Book Reviews: Dragonslayers & Jason and the Argonauts – from Osprey Adventures

Ian Shone’s latest book reviews are two titles in a new series from Osprey called Osprey Adventures

DragonslayersDragonslayers, by Joseph A. McCullough

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Jason and the Argonauts, by Neil Smith

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Here we take a brief detour from historical fiction into the neighbouring territory of myth and legend with these

Jason and the Argonauts

two slim children’s volumes from Osprey Adventures. That is not to say that the appeal is strictly limited to children, however, since anyone with an eye for good design should appreciate just how well these books are put together.

Both books follow a similar format as far as presentation goes. Both are lavishly illustrated with photographs of ancient artworks depicting their mythological subjects, from sculptures to woodcuts to stained glass windows. The photographs are supplemented throughout by original art, and in the case of Jason and the Argonauts the standard is especially high. These ethereally beautiful paintings by José Daniel Cabrera Peña cleverly employ light and perspective to achieve some startling effects, and this volume would be worth buying for that alone.

As far as content goes, the two books necessarily differ in approach. Here Dragonslayers has the upper hand, as it gives a broad overview of dragonslayer myths from all over the world, from Siegfried to St George to the Song of Hiawatha. Some of the stories are unfamiliar to all but the serious student of folklore, and it is great to see figures like Dobrynya Nikitich given equal footing with Beowulf and John Lambton. The standard of the original artwork comes nowhere near to that of the other book (it looks just a little bit ‘Games Workshop’ in comparison), but this scarcely detracts from the whole. The little snapshots of various legends make it a great book to dip in and out of. Jason and the Argonauts is, on the other hand, a straightforward retelling of the familiar legend, and thus lends itself more to a single sitting.

While these books are certainly aimed at children, they would be an attractive prospect on any bookshelf, and I can see them appealing particularly to comic book fans. They are also pleasingly inexpensive for what they are, and would make a great birthday present or stocking filler for your nieces and nephews. Strongly recommended.

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New Historical Fiction book: The Rebel Wife: A Novel by Taylor M Polites

The Rebel Wife: A Novel by Taylor M Polites

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451629516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451629514

Brimming with atmosphere and edgy suspense, The Rebel Wife presents a young widow trying to survive in the violent world of Reconstruction Alabama, where the old gentility masks a continuing war fueled by hatred, treachery, and still-powerful secrets.

Augusta Branson was born into antebellum Southern nobility during a time of wealth and prosperity, but now all that is gone, and she is left standing in the ashes of a broken civilization. When her scalawag husband dies suddenly of a mysterious blood plague, she must fend for herself and her young son. Slowly she begins to wake to the reality of her new life: her social standing is stained by her marriage; she is alone and unprotected in a community that is being destroyed by racial prejudice and violence; the fortune she thought she would inherit does not exist; and the deadly blood fever is spreading fast. Nothing is as she believed, everyone she knows is hiding something, and Augusta needs someone to trust. Somehow she must find the truth amid her own illusions about the past and the courage to cross the boundaries of hate, so strong, dangerous, and very close to home. Using the Southern Gothic tradition to explode literary archetypes like the chivalrous Southern gentleman, the good mammy, and the defenseless Southern belle, The Rebel Wife shatters the myths that still cling to the antebellum South and creates an unforgettable heroine for our time.

via The Rebel Wife: A Novel (9781451629514): Taylor M Polites: Books.

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New Historical Fiction Book: The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312599013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312599010


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“Corby has not only made Greek history accessible—he’s made it first-rate entertainment.” –Kelli Stanley, award-winning author of Nox Dormienda and City of Dragons

Athens, 460 B.C.  Life’s tough for Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in ancient Athens.  His girlfriend’s left him and his boss wants to fire him.  But when an Athenian official is murdered, the brilliant statesman Pericles has no choice but to put Nico on the job.

The case takes Nico, in the company of a beautiful slave girl, to the land of Ionia within the Persian Empire.  The Persians will execute him on the spot if they think he’s a spy.  Beyond that, there are only a few minor problems:

He’s being chased by brigands who are only waiting for the right price before they kill him.

Somehow he has to placate his girlfriend, who is very angry about that slave girl.

He must meet Themistocles, the military genius who saved Greece during the Persian Wars, and then  defected to the hated enemy.

And to solve the crime, Nico must uncover a secret that could not only destroy Athens, but will force him to choose between love, and ambition, and his own life.

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New Historical Fiction Book: A Dark and Lonely Place: A Novel by Edna Buchanan

A Dark and Lonely Place: A Novel by Edna Buchanan

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439159173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439159170

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“Ambitious, inventive saga…nonstop action and romance.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Edna Buchanan’s A Dark and Lonely Place is an action-packed South Florida love story that blends fact and fiction, past and present, and ultimately transcends time.”

–Sherryl Woods, bestselling author of An O’Brien Family Christmas

Product Description

“We belong together,” he said.

“Yes,” she whispered fervently in his ear. “We do.”

From Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Buchanan, the novel she has always wanted to write: the gripping saga of star-crossed lovers across generations. A century ago, when Indians and alligators roamed frontier Miami, the legendary John Ashley was accused of murder and sentenced to hang. He insisted he was innocent and went on the run with his sweetheart, Laura. Their crime spree lasted years longer and became far more deadly than the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde a decade later.

John Ashley and Laura Upthegrove became the most notorious, colorful, and compelling figures in Florida’s violent outlaw history. This is their true story of prison breaks, bootlegging, bank robberies, and piracy on the high seas. Their sensual and dreamy saga of love, passion, and violence is juxtaposed with the taut and suspenseful story of their fictional descendants who share the same love and dangers a hundred years later. In today’s Miami, Homicide Sergeant John Ashley investigates a millionaire’s spectacular murder and instantly recognizes a stunning model linked to the case as the girl who has haunted his dreams since childhood. Her name is Laura, and the lightning-fast attraction is supernaturally mutual.

The homicide case goes bad, Ashley is falsely accused of murder, and the new lovers go on the run as history repeats itself. The question is, how powerful is the past? Do the present-day renegades stand a chance? Does anyone? Can any of us with the outlaw patterns of violence and tragedy imprinted in our DNA ever break the cycle? Can we change our own destiny? Or must the end always be the same for dangerous people in dangerous times?

In a sweeping epic that explores the inevitability of fate and the belief in predestination, A Dark and Lonely Place draws the reader into an unforgettable world of intrigue, drama, romance, and tragedy.

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Reviews of Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: A Marian Wood Book/Putnam (October 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0399157859
ISBN-13: 978-0399157851
Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 2 inches

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I posted about Sharon Kay Penman’s new book Lionheart recently. So I thought now was a good time to see what the reviewers were saying about the book.

 Man of la Book certainly liked it – in particular noting the historical detail.

MisfitandMom loved the book as well, was not bored, but warned that it was not light reading – and we wouldn’t want that anyway would we?

Broken Teepee thought Lionheart was a deep and involving book and said that lovers of history would not be disappointed.

Raging Bibliomania also marveled at Penman’s historical detail and was enthralled by the politics and battles. They did wish though that more attention were given to the female characters.

So pretty good reviews all round from the blogosphere!

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New Historical Fiction Book: Lion of the Sun: Book Three of Warrior of Rome by Harry Sidebottom

Lion of the Sun: Book Three of Warrior of Rome by Harry Sidebottom

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590203518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590203514

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Review at Fantasy Book Review

Mesopotamia, AD 260 Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you …But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.


New Historical Fiction Book: The Sisters: A Novel by Nancy Jensen

The Sisters: A Novel by Nancy Jensen

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312542704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312542702

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Information from Amazon:


“You’ll be drawn into the arms of The Sisters as if these women were your own family. You’ll want to hold them, warn them, betray their secrets. But this is a novel, one that is fresh and vibrant and complex. You cannot live the sisters’ lives, but only share in their joy and heartbreak and ultimate triumph. A remarkably powerful book.”
—Sandra Dallas, author of Prayers for Sale

“Nancy Jensen has the natural story-teller’s ability to command attention, but with sophisticated psychological understanding and beautifully crafted writing. The Sisters is a needed novel that will become a very popular classic.”
—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife

“A beautiful and touching novel about the events and choices that shape not only our lives but the lives of generations to come. Nancy Jensen takes us on an epic yet intimate journey through eighty years, ultimately revealing the flawed but lovely landscape that makes up a family. Her characters will stay with us long after the book’s final pages.”
—Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader

Product Description

In the tradition of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a dazzling debut novel about the family bonds that remain even when they seemirretrievably torn apart

Growing up in hardscrabble Kentucky in the 1920s, with their mother dead and their stepfather an ever-present threat, Bertie Fischer and her older sister Mabel have no one but each other—with perhaps a sweetheart for Bertie waiting in the wings. But on the day that Bertie receives her eighth-grade diploma, good intentions go terribly wrong. A choice made in desperate haste sets off a chain of misunderstandings that will divide the sisters and reverberate through three generations of women.

What happens when nothing turns out as you planned? From the Depression through World War II and Vietnam, and smaller events both tragic and joyful, Bertie and Mabel forge unexpected identities that are shaped by unspeakable secrets. As the sisters have daughters and granddaughters of their own, they discover that both love and betrayal are even more complicated than they seem.

Gorgeously written, with extraordinary insight and emotional truth, Nancy Jensen’s powerful debut novel illuminates the far-reaching power of family and family secrets.

New Historical Fiction Book: A Christmas Homecoming: A Novel by Anne Perry

A Christmas Homecoming: A Novel by Anne Perry

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345524632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345524638

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Information from Amazon:

Among the brilliant array of Anne Perry’s New York Times bestselling novels, her Christmas stories occupy perhaps the warmest spot in the hearts of readers. Each one is a masterpiece of suspense; each is alight with the true holiday spirit.

In A Christmas Homecoming, a familiar face from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels—Charlotte’s mother, Caroline—travels with her young husband, Joshua Fielding, and his theatrical troupe to Whitby, the Yorkshire fishing village where Dracula the vampire first touched English soil in the sensational novel named after him. Joshua has arranged to produce a stage adaptation of Dracula by the daughter of Whitby millionaire Charles Netheridge during the Christmas holiday, but after the disastrous first read-through of her amateurish script, only the fact that the company is depending on Netheridge’s financial backing for their spring tour keeps them at work.

As tempers flare and wind and snow swirl around Netheridge’s lonely hilltop mansion, a black-cloaked stranger emerges from the storm—an eerily opportune arrival, for this enigmatic figure, one Anton Ballin, turns out to be a theatrical genius. At the same time, a brooding evil makes itself felt. Instead of the theatrical triumph that Netheridge desired for his daughter, there is murder—shocking and terrifying.

Anne Perry’s ninth Christmas novel keeps us poised on a razor’s edge of suspense, hypnotized by a story in which the heartwarming power of goodness is challenged by the seductive power of inner darkness. In the end, A Christmas Homecoming lifts the spirit and rejoices the heart.

Praise for the Christmas novels of Anne Perry
A Christmas Odyssey“[Perry] writes with detail that invades the senses.”—Lincoln Journal Star

A Christmas Promise

“Poignant . . . should be on the Christmas stocking list of anyone who likes a sniffle of nostalgia.”—The Washington Times

A Christmas Grace

“[A] heartwarming, if crime-tinged, complement to the holiday season.”—Booklist

A Christmas Beginning

“Intriguing . . . Perry’s use of period detail is, as always, strong and evocative.”—The Seattle Times

A Christmas Secret

“A delightful little book . . . Perry’s gift is that she can evoke a sense of place and time while still producing the thrills and chills expected of a modern-day mystery writer.”—The Orlando Sentinel

New Historical Fiction Book: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Hardcover: 464 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; None edition (November 8, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547577532
ISBN-13: 978-0547577531

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This book caused loads of controversy apparently when it was published in Italy last year. Umberto treads ideas of conspiracy theories, which he first looked at in Foucault’s Pendulum. A return to form perhaps? The last thing I read by him was Baudalino, which I found indulgent and disappointing, but I loved The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.

Here’s some more information about this book: Review

Nineteenth-century Europe—from Turin to Prague to Paris—abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay one lone man? What if that evil genius created its most infamous document?

Eco takes his readers on an unforgettable journey through the underbelly of world-shattering events. Eco at his most exciting, a book immediately hailed as a masterpiece.

A Note from the Author on Amazon

Dear Amazon Readers:

The nineteenth century teemed with mysterious and horrible events: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery that later inspired Hitler; the Dreyfus Case; and numerous intrigues involving the secret services of various nations, Masonic sects, Jesuit conspiracies, as well as other episodes that—were they not documented truths—would be difficult to believe.

The Prague Cemetery is a story in which all the characters except one—the main character—really existed. Even the hero’s grandfather, the author of a mysterious actual letter that triggered modern anti- Semitism, is historical.

And the hero himself, though fictional, is a personage who resembles many people we have all known, past and present. In the book, he serves as the author of diverse fabrications and plots against a backdrop of extraordinary coups de théâtre: sewers filled with corpses, ships that explode in the region of an erupting volcano, abbots stabbed to death, notaries with fake beards, hysterical female Satanists, the celebrants of black Masses, and so on.

I am expecting two kinds of readers. The first has no idea that all these things really happened, knows nothing about nineteenth-century literature, and might even have taken Dan Brown seriously. He or she should gain a certain sadistic satisfaction from what will seem a perverse invention—including the main character, whom I have tried to make the most cynical and disagreeable in all the history of literature.

The second, however, knows or senses that I am recounting things that really happened. The fact that history can be quite so devious may cause this reader’s brow to become lightly beaded with sweat. He will look anxiously behind him, switch on all the lights, and suspect that these things could happen again today. In fact, they may be happening in that very moment. And he will think, as I do: “They are among us…”

–Umberto Eco


“[Eco’s] latest takes that longtime thriller darling, the conspiracy theory, and turns it into something grander…Sold to 40 countries and said to be controversial; a speed-read with smarts.” —Library Journal, “My Picks”

“A whirlwind tour of conspiracy and political intrigue…this dark tale is delightfully embellished with sophisticated and playful commentary on, among other things, Freud, metafiction, and the challenges of historiography.” —Booklist

“Intriguing, hilarious….a tale by a master.” —Publishers Weekly boxed review “He’s got a humdinger in this new high-level whodunit…a perplexing, multilayered, attention-holding mystery.” —Kirkus, starred

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New Historical Fiction Book: The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

The Stranger‘s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Knopf (October 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0307272761
ISBN-13: 978-0307272768

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Reviews and Description from Amazon:

“Brilliantly written, intricate and wide-reaching . . . An almost century-long cavalcade of changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes, exhibited in sensuously imagined scenes and scrutinized with ironic wit . . . Marvelously acute in its attention to idioms and idiosyncrasies, tone and body language, psychological and emotional nuances, the book gives intensely credible life to its swarm of characters . . . Masterly in its narrative sweep, richly textured prose and imaginative flair and depth, this novel about an increasingly threadbare literary reputation enormously enhances Hollinghurst’s own. With The Stranger’s Child, an already remarkable talent unfurls into something spectacular.”
—Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times (London)

“Not only Alan Hollinghurst’s most ambitious novel to date, but also his funniest since The Spell . . . Hollinghurst is perhaps our most literary contemporary novelist, in the sense that his books are . . . playfully, but never merely flippantly, studded with allusions. . . . The principal theme of the workings of time and memory [is] brilliantly embodied in the book’s structure, with its bold narrative leaps forward . . . The novel’s long chronological reach (1913 to 2008) allows the sometimes melancholy but often comic workings of time to become apparent. . . . In a novel covering a large swathe of time, an entire era or society can be evoked in a phrase . . . Period indicators are always spot on . . . Although many of the scenes he describes are in themselves amusing, his great comic gift is displayed in the precise deployment of language as much as in the beadiness of his observation. Like Evelyn Waugh he creates comedy from the tension between the elegance of his prose and the often indecorous things he is describing, and so the reader is caught between amusement and exhilaration when someone with a terrible hangover staggers to the lavatory where he is ‘sick, in one great comprehensive paragraph.’ Hollinghurst’s pouncing on exactly the right, though often unexpected, word for his purposes is all the more effective for occurring in a prose of considerable poise. . . . In this populous story even the most minor character is brilliantly realized, and Hollinghurst’s nimble changes of narrative perspective frequently wrongfoot the reader, whose sympathies undergo a number of unexpected readjustments. Beautifully written, ambitious in its scope and structure, confident in its execution, The Stranger’s Child is a masterclass in the art of the novel.”
—Peter Parker, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
“Highly entertaining and, as always with Hollinghurst, the dialogue is immaculate and the characterization first class. . . . Every Alan Hollinghurst novel is a cause for celebration, and this spacious, elegant satire is no exception.”
—David Robson, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Bloody-hell-this-is-good . . . Punctuated by abrupt and jagged turns of fate, skillfully redolent of life lived forwards, this story is fabulously involving and rich. It’s also very funny, in a dry and forgiving way. The silky precision of its prose . . . is matched by the mimetic completeness of its fictional world. This is an exercise in realism of a dazzlingly high order: it really does seem to be observed rather than imagined. The touches of extraneous detail are unobtrusive, concrete and exact. . . . The Stranger’s Child is a knowingly literary performance: a descendent of E. M. Forster or Evelyn Waugh by way of A. S. Byatt and the Ian McEwan of Atonement. . . . The novel’s presiding tone [is] arch humor. That humor is central: softening the book’s melancholy with a wan and forgiving sense of the vanity of human wishes. . . . In the end, the central character in The Stranger’s Child is neither Cecil nor Daphne, but time itself, breaking the threaded dances and the diver’s brilliant bow. There’s a whiff of the Possession-style scholarly page-turner in the closing sections . . . but the larger movement of the story is towards entropy. More of the past is always going to be lost than recovered. Rather than use its scale to produce the weightless afflatus of a family saga, The Stranger’s Child captures as well as anything I’ve read the particular gravity of time passing, and the irrecoverable losses it brings with it. It is an extraordinary achievement.”
—Sam Leith, The Spectator (UK)

“An opulent epic that follows the variegated fortunes of two aristocratic families from 1913 to 2008. . . . Possibility and fumbling desire run through the narrative like a rippling electric current. . . . Mortality [and] mythology feed into an extravagant and playful riff on literature itself, rich with references to the novels of E. M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh and Hollinghurst’s beloved Henry James. . . . Like everything Hollinghurst writes, the story also has a keen sense of aesthetics and the history of taste.”
—Claire Allfree, Metro (UK)

“Sumptuously retelling a familiar narrative of English decline through a series of friendships and encounters which form a sort of daisy chain of erotic and literary influence, [The Stranger’s Child is] elegant . . . affecting, erudite [and written] with tenderness and sensuous immediacy. As an accounting with class and history, Hollinghurst’s new novel will be compared to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and Ian McEwan’s Atonement. . . .The novel deals with the short life and posthumous reputation of Cecil Valance, a poet whose lyrical outpourings are given huge poignancy by the carnage of the trenches. . . . Hollinghurst has a feel for the fragility of memory, and the brutality inherent in the modernist drive to ‘make it new.’ Victorianism, with its sentiment, clutter and decorum, has special importance in The Stranger’s Child . . . It is the signal achievement of The Stranger’s Child to show that, despite the silence in which relationships like that of Cecil and George were shrouded, their influence has echoed on through the years, as an unconscious pattern for other friendships and love affairs. In the present day, when the immediacy of a young man reciting Tennyson has been replaced by a website with audio clips mouthed by an animated Tennyson avatar, this tradition persists, against the odds.”
—Hari Kunzru, The Observer (UK)

“Intelligence, perceptiveness, skill and sensibility . . . [this is] a complex, stylish comedy of class, politics, art and sexuality . . . The Stranger’s Child feels like the kind of novel that [E. M.] Forster might have written . . . An impeccable, ironic, profoundly enjoyable plot structure, with ‘secrets nested inside each other,’ The Stranger’s Child could be usefully compared with A. S. Byatt’s Possession in its account of the way [the poet] Cecil [Valance] is mythologized by memory, misunderstandings and lies . . . It is Corley Court, the ‘violently Victorian’ ancestral home, which is at the heart of the novel. Like Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Darlington Hall and Sarah Waters’s Hundreds Hall, the house is both the setting and the magnifying glass under which the characters’ obsessions and frailties are to be exposed. . . . The narrative [is] largely carried by dialogue, much of it so freighted with irony as to be a delight in itself. Musical performances reveal character (another Forsterian hallmark), but the novel’s chief pleasure is itself akin to music: characters and details concerning life and love move in and out of focus to reveal unexpected discords and harmonies. . . . Probably the best novel this year so far . . . Gorgeous.”
—Amanda Craig, The Independent on Sunday

“Delightful . . . In Hollinghurst’s eagerly awaited new novel we see that if history is written by the winners, biography belongs to the survivors. . . . Tremendously readable and engrossing.”
—John Harding, Daily Mail (UK)

“If this wonderfully well-made and witty novel doesn’t win the Man Booker Prize, there is no justice in the world. . . . This is Brideshead Revisited in reverse. . . . Hollinghurst evokes the world of [Rupert] Brooke and of the Bloomsbury set. And he does so through the depiction of the sort of people who have written about that world—Michael Holroyd, the biographer of Lytton Strachey and George Bernard Shaw, comes to mind. This evocation is refreshingly ironic, even satirical, as is the comic nailing-down of what it’s like to be a book reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement (of which Hollinghurst was once deputy editor). . . . The real villain is the passing of time. . . Constantly provocative, intricately plotted, slyly hilarious—in short, a triumph of the storyteller’s art.”
—Brian Lynch, Irish Independent

“Eagerly awaited . . . Charming . . . Perfect . . . Hollinghurst writes so carefully and subversively, often with one eyebrow raised in sardonic amusement as he satirizes the excesses of his mostly high-born protagonists . . . elegant people partying on the edge of the abyss . . . [He] is interested in what it means to love someone or something that is perpetually unattainable . . . The Stranger’s Child is broader in scope and more generous in outlook than anything [he] has written before, as well as being structurally his most ambitious work and his most restrained sexually. What remains absolutely characteristic is the gracefulness of his sentences, scrupulously scene-shaping and mood-patterning.”
—Jason Cowley, Financial Times

Product Description

From the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Line of Beauty: a magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations.

In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate—a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance—to his family’s modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their and their families’ lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried—until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.

Rich with Hollinghurst’s signature gifts—haunting sensuality, delicious wit and exquisite lyricism—The Stranger’s Child is a tour de force: a masterly novel about the lingering power of desire, how the heart creates its own history, and how legends are made.

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