London Historical Fiction Book Group: Help choose our June book

From: Justin
Sent on: Saturday, March 16, 2013 2:54 PM

Hi everyone.

Firstly, welcome to all those who've joined the group recently. Very much looking forward to seeing you at one of our meetups soon.

Our next meetup is on Monday 22 April to discuss "The Bone Thief" by V. M. Whitworth at 6.45pm. Please RSVP when you get a chance if you haven't done so yet. Details here:
http://www.meetup.com/London-Historical-Fiction-Book-Group/events/103489302/

After that, we will meet on Monday 3 June and it's time to choose the book for then.

I've created a poll for everyone to vote on the June book from the shortlist detailed below.
Please go to the Polls section to vote.
http://www.meetup.com/London-Historical-Fiction-Book-Group/polls/
Either use the link above or, if you're trying to find the polls on the group page, you find them via the "More" tab at the top.

Below are details of each of the shortlisted books. Please score each of the books in the poll according to your interest in reading them.
The most popular one will be our June read.
I will close the poll in a week or so, so that the book is selected around two months before the meetup.

Thanks and happy reading
Justin

(PS. As last time, one of the books in the shortlist was a runner-up in a previous poll. I'm going to give every runner-up a second chance going forward as obviously that means there were plenty who wanted to read it.)

--------------------------------

Shieldwall by Justin Hill (2011)
Pages: 512
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shieldwall-Justin-Hill/dp/0349123373



Description
The year is 1016 and England burns while the Viking armies blockade the great city of London. King Ethelred lies dying and the England he knew dies with him; the warring kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex and Northumbria tremble on the brink of great change. One man lives to bear witness to the upheaval: Godwin, barely out of boyhood and destined to become one of his country's great warriors.
When Ethelred's son Edmund takes the throne, determined to succeed where his father failed, he plucks Godwin from domestic peace to be right-hand man in his loyal shield wall. Godwin must traverse the meadows, wintry forests and fogbound marshes of Saxon England, raising armies of monks, ploughmen and shepherds against the Viking invader. With epic courage and ferocity, Godwin and Edmund repel the butchering Danes in three great battles. But an old enemy, the treacherous Earl Eadric, dogs Godwin's footsteps, and as the final battle approaches, around the valiant English the trap begins to close.



Samarkand by Amin Maalouf (1989)
(translated from French by Russell Harris)
Pages: 320
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Samarkand-Amin-Maalouf/dp/0349106169/



Description
Accused of mocking the inviolate codes of Islam, the Persian poet and sage Omar Khayyam fortuitously finds sympathy with the very man who is to judge his alleged crimes. Recognising genuis, the judge decides to spare him and gives him instead a small, blank book, encouraging him to confine his thoughts to it alone.
Thus beginds the seamless blend of fact and fiction that is Samarkand. Vividly re-creating the history of the manuscript of the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam, Amin Maalouf spans continents and centuries with breathtaking vision: the dusky exoticism of 11th-century Persia, with its poetesses and assassins; the same country's struggles nine hundred years later, seen through the eyes of an American academic obsessed with finding the original manuscript ; and the fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, whose tragedy led to the Rubaiyaat's final resting place - all are brought to life with keen assurance by this gifted and award-winning writer.



The Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor (2002)
Pages: 432
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-Sea-Joseph-OConnor/dp/0099469626/



Description
In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by injustice and natural disaster, the Star of the Sea sets sail for New York.
On board are hundreds of fleeing refugees. Among them are a maidservant with a devastating secret, bankrupt Lord Merridith and his family, an aspiring novelist, a maker of revolutionary ballads, all braving the Atlantic in search of a new home. Each is connected more deeply than they can possibly know. But a camouflaged killer is stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution.
The twenty-six day journey will see many lives end, others begin afresh. In a spellbinding story of tragedy and mercy, love and healing, the further the ship sails towards the Promised Land, the more her passengers seem moored to a past which will never let them go.



When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)
Pages: 160
http://www.amazon.co.uk/When-The-Emperor-Was-Divine/dp/0241963443/



Description
Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, When the Emperor Was Divine is the critically acclaimed debut novel by bestselling writer Julie Otsuka - author of The Buddha in the Attic - in which she explores the lives of Japanese immigrants living in America during the Second World War.
It is four months after Pearl Harbour and overnight signs appear all over the United States instructing Japanese Americans to report to internment camps for the duration of the war. For one family it proves to be a nightmare of oppression and alienation. Explored from varying points of view - the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train journey; the son in the desert encampment; the family's return home; and the bitter release of their father after four years in captivity - it tells of an incarceration that will alter their lives for ever.
Based on a true story, Julie Otsuka's powerful, deeply humane novel tells of an unjustly forgotten episode in America's wartime history.



The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Pages: 512
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-Palace-novel-young-Catherine/dp/0552777986/



Description
When Vavara, a young Polish orphan, arrives at the glittering, dangerous court of the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg, she is schooled in skills ranging from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent - and listen.
Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for the Empress's heir. Set to spy on her, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit liaisons and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court. But Sophie's destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power?



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