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..
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).
Protector: A novel of ancient Greece
by Conn Iggulden
Themistocles stands as an archon of Athens the might of the city is his to command. Yet he is no nobleman, distrusted by many for his modest birthright. For his presumption. But those who stand against him cannot argue with two things his victories as a warrior and the vast Persian force heading their way. And so Themistocles must fight. To survive the game of politics, to make his name, he must prove himself again and again in battle. On the sea. On land. In the arena of public opinion. His enemies are legion, his allies do not trust him and the Persians would corrupt him but history belongs to the courageous.
The Cape doctor: A novel
by E. J. Levy
Beginning in Cork, Ireland, the novel recounts Jonathan Mirandus Perry’s journey from daughter to son in order to enter medical school and provide for family, but Perry soon embraced the new-found freedom of living life as a man. From brilliant medical student in Edinburgh and London to eligible bachelor and quick-tempered physician in Cape Town, Dr. Perry thrived. When he befriended the aristocratic Cape Governor, the doctor rose to the pinnacle of society, before the two were publicly accused of a homosexual affair that scandalized the colonies and nearly cost them their lives.
The collector's daughter: A novel of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb
by Gill Paul
"Lady Evelyn Herbert was the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon, brought up in stunning Highclere Castle. Popular and pretty, she seemed destined for a prestigious marriage, but she had other ideas. Instead, she left behind the world of society balls and chaperones to travel to the Egyptian desert, where she hoped to become a lady archaeologist, working alongside her father and Howard Carter in the hunt for an undisturbed tomb. In November 1922, their dreams came true when they discovered the burial placeof Tutankhamun, packed full of gold and unimaginable riches, and she was the first person to crawl inside for three thousand years"
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.
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 favourite 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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