WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival 2014
New and Recently Released!
The visitors by Sally BeaumanSent to Egypt by her grandparents to recover from the typhoid fever that claimed her mother's life, grief-stricken 11-year-old Lucy befriends Frances, the daughter of American archaeologists. As the girls explore Cairo, Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings, they become eyewitnesses to the events that unfold as Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon excavate King Tutankhamen's tomb -- including the effects of the so-called "pharaoh's curse" that afflicts the expedition.
What is visible by Kimberly ElkinsAfter a bout of scarlet fever deprives two-year-old Laura Bridgman of four of her five senses, she finds an unlikely advocate in Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, founder of the Perkins Institute. Under Dr. Howe's tutelage, Laura learns to communicate with her hands, becoming a celebrity in the process. But communication is not the same as connection. Despite her fame - even Charles Dickens writes an essay about her - Laura struggles with loneliness and feelings of abandonment as important people in her life come and go, many using her to further their own agendas. Although the real-life Laura Bridgman was born decades before the more famous Helen Keller, fans of the latter's memoir, The Story of My Life, will want to read this moving novel about a woman who succeeded on her own terms and challenged conventional beliefs concerning what was possible for individuals with disabilities.
In the wolf's mouth by Adam FouldsThe author of the Booker-shortlisted The Quickening Maze returns with a new novel. Set in Sicily and North Africa during the final days of World War II, it follows three different men: a university-educated British officer who discovers that logic and reason have no place on the battlefield; a sensitive American soldier ill-equipped for the horrors of combat; and an Italian-born translator for the Allies who has a secret agenda beyond that of aiding the war-effort. With its complex characters and interconnected narratives that unfold against a gritty wartime backdrop, this novel may appeal to fans of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient or Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See.
Sundance by David FullerAs soon as Harry Longbaugh - better known as the Sundance Kid - is released from prison in 1913, where he served time under an assumed name, he goes in search of his wife, Etta Place. Sundance, rumored to have been killed in the Bolivian shootout that killed his partner-in-crime, Butch Cassidy, soon attracts the attention of the authorities when he kills a man in self-defense and goes on the lam. But Sundance has no intention of returning to jail, at least not before he reaches the end of the long and winding trail that might lead to his missing bride.
China dolls by Lisa SeeThis descriptive, richly detailed novel introduces three Asian-American nightclub performers in San Francisco's Chinatown. Grace, a talented dancer, has fled both her sleepy Midwestern hometown and her abusive father; Helen, a recent arrival from China, feels as free on stage as she feels trapped by the traditional lifestyle of her family; and Ruby is Japanese but determined to hide her ethnicity in order to protect herself as hostilities between the U.S. and Japan escalate. As the trio navigates the "Chop Suey Circuit," their friendship will be put to the test by secrets, betrayal, and a world at war.
Burning bright by Tracy ChevalierAfter a tragic loss, the Kellaway family moves from Dorsetshire to Lambeth, on the outskirts of London, where their next door neighbor is none other than printer, poet, and political radical William Blake. As patriarch Thomas Kellaway abandons his furniture business to pursue a career as a set designer for a travelling circus, his children progress from innocence to experience: daughter Maisie attracts the attention of the circus impresario's son, while son Jem befriends a streetwise girl named Maggie. Heavy on atmosphere and detail-rich description, this moving coming-of-age story evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of 1792 London.
The mirrored world by Debra DeanNarrated by her closest friend, this novel recounts the life of Xenia Grigoryevna, patron saint of St. Petersburg. After Xenia loses her family at a tender age, she becomes a singer in the Imperial choir, marries a handsome military officer, and - in the wake of a terrible, fateful vision - loses him, along with their child. Reeling from the tragedy, Xenia relinquishes all her worldly possessions and takes to the streets, where she ministers to the poor. Alas, Xenia's behavior as a "holy fool" incurs the displeasure of the royal family, who view her actions as a criticism of their extravagant lifestyle. Readers interested in 18th-century courtly life in Russia may also want to check out Eva Stachniak's The Winter Palace, which traces Catherine the Great's rise to power.
The Stockholm Octavo by Karen EngelmannHaving risen from penniless orphan to salaried bureaucrat, sekretaire Emil Larsson has everything he needs to secure his position in society - except a suitable wife. When cardsharp, seer, and political activist Mrs. Sofia Sparrow promises to help him find love through a tarot card spread known as the Octavo, Emil eagerly accepts her offer. As Emil searches for the eight individuals depicted in the cards - one of whom is his destined true love, all of whom are fated to play a crucial role in Emil's success -- he unwittingly becomes enmeshed in the political intrigue surrounding King Gustav III's court. In addition to a colorful cast of characters and an intricate plot, this richly detailed debut, set in 1791 Stockholm, also depicts the cultural obsessions of the era, from the seductive art of the fan to the mystical geometry of cartomancy.
Pure by Andrew MillerIn 1785, engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte is brought from Normandy to Paris, where he must exhume the bodies entombed in Les Innocents in preparation for the cemetery's closure. Initially embracing the challenge - which will prevent the burial ground's noxious gases and decomposing body parts from poisoning the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods - Jean-Baptiste soon realizes that his task is more dangerous than he could have imagined. In addition to vermin, disease, fire, and cave-ins, he must also contend with political unrest that is rapidly escalating into full-scale revolution.
The midwife of Venice by Roberta RichWhen her husband Isaac, a merchant of Venice, is captured by pirates, midwife Hannah Levi must find a way to earn his ransom. Although a Papal edict forbids Jewish healers from treating Christian patients, Hannah risks her life first by accepting payment for delivering a countess' baby (with forceps, viewed as an instrument of witchcraft) and then by continuing to provide assistance to the new mother and her sickly infant. Meanwhile, Isaac, enslaved in Malta, must use his wits to escape captivity and reunite with his wife. For another richly detailed, character-driven historical novel about a 16th-century female Venetian physician who braves misogyny, religious persecution, and political unrest to aid loved ones, check out Regina O'Melveny's The Book of Madness and Cures.
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