Imagine Your Story : Historical Fiction That Educates, Too

This week had me occupied with a book recommendation from my husband. While we generally agree on films, food and other critical-to-marriage subjects, books are where he sticks to nonfiction, but where I enjoy more of the make-believe varieties.

So when he reads fiction and then wants to talk about it, I am in. And, spoiler alert, he was right (and now that I’ve blogged about it, has bragging rights). The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips is that good. In this book, set in 1601, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is dying without an heir. Her likely successor is James VI of Scotland, who outwardly professes to be Protestant, but raised Catholic and with a Catholic wife, whose religious convictions are difficult to decipher. Those who wish to see England’s crown pass to a Protestant heir, including spy and stage actor Geoffrey Belloc, are desperate to know James’ heart on the matter.

kingatedge

A man without a dog in this fight is Ottoman Muslim Doctor, Mahmoud Ezzedine, who, banished to England because of unfortunate events, has been forced to become an expert on the nuances of Christianity and English politics. If Ezzedine has has any hopes of seeing his family again, he must assist Belloc. Ezzedine is made to be a judge of that which he knows little, in order to save a realm of which he cares little, in the faint hope he can return to the world he came from.

Today, it can be hard for some people to see beyond their perceptions of a person’s culture. This is one of the themes in this historical fiction/mystery hybrid novel. The doctor becomes a good spy, because while he might be distrusted for his foreignness, his foreignness also makes him invisible. Unseen, what will this man do to become free?

Not only is this book entertaining on so many levels, it may also have you reconsidering your own preconceptions of other cultures and people. In my opinion, that’s good fiction that educates.    ~Carol

Virtual Book Club – Week 3 – Book Woman

Hello everyone, it’s time again for our virtual book club! We’re in our third week of talking about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which you can get right now from Hoopla if you click that link. No waiting, no holds, always available!

This week, we will talk about the community scrapbooks that Cussy makes, as well as a ‘spoilery’ question about Cussy’s genetic condition. Don’t read the second question if you haven’t read about the ‘cure’ for Cussy’s blueness. You’ve been warned!

  • Imagine you were making a community scrapbook like the ones Cussy distributes to the people of Troublesome. What would you include? Do you think these materials were helpful to Cussy’s library patrons?  
  • When Cussy receives the cure for her blueness from Doc, she realizes there’s a price to pay for her white skin and the side effects soon become too much to handle. If you were in Cussy’s shoes, would you sacrifice your health for a chance at “normalcy”? If there weren’t any side effects, do you think Cussy would have continued to take the medication? Would you? 

Questions from the author’s website.

We’re dying to hear what you think in the comment section below! And make sure to check back next Sunday for our next batch of discussion questions and comments.

Your Library Staff at Home – Spending Time at Court

No, I wasn’t on jury duty, but I’ve recently been to court–Henry VIII’s court, that is! I’ve just read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, a novel I’ve waited eight years for. This novel closes Mantel’s historical fiction trilogy, depicting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, ultimately leading to Cromwell’s execution. (Now, now, don’t be mad. It’s not a spoiler, that’s an actual fact!) Mantel’s Cromwell is a dynamic, believable and sympathetic character. Readers will love him as he commits despicable acts, root for him even as he is doomed. She won Man Booker Awards for her first two in the series (Wolf Hall, 2009 and Bring Up the Bodies, 2012) and her latest is a satisfying and poignant conclusion. Oh, but it is 754 pages. Beyond worth reading for this fan, but if you wanted the DVD or streaming version, you’ve lucked out. It (sort of) exists.

Wolf Hall is the British television of the first two books in the trilogy and was broadcast on PBS Masterpiece in April 2015, winning a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII, and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, this six part series is beautifully acted, darkly lit, and filmed with incredible attention to period detail and faithfulness to the books. I’m hoping they’ll adapt book three!

Politics, murder, backstabbing and family drama–Cromwell’s life was full of it and his story provides a fascinating escape. Sure the history is dark, the characters are doomed, and we know how it will end, but I dare you to look away.

Megan’s Favorites of 2019

It’s that time of year, again-the time when we reflect on our year of reading (mostly murder) and make a favorites list (so much murder). I have given up all pretense of creating a Top Ten List and have abandoned descriptions (follow the links for book details), which has helped ease some of my anxiety around this task. If you like mysteries, suspense, and thrillers there are quite a few here!

YA Fiction

Adult Fiction

Nonfiction

Middle Grade

Happy Reading!

~Megan