What have I been reading?
Books, glorious books …
Right now I’m struggling to re-enter the world proper after three very good reads in a row. This past month I’ve been to C17th England, C20th Easter Island, and C14th Siena. I’ve been burning the midnight oil many nights, in keeping with:
So yes, I’ve been rather bleary-eyed most mornings of late, but it has of course been worth it!
The theme to my latest fiction reads has been that they’re all rooted in some very good historical research. I do love me a good bit of history mixed in with my readerly retreats!
Vanderbes writes with such subtlety. She’s one of those writers where early on you can feel yourself settling in comfortably, confident that you’re in the hands of someone more than capable of delivering on their early promises of a good story.
There are 3 threads in this story: (1) a German admiral stuck in the Pacific at the outbreak of WWI, (2) an Englishwoman headed to Easter Island in 1912 with her new, much older husband and her handicapped sister to do research for the National Geographic Society, and (3) a young, recently widowed American professor who sets out in the 70s to research the botany of the island to try and find out how it came to be so treeless and barren. The three threads finally start to weave together in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and there is so much interesting history, culture and geography together with intrigue, human interest and numerous plot twists that you are kept reading into the small hours of the morning as I did! I wish all books were as carefully planned and imagined as this one.
This book is set in 1537, during the reign of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. The protagonist is a hunchbacked reformer lawyer named Matthew Shardlake, who is sent by Thomas Cromwell to investigate a murder in a Benedictine monastery in Sussex. Cromwell has already dissolved the minor monasteries, and Shardlake and his assistant, Poer, must head to the monastery in this tense setting of upheaval and uncertainty to try and discover the killer.
The novel has great period detail and insight, an intriguing mystery, hostility and danger, and is wonderfully atmospheric. Above all, it is just written so incredibly well. I highly recommend it! It is the first in 5 mediaeval crime novels centred on the character of Shardlake.
Like so many great tales these days, we have two interweaving threads: (1) modern-day American girl goes to Siena to investigate her family roots, only to discover she is directly descended from Giulietta Tolomei (the basis for Shakespeare’s Juliet) and that there are many people (friendly and unfriendly) interested in her fate; (2) mediaeval Giulietta meets Romeo Marescotti, and their unsanctioned romance results in some intense feuding, superstitious dealings, underhanded actions, and plans gone awry.
This lovely novel offers up history, murder, chivalry, mystery and clues, plague, swordplay, motorcycles, balconies, art, potions, Tuscan landscapes, twins, and, of course, love and romance. Moreover, there are numerous plot twists to keep you suspicious of everyone and everything.
The lyrical, impassioned tone of the book so sucked me in that it really was hard to come back to the real world afterwards. Plus, I was rather swept off my feet by the hero in this book, which has me wondering if I’m back to falling for fictional guys?! But I guess if that is the case, at least it is for a guy renowned for being willing to die for his Juliet!
Have you read any of the above novels? What was your opinion of them?
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