Civilizations by Laurent BinetWhat it is: an engaging and thought-provoking alternate history of contact between Europe and the Americas that meditates on tantalizing what if questions about colonialism.
Starring: Freydis, daughter of Eric the Red, whose contact with Indigenous people in the year 1000 introduces new disease resistance and sailing technology; Atahualpa, ruler of the Inca Empire, who captures the ships of Christopher Columbus and uses them to travel to Europe.
About the author: French author Laurent Binet writes about politics and history and is best known in the English-speaking world for HHhH, his Prix Goncourt-winning debut novel.
Small Pleasures by Clare ChambersWhat it's about: Journalist Jean Swinney's dull life in the suburbs of 1950s London gets turned upside down (for good and ill) when she's sent to report on Gretchen Tilbury, a woman who claims her daughter is the result of a virgin birth.
For fans of: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue; The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey.
Reviewers say: The characters in Small Pleasures "provoke so much empathy, readers may have trouble remembering that they’re fictional" (Booklist).
The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet by Maureen GibbonWhat it is: a character-driven and reflective story that imagines the final days of French artist Édouard Manet, who created his final masterpieces like A Bar at the Folies-Bergère while his body was ravaged by syphilis.
Read it for: the lush writing style, which deftly captures Manet's visceral, frenetic passion for life, love, and art.
You might also like: Alyssa Palombo's The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, about Sandro Botticelli's muse Simonetta Vespucci.
The Prince of the Skies by Antonio IturbeWhat it's about: the life and work of French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the renowned novella The Little Prince.
Why you might like it: Author Antonio Iturbe portrays the glamour and drama in Saint-Exupéry's life in an atmospheric tone and rich details.
Reviewers say: "Saint-Ex, his colleagues, and their loves come to life in a novel that would do the author of The Little Prince proud" (Publishers Weekly).
Palmares by Gayl JonesWhat it is: the haunting and incisive story of Almeyda, a young Black woman living in the titular Palmares, a settlement for escaped slaves in 17th-century Brazil.
Why you should read it: Palmares is another vibrant addition to the canon of historical fiction about the rich inner lives of people living in (and escaping from) slavery, and its setting underlines the wide breadth of experiences in the African diaspora.
About the author: Novelist, poet, and academic Gayl Jones is best known for her books Corregiadora and Eva's Man. Palmares marks her first release in 20 years.
The Mad Women's Ball by Victoria MasWhat it's about: the disturbing world of 19th-century attempts to treat "hysteria" and the harrowing experiences of women living in a Parisian asylum.
Who it's for: gothic fiction fans; anyone interested in spiritualism and stories of women's autonomy.
You might also like: The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace; The Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham.
Tenderness by Alison MacLeodWhat it is: a character-driven and stylistically complex reimagining of the origins, publication, and legacy of D.H. Lawrence's classic Lady Chatterley's Lover.
About the author: Canadian writer Alison MacLeod is best known for her novel Unexploded, which was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
Try this next: The posthumously published Maurice by E.M. Forster, which some critics argue might have inspired Lawrence to write Lady Chatterley.
The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven by Nathaniel Ian MillerWhat it's about: the solitary life of Sven Ormson, a Swede who banishes himself to life in the Arctic after a disfiguring polar bear attack, and the people (and dog!) who change his life for the better when they arrive some time in 1916.
Read it for: the reflective tone, leisurely pace, and Sven's likeable, introspective narration.
Reviewers say: "Sven’s ugliness is only skin-deep, and readers will love the beauty and depth of his story" (Kirkus Reviews).
Rizzio by Denise MinaWhat it is: a compelling, atmospheric thriller that revisits the violent murder of David Rizzio, the Italian secretary and royal favorite of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Why you might like it: Despite its fast pace and intricate plotting, Rizzio also presents readers with a cast of well-developed characters and explores what led them to commit their fateful crime.
For fans of: The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips, another tale of an outsider moving in Scottish royal circles.
The Stolen Lady by Laura MorelliWhat it's about: the efforts of two women, living centuries apart, who are charged with safeguarding one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa.
Starring: Bellina Sardi, a Florentine servant who decides to save the unfinished portrait of her employer from the chaos of an anti-Medici uprising; Louvre archivist Anne Guichard, who partners with the Resistance to save the painting from falling into Nazi hands.
Reviewers say: "This will pull in readers from the very first page" (Publishers Weekly).
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