I knew her latest, Spirited was a little different and, as it combines a couple of elements I usually avoid—historical fiction and the supernatural—I was a tad nervous. And though it’s set in the 1850s its themes resonate today. Cohen’s books are often hard to describe but I saw this from a fellow author on Twitter and it seemed apt.
I realise I harp on about the fact I don’t read historical fiction. I occasionally make exceptions for books written in dual timelines (the then and now), but every so often I seem to accidentally read historical fiction and don’t hate it. In fact I quite enjoy it.
So, although mention of ‘the war’ (I or II) has me heading for the hills this is now the THIRD of Caroline Beecham’s novels I’ve read that’s been set during wartime and each time she has inexplicably lured me in with all sorts of interesting information I didn’t realise I enjoyed learning.
I’ve previously commented on her work being similar to that of Natasha Lester, in that there’s something ‘meaty’ (deep or educational) in her narratives. Beecham’s latest, Finding Eadie, brings readers yet more fascinating fodder about life during wartime. This time it’s centred around publishing, books and reading – which is akin to catnip for me. Though there’s also some insight into the less-palatable subject of ‘baby farming’ – illegal adoption / trafficking of babies.
It’s no secret I’m a fan of Jane Austen. In fact, it’s almost exactly 11 years ago since I finally binge-read all of her work. I’d been away (at fat camp – long story) and took The Complete Works of Jane Austen with me. Devouring the tome easily.
It surprised me because though I’d loved the BBC miniseries of Pride & Prejudice and the Gwyneth Paltrow/Toni Collette movie version of Emma (my interest was predominantly piqued by Colin Firth and Jeremy Northam respectively), I’d not even considered reading her books. And I hate(d) historical fiction.
It was only then I understood the eloquent and witty genius of the woman (so) ahead of her time.
I’m not sure why but I shy away from historical fiction. Though that’s probably an understatement. If I start reading a blurb and see reference to World Wars I or II or indeed anything pre-20th century I leap away as if it’s coronavirus-laden. I do, however, seem to make an exception for books unfolding in multiple timeframes. (ie. the ‘then’ and the now).
Very weirdly, with Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates I had read THREE books about World War II (including concentration camps and refugees), all within a week or two of each other. Obviously I didn’t plan it that way; it was just a weird coincidence that three Australian books were coming out at once, partially set at the same time.
I read Suzanne Leal’s The Teacher’s Secret when it was released in 2016. I enjoyed the novel and was particularly interested in the way Leal considered society (in general) via the microcosm of a small town.
Her latest release ponders similar societal issues, though subtly. It’s one that unfolds in two timeframes, during World War II (and immediate aftermath) and the present. Well, 2010 which apparently is a decade ago though doesn’t feel like it.
The thing I like most about Leal’s work and this book in particular, is that she also challenges readers, taking us to dark places and forcing us to consider complex issues. She doesn’t spoon-feed us life lessons or shove ethical and political / societal / cultural dilemmas of today down our throats, but they’re evident nonetheless and impossible not to ponder – perhaps long after we finish reading.
All of Natasha Lester’s novels have featured ground-breaking women. Those ahead of their time – battling society’s norms and often weighed down by the expectations of those they love.
Her books I’ve enjoyed most have probably featured women with more virtuous pursuits (and I don’t mean to imply beauty products/make-up or designing fashion aren’t lofty life goals). Her first book, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald featured a woman battling to get into medical school in the early 1920s; her last, The French Photographer a female war photographer.
Her books unfold in multiple timeframes, usually the past and present(ish). Her latest, The Paris Secret is no different and is probably my favourite since her first. Not only did I enjoy the characters and their stories, but Lester’s writing is quite exquisite.
It has to be said, the covers of Julian Leatherdale’s books are always exquisite. Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club is the second of his books I’ve read (Palace of Tears, his debut was published in 2015) and their covers reflect the opulent lives and stories dwelling in them.
I met Melbourne author Katherine Kovacic at the BAD Crime Writers’ Festival in early September. She was speaking at some sessions and also a finalist at the Ned Kelly Awards, for her debut novel, The Portrait of Molly Dean.
I’d heard of the book but – a bit like The Killing of Louisa by Janet Lee – thought it was non-fiction. And anyone who knows anything about me knows I do not read non-fiction. (Or historical fiction, or fantasy, romance, science fiction etc…) Except on those occasions when I ‘accidentally’ do.
I discovered of course The Portrait of Molly Dean is a fictionalised account of the actual murder of teacher/writer/muse Molly Dean in Melbourne in 1930. And my interest was piqued after I heard Katherine speak about it and how she became intrigued by the unsolved crime and rather cynical accounts of the victim.