In a modest Stratford house, in the late sixteenth century, a boy is searching for help. His twin sister, Judith, has fallen ill, and he has no idea what to do. His mother will come, carrying kind words, herbal remedies, and fear in her heart. The plague should not be here - the playhouses in London may close, but here in Stratford, far away, they are supposed to be safe. Heedlessly, the sickness has arrived from another world, crept into their home, and waits with insatiable power to shatter a family beyond recognition.
Rating: 4.5 stars Genre: Literary, Historical Fiction Summary: When Ada fails to conceive a child with her new husband, she becomes increasingly desperate. Barren women in her village are often hanged as witches. Fearing that she is cursed, neighbours start refusing to let her attend their births, meaning she can no longer put her expertise as a midwife to use. Frustrated and afraid, Ada runs away to find refuge with a band of outlaws and their charismatic leader known only as the Kid. In this makeshift and marginalised family, women like Ada are finding power beyond the status of their wombs - and taking revenge on the society that has rejected them.
Rating: 4.5 stars Genre: Literary fiction Summary: Raised by her mother and three aunts in a bustling Istanbul home, Asya is tired of negotiating their multiplying expectations and dreams of fleeing to lead her own, unfettered life. Across the continents, in America, Armanoush is also struggling to deal with the demands of her large and dissonant family. When the two young women cross paths, they will force their families towards a reckoning with the past that has been almost a century in waiting.
Rating: 3.5 stars Genre: Historical fiction Summary: Dorothea has enough of her own worries - trying to continue her studies of phrenology under the disapproving eye of her father, dodging her simpering stepmother-to-be at society balls, and dissuading men with matrimonial hopes. Yet when visiting a woman's prison on charitable errands, she feels drawn to the tragic story of Ruth Butterham, a maid and seamstress condemned to death for the murder of her mistress. Ruth is an enigma, a girl of only sixteen who has already endured a lifetime of suffering. Always refusing to become a victim, this young prisoner holds onto a burning core of vengefulness that allures and repels Dorothea in equal measure. Is Ruth guilty, or is her confession the product of her own disturbing delusions?
Rating: 3 stars
Category: Classics, Historical Fiction
Synopsis: Hester Prynne's husband is missing, presumed dead. Most believe he drowned on the voyage from Amsterdam to join her in New England. Yet getting pregnant out of wedlock is still enough to earn Hester a lifelong punishment - wearing the scarlet letter 'A' embroidered on her clothing so her shame can never be forgotten.
Cast to the margins of her Puritan village community, Hester lives in solitude and tries to raise her daughter Pearl away from prying eyes. When a newcomer to the village brings old secrets, she is forced to choose between a life of piety and redemption, or following her perilously taboo passions.
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Historical fiction, crime, literary fiction
Alias Grace is based on the actual historical figure Grace Marks, who was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper in 1843, alongside James McDermott. In this fictionalised account, it is uncertain whether she was acting under duress, out of fear for her own life, or if she was McDermott's lover and co-conspirator.
The ambitious psychologist Dr Jordan is sent to the penitentiary to draw out the truth. However, with Grace claiming to have no memory of the incident, it will be difficult to separate the innocent, exploited young girl from the woman capable of unspeakable violence.
This week, it would have been the 100th birthday of inimitable author Iris Murdoch. What better time to bring back this review of her novel, The Red and the Green?
Andrew: a slightly reluctant soldier in the First World War.
Pat: a member of the militant Irish Volunteers.
Millie: an eccentric and passionate woman whose home is being used to store weaponry.
The Red and the Green interrogates the lives of this troubled family as events escalate towards the Easter Rising, a pivotal moment that would change the course of Irish History.
Questioning the Canon is a new feature in which I hope to bring to light lesser-known books about a certain issue, which can be read alongside or instead of infamous 'classics'.
People are starting to discuss whether the authors we hold up as cultural icons - Shakespeare, Dickens, Wordsworth - should be accompanied by previously marginalised writers. Our idea of what constitutes 'great literature' is becoming broader.
This can only be a good thing, as it means more diversity and social representation in what we read!
With many people embarking on summer reading challenges this year, such as the 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books, I thought I would bring back this feature from the archives. If you're looking to reach some reading goals over summer, hopefully, this will provide you with some inspiration!
The weather is getting warmer, the evenings lighter, the trees are blossoming – summer is definitely on its way! I don’t know about you, but whether I’m on holiday or just relaxing in the garden, summer is the time when I get to read most out of any time of year. But have you thought about what you’re aiming to achieve with your reading this summer? Do you want to feel more well-read by perusing some classics, or do you fancy something a little lighter to help you relax on the beach? The tailored recommendations below will help you to fulfil your summer reading goals, whatever they may be!