's sisters check out Joheved and Rachel.
The Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion by Elizabeth ChadwickA knight who served five English kings, beginning with Henry II, William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, makes frequent cameo appearances in historical novels about the Plantagenet period. Here he takes a starring role as the younger son of a minor nobleman who saves the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine and afterwards becomes indispensable to the royal family. If you enjoy The Greatest Knight, try author Elizabeth Chadwick's novels about other members of the Marshal family: William's father is introduced in A Place Beyond Courage; To Defy a King covers his children's generation.
World Without End by Ken FollettTwo centuries after the events of The Pillars of the Earth, which saw the construction of an elaborate Gothic cathedral in the English town of Kingsbridge, the world is a different place. Although the Church still plays a central role in European life, war and plague have shaken the foundations of society. Beginning on All Hallow's Day in the year 1327, four children witness an event that will influence their lives, as well as the future of their country. Like its predecessor, World Without End combines a large ensemble cast, multilayered plot, and well-researched historical details to tell a sweeping family saga. Fans of this series will be pleased to know that book 3, A Column of Fire, will be released in September.
Company of Liars: A Novel by Karen MaitlandIn 1348, nine strangers band together for survival as the plague ravages England. Disfigured relic-peddler Camelot leads the group as each member reveals his or her story. Con man Zophiel exhibits (among other dubious marvels) an embalmed mermaid, although Cygnus, who possesses a swan's wing instead of an arm, is no mere sideshow act. Musician Rodrigo and his apprentice Joffre have been dismissed from their posts, while expectant couple Adela and Osmond flee a community that disapproves of their union. Midwife Pleasance and her albino ward Narigorm round out the cast. Yet as the travelers begin dying, it becomes clear that at least one member of the company harbors a deadly secret in this creepy homage to the Canterbury Tales.
Lionheart by Sharon Kay PenmanThe ranks of Eleanor of Aquitaine's sons, introduced in Devil's Brood, have thinned considerably since three of them attempted to overthrow their father, Henry II. Lionheart, the 1st book in a new series, focuses on one of the surviving sons, King Richard I, "Coeur de Lion," as he launches the Third Crusade. But before he can fight the Saracens in the Holy Land, he must first travel to Sicily to rescue his imprisoned sister and then to Cyprus to wed his bride, Berengaria. Meanwhile, back in England, his brother John has his eye on Richard's throne. Love Lionheart? Check out its sequel, A King's Ransom.
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