Edmonds Booktalk: Our list of favorite historical fiction

Some of the best fiction is based in truth, with the authors doing an impressive amount of homework. The kind of stories where you find yourself not believing some of the things really happened, and then checking with Google… and finding out, yes! It really did happen!

Here is a brief list of historical fiction titles, most of which we have already enjoyed, some fairly new, a couple from favorite authors coming out soon:

  • “Circling the Sun: A Novel” by Paula McLain. Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir “Out of Africa.”
  • “Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace” by Jennifer Chiaverini. The life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter and the world’s first computer programmer. [Hardcover, December 2017]
  • “Euphoria” by Lily King. Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead.
  • “The Forest Lover” by Susan Vreeland. The courageous life and career of Emily Carr, who blazed a path for modern women artists.
  • “In the Name of the Family: A Novel” by Sarah Dunant. A thrilling exploration of the House of Borgia’s final years, in the company of a young diplomat named Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • “The Last Days of Night: A Novel” by Graham Moore. Based on actual events—about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America. Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison, JP Morgan, George Westinghouse.
  • “Love and Ruin: A Novel” by Paula McLain. The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. Coming May 1, 2018.
  • “The Other Alcott: A Novel” by Elise Hooper. Debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.
  • “The Other Einstein: A Novel” by Marie Benedict. The story of Einstein’s wife offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow.
  • “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. The love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
  • “A Piece of the World: A Novel” by Christina Baker Kline. A stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.
  • “Victoria: A Novel” by Daisy Goodwin. Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, this is the novel from the creator and writer of the PBS Masterpiece drama Victoria.
  • “White Houses: A Novel” by Amy Bloom. A love story inspired by one of the most intriguing relationships in history—between Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok. Coming February 13, 2018.

February Events at Edmonds Bookshop.

February 3, 2018. Saturday. 1-2 pm. We will welcome back one of our favorite authors Tracy Weber, with her newest book, “Pre-Meditated Murder” the fifth in her Downward Dog mystery series. New in paperback January 8, 2018.

Yoga instructor Kate Davidson is ready to marry her boyfriend Michael, so she’s disappointed when a special dinner doesn’t end with a proposal. But disappointment turns to dismay and outrage as she learns the real problem: Michael is already married and his estranged wife is blackmailing him. When his wife’s body is found — by Kate and her dog, no less — Michael is strangely unable to remember where he was the night she died….

Great new [1/27/18] article/review in The Seattle Times.

February 10, 2018. Saturday. 12-1 pm. “Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast Through Cross-Cultural Marriages” by Candace Wellman. In paperback.

Throughout the mid-1800s, Coast and Interior Salish families arranged strategic cross-cultural marriages, and these alliances played a crucial role in regional settlement. Although accounts of the men exist in a variety of records, the contributions of their native wives remain unacknowledged. The author hopes to shatter stereotypes surrounding these relationships. The four women profiled exhibited exceptional endurance, strength, and adaptability. Each woman’s story is uniquely her own, but together they and other intermarried women left lasting legacies.

Candace Wellman was born and raised in Washington, the Bellingham resident is a local history consultant and speaks regularly about women’s history and regional settlement.

Visit her on Facebook.

Third Thursday Art Walk.
February 15, 2018. Third Thursday Art Walk. 5 – 8pm.
We will welcome Edmonds’ own, Mathilda [Millie] Thompson and her new mystery, “Doin’ in a Robber Baron.” The series is set in 1890’s Chicago and features two members of the city’s elite detective squad.

1890s Chicago. Chicago’s elite detective squad investigates the murder of the man with the monopoly on public transportation. At his Gold Coast mansion, no one is able or willing to clarify matters and even though the body was found there, it wasn’t the scene of the crime. Follow the detectives as they hunt for the murderer through historic Chicago.

February 17, 2018. Saturday. 12 noon. We will be hosting 2 authors! Kim Purcell and her new book, “This is Not a Love Letter” in conversation with Jennifer Bardsley, author of the 2-book Blank Slate series, consisting of “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.”

Come and eavesdrop on two authors talking about writing – all the secrets and behind-the-scenes info we usually aren’t privy to – and we get to ask questions too! It will be a great afternoon! 

February 24, 2018. Saturday. 12-1 pm. “Timber Curtain” by Frances McCue. These poems are wry, indicting and hopeful, as they track the demolition of Richard Hugo House in a rapidly changing city. New in paperback November 7, 2017.

“Timber Curtain” occupies a space between ramshackle and remodel. It starts with the demolition of a house — Richard Hugo House, the Seattle literary center where Frances McCue worked, lived, and mourned her husband. From there, McCue’s poems spiral out to encompass icebergs, exorcisms, the refugee crisis, and the ethics of the place-myths we create for ourselves. Like the Seattle skyline, poems erase and recombine into a landscape forever saturated with ghosts.

Several of these poems will be central in McCue’s upcoming (2018) documentary “Where the House Was.” A little more information on facebook [https://www.facebook.com/wherethehousewas] and on the website. [https://www.teamdemohugo.com/]

Frances McCue is a poet, writer, teacher, and arts instigator. From 1996–2006, she was the founding director of Richard Hugo House in Seattle and is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Washington.

February 2018 Book Club Book.

February 21, 2018. “Flight Behavior: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver.

The extraordinary author returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work.

“Flight Behavior” is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths.

Books have been chosen for the first part of 2018. Check the Bookclub page for the list of great titles.

Recent book releases of note:
“The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A. J. Finn. A twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house. Staff recommended.

“The Women in the Castle: A Novel” by Jessica Shattuck. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined. In paperback.

“The Music Shop: A Novel” by Rachel Joyce. A love story and a journey through music, the exquisite and perfectly pitched new novel from the bestselling author of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.”

“Setting Free the Kites” by Alex George. A powerful story of two friends and the unintended consequences of friendship, loss, and hope. The staff favorite now in paperback.

“Gnomon: A Novel” by Nick Harkaway. A virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state, that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle. Already named ‘A Best Science Fiction Book of 2017’ by The Guardian.

“Iron Gold: Book 4 of the Red Rising Saga” by Pierce Brown. In the epic next chapter of the Red Rising Saga, the bestselling author pushes the boundaries of one of the boldest series in fiction.

“Still Me: A Novel” by Jojo Moyes. A brand new book featuring her iconic heroine of “Me Before You” and “After You.”

“The Monk of Mokha” by Dave Eggers. A heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the struggles of everyday Yemenis living through civil war and the courageous journey of a young man.

Books of note being released in February:

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah. The latest from the Northwest author: a novel about a family in crisis. A young father and POW returns from Vietnam suffering from PTSD. The family, barely making ends meet in 1974, moves from Seattle to the untamed wilderness of Kaneq, Alaska. February 6, 2018.

“Force of Nature: A Novel” by Jane Harper. Five women go on a hike. Only four return. The bestselling author asks: How well do you really know the people you work with? Her debut, “The Dry” is a staff favorite. February 6, 2018.

“The Neighborhood” by Mario Vargas Llosa. The Nobel prizewinner’s latest novel is a tale of gossip and politics set during a corrupt regime in Lima, Peru. February 6, 2018.

“Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders. A moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented. In paperback. Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. Staff recommended. February 6, 2018.

“Beartown: A Novel” by Fredrik Backman. The bestselling author returns with a novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal, and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything. In paperback. February 6, 2018.

“4 3 2 1: A Novel” by Paul Auster. A sweeping and surprising story of birthright and possibility, of love and of life itself. Staff recommended. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In paperback. February 6, 2018.

“Feel Free: Essays” by Zadie Smith. Arranged into five sections–In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free–this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. This is literary journalism at its zenith. February 6, 2018.

“White Houses: A Novel” by Amy Bloom. For readers of The Paris Wife comes a love story inspired by “one of the most intriguing relationships in history”*—between Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok. February 13, 2018.

“The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth” by Michio Kaku. The bestselling author traverses the frontiers of astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and technology to offer a stunning vision of man’s future in space, from settling Mars to traveling to distant galaxies. February 20, 2018.

“Winter Sisters” by Robin Oliveira. The latest from the best-selling, Seattle-based writer, set in 1879 New York, is a rich and compelling novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens when their fate is discovered. February 27, 2018.

“In This Grave Hour: A Maisie Dobbs Novel” by Jacqueline Winspear. In paperback. February 27, 2018.

“Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” by Steven Pinker. The author presents the big picture of human progress: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. February 27, 2018. Bill Gates has a new favorite book. The article here.

As always, check our website for all the latest in book news.

Happy reading!

— By Elaine Mattson

Edmonds native Elaine Mattson has worked at The Edmonds Bookshop off and on since she was 12 years old, and has also worked at a book wholesaler, a book publisher, and for the book publishing division of a large local software company (yes, that one). “I was raised a book lover [thanks, Mom!],” Mattson says. “We got book lights by our beds as soon as we were old enough to read. And then I probably got in trouble for reading too late the very next night. And I still read too late!”


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