The Women of Troy by Pat BarkerWhat it is: a moving, gritty reimagining of the aftermath of the Trojan War, driven by complex female characters who tell first-person stories of grief, trauma, and vengeance.
Starring: resilient and revenge-minded Briseis, who was enslaved by Achilles; prophetic princess Cassandra, whose visions of the war to come were ignored thanks to a curse from Apollo; Hector's widow Andromache, whose pragmatism might just help her rebuild a life worth living.
Series alert: The Women of Troy is a sequel to Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, which focused on women on the other side of the war.
Moon and the Mars by Kia CorthronWhat it's about: half-Irish half-Black Theo Brigid Brook's coming of age in New York's legendary Five Points neighborhood, set during a six-year period between the 1857 Metropolitan Police Riots and the first year of the Civil War.
Read it for: the way Theo's divided identity reflects the rising ethnic and political tensions in the country, the Five Points neighborhood, and even her own family; the engaging depictions of Theo's extended family, who make for a vibrant cast of secondary characters.
All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent DaltonWhat it is: the moving and lyrical story of 12-year-old Molly Hook, an Australian orphan who sets out on a magical realism-filled journey into the Outback to undo a family curse in 1942, while Japanese bombs rain down from the sky.
Why you might like it: Along the way Molly picks up an unlikely crew of traveling companions, including Greta, a sharp-tongued German actress, and Yukio, a disillusioned Japanese fighter pilot gone AWOL.
Reviewers say: Shimmering Skies is "achingly beautiful" and "majestic in its melancholy" (Booklist).
Matrix by Lauren GroffInspired by: the life and works of Marie de France, the pseudonym of a 12th-century French poet, prioress, and literary pioneer known for her works of hagiography, translation, and chivalric romance.
The real Marie? The level of education reflected in her writing has led some historians to conclude that Marie de France was likely related to royalty, with the top candidates being a daughter of King Stephen of England or an illegitimate half-sister of King Henry II of England.
You might also like: Mary Sharratt's Illuminations, about St. Hildegard of Bingen, a German abbess known for her works of theology, medical treatises, musical compositions, and her correspondence with popes, emperors, and other important 12th-century figures.
The Magician by Colm TóibínThe Mann, the myth...This sweeping, richly detailed biographical novel follows the tumultuous life of German author and Nobel laureate Thomas Mann, chronicling his career, family ups and downs, defiance of the Nazis, and closeted sexuality.
About the author: Colm Tóibín is an Irish novelist, poet, journalist, playwright, and literary critic whose works include the Greek myth retelling House of Names and the Booker Prize-shortlisted Henry James fictional biography The Master.
Reviewers say: The Magician "vibrates with the strength of Mann’s visions and the sublimity of Tóibín’s mellifluous prose" (Publishers Weekly).
Books You Might Have Missed
The Widow Queen by Elzbieta CherezińskaWhat it's about: the remarkable life of Swietoslawa of Poland, a duke's daughter who, through twists of fate, became the first Queen of Bohemia and took part in the epic 12th-century struggle over the rights of her sons to rule.
Want a taste? "Either you play the game or they will play you, there's no other way."
About the author: Elzbieta Cherezińska is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction in her native Poland. The Widow Queen is the first of her books translated into English.
The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLucaStarring: Clara Blackstone, a woman recently released from a mental asylum, whose life begins to intertwine in unexpected ways with the murder trial of Mary Ann Cotton, England's first documented serial killer.
Read it for: the suspenseful and atmospheric depiction of Clara's stifling life as a Victorian wife and the ever-present fear of being returned to the asylum.
For fans of: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood; Hannah Kent's Burial Rites.
Mrs. Wiggins by Mary MonroeWhat it's about: Maggie Wiggins (née Franklin) is on the road to respectability thanks to her marriage to Hubert, the son of a beloved minister in a small town in Jim Crow-era Alabama. Weighed down by a past that could ruin her future, Maggie soon learns she's not the only one in town with dangerous secrets to keep.
Series alert: Although Mrs. Wiggins is a standalone story, it takes place in the same world as Mary Monroe's Mama Ruby novels.
Is it for you? Maggie is a survivor of sexual abuse, and Monroe is unflinching in her depiction of Maggie's lived reality.
The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly MustianWhat it is: the atmospheric and intricately plotted story of two young women who form an unlikely friendship across the color line in rural 1920s Mississippi.
Starring: white 16-year-old Ada, a pregnant runaway who is forced by circumstances to return to her childhood home (the titular stilt house); Black 17-year-old Matilda, a sharecropper's daughter and aspiring social reformer whose impulsive decision bonds the two girls for life.
Reviewers say: Stilt House is a "nearly flawless tale of loss, perseverance, and redemption (Publishers Weekly).
Contact your librarian for more great books!