The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (ebook, 99p)
It is late summer in East Sussex, 1914. Amidst the season’s splendour, fiercely independent Beatrice Nash arrives in the coastal town of Rye to fill a teaching position at the local grammar school. There she is taken under the wing of formidable matriarch Agatha Kent, who, along with her charming nephews, tries her best to welcome Beatrice to a place that remains stubbornly resistant to the idea of female teachers. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape, and the colourful characters that populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For the unimaginable is coming – and soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small town goes to war.
Rise of Princes (Homeric Chronicles #2) by Janell Rhiannon (ebook, free)
The Iliad and the Odyssey and a canon of Greek mythology meet in this epic retelling of the Trojan War. After the heartbreaking sacrifice at Aulis, the western Greeks unite to plunder Troy and recapture Menelaus’ wife, Helen. For nine years Agamemnon and his horde lay siege to Trojan allies, but it is Achilles, the Golden Warrior, who brutally ravages the Troad lands becoming the Sacker of Cities. His fierce onslaught prompts the gods to intervene on behalf of the Trojans and their allies. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty and patroness of Troy, sends the Princess Briseis to calm the bloody fury of Achilles. Hektor, the Golden Prince, leads the Trojan army against the western invaders, keeping Troy safe behind the Great Wall. As Defender of the Citadel, he grants sanctuary to thousands of refugees seeking safety from the death and destruction sweeping the land. Behind the solidarity of the royal family, tensions over the continued presence of Helen of Sparta threaten to topple the empire. When the fate of Troy appears most grim, a ray of hope is offered by a new prophesy. Despite his private losses, Hektor vows to remain the strength his people need. Across the Aegean, the Greek kingdoms struggle with disturbing news from Troy. Queen Clytemnestra of Mycenae, reeling from Agamemnon’s ruthless betrayal, loses faith in the gods and plots her revenge. Queen Penelope of Ithaka, young and uncertain, prays to Athena for her husband’s swift return. And Tyndareus, the former king of Sparta, works to usurp Menelaus’ throne.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (ebook, 99p)
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body. From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.
Vienna Spies by Alex Gerlis (ebook, 99p)
‘One other thing, Edgar: you mentioned about our network in Vienna. I didn’t realise we still have one there?’
‘That’s the thing Fowler: we don’t. Not yet, at any rate.’
With the end of the Second World War in sight, the Allies begin to divide up the spoils and it proves to be a dangerous game. The British have become aware that, contrary to what’s been agreed, the Soviet Union is intent on controlling Austria once the war ends. And Major Edgar is given the job of establishing an espionage unit in Vienna. He sends in a married Swiss couple – Rolf Eder and Katharina Hoch – who, in fact, have only met each other a week before their journey. Their job is to track down Austria’s most respected politician – in hiding from the Nazis – and bring him over to the British cause. But the feared Soviet spy Viktor Krasotkin is already in the wartorn city, embarking on exactly the same mission.
The Boy Who Saw (Solomon Creed #2) by Simon Toyne (paperback, Goodreads giveaway prize)
Who is Solomon Creed? A dangerous psychiatric patient, who has escaped from a high-security facility in America, or an innocent amnesiac trying to establish his true identity? His search for the truth about himself takes Solomon to the beautiful southern French town of Cordes. But his arrival coincides with the brutal murder of an elderly French tailor, the words ‘Finishing what was begun’ daubed in blood on the walls. Instinctively, Solomon knows he must help the tailor’s granddaughter and great grandson escape, and together they go on the run. Their flight, though, will set in motion a terrible sequence of events, leading to the exposure of a far-reaching conspiracy with its origins in the Holocaust but with terrible consequences for modern-day Europe. And what will it mean for Solomon himself?
The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson (ebook)
When twenty-two-year-old Gerty Freely travels to Russia to work as a governess in early 1914, she has no idea of the vast political upheavals ahead nor how completely her fate will be shaped by them. Yet as her intimacy with the charismatic inventor, Nikita Slavkin, deepens, she’s inspired by his belief in a future free of bourgeois clutter, alight with creativity and sleek as a machine. In 1917, revolution sweeps away the Moscow Gerty knew. The middle classes – and their governesses – are fleeing the country, but she stays, throwing herself into an experiment in communal living led by Slavkin. In the white-washed modernist rooms of the commune the members may be cold and hungry, but their overwhelming feeling is of exhilaration. They abolish private property and hand over everything, even their clothes, to the collective; they swear celibacy for the cause. Yet the chaos and violence of the outside world cannot be withstood for ever. Nikita Slavkin’s sudden disappearance inspires the Soviet cult of the Vanishing Futurist, the scientist who sacrificed himself for the Communist ideal. Gerty, alone and vulnerable, must now discover where that ideal will ultimately lead.
On What Cathy Read Next last week
On Wednesday I published my review of More Than A Soldier by D. M. Annechino. Based on a true story, this recounts the exciting wartime experiences of Angelo DiMarco, a US Army Ranger. Thursday saw the publication of my review of The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane, a dark intense psychological study. On Friday, I reviewed Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan, a well-paced mystery about the search for the truth about a tragic death. Finally, on Saturday I reviewed A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker, one of the novels shortlisted for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. I’m aiming to read all the shortlisted novels and make my own choice/prediction before the winner is announced on 17th June.
On Monday, I was delighted to feature a guest post from Helen Steadman, author of Widdershins, all about the real life 17th century witch-finders that inspired her novel. On Tuesday, Mark Roberts, author of the crime mystery Day of the Dead, took part in a Q&A about the book and his approach to writing in general. The same day, I shared excerpts from Janell Rhiannon’s exciting retelling of the Trojan Wars, Rise of Princes. And on Saturday, I published my interview with Matthew Harffy about Killer of Kings, the latest instalment in his Bernicia Chronicles series.
- Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – 69 out of 78 books read (4 more than last week)
- Classics Club – 2 out of 50 books reviewed (same as last week)
- NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 (Gold) – 36 ARCs reviewed out of 50 (2 more than last week)
- From Page to Screen – 6 book/film comparisons completed (same as last week)
- The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Shortlist 2017 – 6 out of 7 read (1 more than last week)
On What Cathy Read Next this week
- Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- Q&A: Weave A Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks & Ken Hicks
- Blog Tour/Q&A: The Summer Letters by Elyse Douglas
- Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
- Book Review: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
- Blog Tour/Review: Under A Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous
- Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager
- Blog Tour/Extract: The Farm Girl’s Dream by Eileen Ramsay
- Q&A: Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan
Reviews to be added to NetGalley
None, just at this moment! I need to finish a few more books so I can get to 50 reviews and claim my shiny badge!