Thursday, October 23, 2008

a touch of history

I absolutely love historical fiction. Sometimes I get so tired of my own times (who wouldn't?) that I take refuge in times gone by. These are a few of my favorites...

Catherine, called Birdy by Karen Cushman

In medieval England, 14 year old Catherine, nicknamed Birdy, has reached the age where she should be married. In her extremely honest (and very witty) diary, Birdy describes all of the less-than-desirable suitors as well as her daily life.
I felt that my best friend had gone away when I finished this book. It inspired me to make a medieval costume for Halloween (I was too shy to trick-or-treat as a child and very rarely dressed up so it's quite fun to do it as a grown up), complete with a ribbon adorned donut headpiece and tie-on sleeves.

The ornament tree by Jean Thesman

In 1918, Bonnie's mother has died and she is sent to live with elderly cousins who run a boardinghouse for gentlemen in Seattle. The war has just ended, a labor strike threatens the city and the flu epidemic is threatening.
Eccentric yet very appealing characters and a warmly told story. Very appealing.

A long way from Chicago by Richard Peck

Joey and Mary Alice live in the Chicago of Al Capone but every summer, they visit their Grandma Dowdel in a small village in the country.
Grandma Dowdel is my grandma--tough as nails and a little larger than life. Very funny.

Shades of grey by Carolyn Reeder

Orphaned Will, used to living in luxury, is sent to live with his aunt and uncle, who labor on a small farm during the Civil War. Will's uncle won't choose sides in the war which make Will think that he is a coward. Grudgingly, he comes to respect the man who teaches him that labor is honorable and so is fairness.
The Civil War has always fascinated me and this story of the average man provides a different viewpoint than the end of the southern belle and plantation life.

A murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner

In the England of Elizabeth I, Alice witnesses the murder of her father. To protect her from the murderers who soon come looking for her, Alice's friends disguise her as a boy attending a choir school at York Minster.
My favorite place in the whole world is a black tile square under the arch in front of the Five Sisters, a grisaille-glass window in York Minster! And Elizabeth's England--it doesn't get any better than that.

A proud taste for scarlet and miniver by E.L. Konigsburg

For 800 years, Eleanor of Aquitaine has been in heaven, waiting for the arrival of her husband, King Henry II of England. At long last, the day has arrived when he will be judged worthy (or unworthy?) to enter heaven.
Eleanor is one of my favorite historical figures: outspoken, opinionated and intelligent. She and Henry spent most of their married life disagreeing with each other.

Linnets and valerians by Elizabeth Goudge

The Linnets, four orphaned children, live with their mean and nasty grandmother. They run away, eventually coming to rest with the eccentric Lady Alicia who has "lost" her family. The children decide it is their job to find them to repay Lady Alicia for her kindness.
England early in the 20th century, a warm cozy story and resourceful children who are charming and endearing. Again, I felt like my best friends had left me behind when I finished this book.

The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple.

Eleanor of Ramsay is 14 and soon to be married. She and her fiance Thomas, who has just returned from the Crusades, set out on a pilgrimage to Spain. They endure hardships, meet a host of people from all parts of Europe and learn a lot about themselves and each other.
Frances Temple was destined to become a staple in my reading but died after writing a very few books. Thank goodness, this book is one of them.

Spend a little time in the past. A cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate and a good book...sounds like the perfect evening to me.

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