London Historical Fiction Book Group Message Board › London Historical Fiction Book Group: Help choose our April book
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 4 March to discuss "The King's Diamond" by Will Whitaker at our new time of 6.45pm. Please RSVP when you get a chance if you haven't done so yet. Details here:
After that, we will meet on Monday 22 April and it's time to choose the book for that.
I've created a poll for everyone to vote on the April book from the shortlist detailed below.
Please go to the Polls section to vote.
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 April 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
(PS. If you suggested a book to me and it doesn't appear in the shortlist, it may be because of its length as anything too long is not going to prove popular as a book group read. I may also be keeping it for a future shortlist.
I've included in this shortlist one book that came second a couple of polls ago. I think I'll do this going forward to give books that received a lot of votes a second chance.)
HHhH by Laurent Binet (2012)
(Translated from French)
Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo.
This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services. His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says 'Himmler's brain is called Heydrich', which in German spells out HHhH.
All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up?
'HHhH blew me away. Binet's style fuses it all together: a neutral journalistic honesty sustained with a fiction writer's zeal and story-telling instincts. It's one of the best historical novels I've ever come across' Bret Easton Ellis
The Watermen by Patrick Easter (2011)
In the dark and slimy streets of Wapping a prostitute is beaten half to death, a not uncommon fate in late 18th century London.
So begins this gripping tale set in 1798 in the Port of London: a cruel villain holds sway over the underworld. His name is Boylin. His face is scarred by lime and his back by the two hundred lashes he received following a naval court martial. He holds Captain Tom Pascoe responsible for his suffering. They meet again when Pascoe becomes River Surveyor for the newly formed marine police. They've had orders to investigate a sudden fall in government revenue that is affecting the nation's ability to fight the war against Napoleon and stem the rising tide of Irish rebellion. Pascoe knows that Boylin is behind it, but he can't prove anything, yet.
THE WATERMEN follows these two adversaries across London as they try to outwit one another. Working alongside Pascoe is Sam Hart, a Jewish immigrant with his own agenda, Pascoe throws the rule-book out the window, scouring East London and the docklands in search of information. But fate takes a cruel twist when the two men find themselves involved with the same woman - there's much more at stake than the fate of the nation.
The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall (2011)
Malaya, 1941. Connie Thornton plays her role as a dutiful wife and mother without complaint. She is among the fortunate, after all-a member of the British rubber plantation owners, reaping the benefits of colonial life. But Connie feels as though she is oppressed, crippled by boredom, sweltering heat, and a loveless marriage...
Then in December, the Japanese invade. Connie and her family flee, sailing south on their yacht toward Singapore, where the British are certain to stand firm against the Japanese. En route, in the company of friends, they learn that Singapore is already under siege. Increasingly desperate and short of food, the yacht's inhabitants make their perilous way from island to island. When a fighter plane crashes into the sea, they rescue its Japanese pilot. For Connie, that's when everything changes. In the suffocating confines of the boat, with her life upended, Connie discovers a new kind of freedom and an exciting, dangerous, exhilarating love.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (2005)
Lily is the daughter of a humble farmer, and to her family she is just another expensive mouth to feed. Then the local matchmaker delivers startling news: if Lily's feet are bound properly, they will be flawless. In nineteenth-century China, where a woman's eligibility is judged by the shape and size of her feet, this is extraordinary good luck. Lily now has the power to make a good marriage and change the fortunes of her family. To prepare for her new life, she must undergo the agonies of footbinding, learn nu shu, the famed secret women's writing, and make a very special friend, Snow Flower. But a bitter reversal of fortune is about to change everything.
The Bone Thief by V. M. Whitworth (2012)
Edward, son of Alfred the Great, has inherited the Kingdom of Wessex and achieved a precarious set of alliances through marriage and military conquest. But the alliance is uneasy and the kingdom of Mercia has more reason than most to fear the might of Wessex. Their Lord is elderly and perhaps mortally sick, and his wife fears that she does not have the power to withstand hostile takeover. She also knows too well what her neighbour is capable of -- after all, King Edward is her brother.
The chance to rescue St Oswald's bones, beloved patron saint, to consecrate her new church and unite the people behind her, is too good an opportunity to miss. But they are rumoured to be buried a long way north -- outside Lincoln, deep in hostile territory. Her secretary, Wulfgar, groomed for the priesthood since he was a boy in the elegant cloisters of Winchester cathedral but naïve in the ways of the wider world -- is surprised to be sent on this mission. It will prove an incredibly dangerous journey, requiring resources and courage Wulfgar did not know he had, and support from surprising allies along the way including a maverick priest and a Viking adventuress whose loyalties are far from clear.