Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five Hot New Historical Fiction Titles

The Secret History of Costaguana
by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

"If there was ever a man caught in the vice of history, it's Jose Altamirano, hero of Vasquez' remarkable second novel (following The Informers, 2009). Altamirano speaks to us from London in 1924, where he is in exile from his native Colombia. He vows to tell us the real story of Colombia and its endless civil wars, which have torn his family asunder, in spite of his valiant but doomed attempt to forge a separate peace.

But not only did politics run roughshod over his life, his story has been stolen from him by none other than Joseph Conrad, who, looking for information about Colombia from a native son, encounters Altamirano and transforms his account into Nostromo, set in the fictional country of Costaguana. ...this is a deeply lyrical, stylistically and thematically rich novel from an important writer." - Booklist

West of Here: a novel
by Jonathan Evison

"Evison deserves national acclaim for his latest novel, which is set in the fictional town of Port Bonita on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Chapters that alternate between the 1890s and the present result in a Northwest historical novel with modern counterpoints, like Sometimes a Great Notion meets Citizen Vince.

At its beginning, Port Bonita was a town of hope and industry. James Mather sets out to explore the rugged interior of the Elwha River valley; Ethan Thornburgh envisions a mighty dam powering a bustling city; his estranged lover, Eva Lambert, prefers a more utopian vision of a commonwealth colony. Flash forward a century, and Port Bonita's residents have less lofty goals: "Krig" Krigstadt thirsts for a steady supply of Kilt Lifter ale; ex-con Timmon Tillman wants to be left the hell alone; his parole officer, Franklin Bell, just wants a woman to date.

VERDICT: Fans of Jess Walter and Jim Lynch will be thrilled to find another author whose love for the Pacific Northwest and its people shines through with humor and clarity." - Library Journal

Beautiful Maria of my soul: or the true story of Maria Garcia y Cifuentes, the lady behind a famous song, a novel
by Oscar Hijuelos

"She's the great Cuban beauty who stole musician Nestor Castillo's heart and broke it, inspiring him to write the Mambo Kings' biggest hit, ''Beautiful Maria of My Soul.'' Now in her sixties and living in Miami with her pediatrician daughter, Teresa, Maria remains a beauty, still capable of turning heads. But she has never forgotten Nestor, and as she thinks back to her days--and nights--in Havana, an entirely new perspective on the Mambo Kings story unfolds."--Publisher.

"An intelligent and playful ending caps off a vivid story that should delight readers of The Mambo Kings and enthrall those new to Hijuelos's imaginative and florid voice." - Publisher's Weekly

Promises to Keep
by Amy Tatlock

"In this heartwarming faith-based tale, the Anthony family, on the run from their alcoholic husband and father, leaves Minneapolis for the small town of Mills River, Ill. But they've barely begun to acclimate when sassy old lady Tillie Monroe shows up at their doorstep explaining that the house once belonged to her and her late husband. Tillie charms the Anthonys and, before long, becomes part of the family. Under Tillie's spiritual guidance, the family begins to find strength in themselves and God.

Young daughter Roz, however, continues to struggle with paternal rejection and longs for her family to reunite. Only when Tillie shows immense courage does Roz realize the true meaning of family and faith. Tatlock (The Returning) writes a lively narrative that will please readers who enjoy Christian drama. While the book may be too predictable for some, others will find its message poignant and moving." - Publisher's Weekly

The Matchmaker of Kenmare: a novel of Ireland

by Frank Delaney

"Delaney re-earns his reputation for total reader engagement with his latest deeply thought-out novel, which weaves together various strands of the general theme of searching. In memoir format, narrated by a man in old age, the plot finds its provocative place in the WWII years and the immediate postwar years; in substance, it combines the charm of an Irish yarn with the excitement of a political thriller and the romance of a 1940s war movie.

Young Ben McCarthy, fulfilling his job with the Irish Folklore Commission, which means taking story-gathering trips around Ireland, one day meets a young woman, Kate Begley, who makes her living as a matchmaker, connecting local unmarried women and men. The encounter is fateful. She led me into trouble so deep that my own father wouldn't have found me, Ben recalls. Although Ben has, in addition to his professional search project, a personal one looking for his missing wife he finds Kate so mesmerizing that he accompanies her on a wild adventure taking them from neutral Ireland into hardly neutral continental Europe, first to retrieve for the U.S. Army a German man who has knowledge the Americans want and then to track down the American officer Kate improbably marries, and with whom she promptly loses touch. As artillery guns fire overhead, hearts ache: a compelling combination. " - Booklist

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