Head back in time with historical fiction

What do most people think of when they hear the word "library"? Reading, of course! 2014 is the year to "Reconnect with Reading 365" at the Cuyahoga County Public Library. To celebrate this initiative, the Bay Village Branch Library staff and customers will be sharing our suggestions from various genres each month here in the Observer.

The theme at the library this month is Historical Fiction. A skilled writer in this genre has to have some knowledge of the culture, daily way of life, living conditions and setting to create historical accuracy and weave a convincing story incorporating detailed description of the surroundings and events taking place in that time period.

I decided to find out what former librarian Karen Baker of Bay Village, an avid reader of historical fiction, has recently been reading. She immediately mentioned that she had just finished "Mr. Churchill’s Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeal and had enjoyed it very much. The story is about Maggie Hope who, after graduating at the top of her college class in 1940, is very much looking to obtain a job in British intelligence aiding in the war effort. However, it is 1940 after all and women are not hired for such positions.

Maggie settles for the only job as a woman she can get: the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Gradually she realizes her clearance level exposes her to a murder mystery and an assassin’s plot against the beloved prime minister. This debut novel is an insightful view into the psychological thoughts of Winston Churchill and his efforts to protect his King and Country.

Another favorite of Karen’s is "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. Twin brothers born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are orphaned with their mother’s death during childbirth and their surgeon father’s disappearance. Coming of age in an Ethiopia on the brink of revolution, the twins share a bond in medicine and politics. It is, however, love – of the same woman – that causes one brother to flee to New York City and start a life of his own. A story of love and betrayal, this family saga is enthralling to the end.

The member of two different book discussion groups, Karen mentioned other titles that came to mind as we talked: "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain and a new book just out, "Euphoria" by Lily King. The first is a novel featuring Ernest Hemingway’s first wife and their life together before he became famous as an author. The newer book takes place in the 1930s in New Guinea, inspired by the events in the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead.

When asked what her all-time favorite historical fiction book is, Karen did not hesitate to answer: "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. This sweeping epic drama is timeless and even if one has never seen the movie, reading it immerses one in the South before, during and after the Civil War.

All of Karen’s picks can be found at the Bay Village Branch. Do you Pinterest? Check out the library’s page at pinterest.com/cuyahogalibrary for visual reading recommendations from our monthly genres, as well as other popular topics including read-alikes for your favorite series and award winners.

Remember to check the Observer next month to see What Your Neighbors are Reading on the September theme – Celebrate Diversity – and visit the Bay Village Branch, 502 Cahoon Road, where the staff would be very happy to give you personal reading recommendations too. We hope to see you soon!

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at the Bay Village Branch Library

August theme: Back in Time!


Barbara Isaacs, head of adult services

Barbara Isaacs is Head of Adult Services at the Bay Village Branch Library. 

Read More on Libraries
Volume 6, Issue 16, Posted 9:43 AM, 08.05.2014