I’ve been on vacation all week, so with most of my Christmas preparations behind me, I’m focused on finishing the rough draft of Song of the Shaman, book 2 in my Songs of Steppe & Forest series (book 1, Song of the Siren, will appear in late February 2019). As a result, I’m not thinking about reading very much—other than my own drafts and Terry Gamble’s The Eulogist, which will be the subject of a New Books in Historical Fiction interview in mid- to late January.
But I do have more than a few books waiting in the queue. Here’s the list for December. And if you need some last-minute Christmas gifts, books are always a good idea!
Adrienne Celt, Invitation to a Bonfire
A young student fleeing the post-revolution Soviet Union circa 1920 winds up in a New England girls’ school, where she becomes something of a curiosity to the locals, as they are to her. The arrival of a married professor, another émigré Russian and a famous author, sets off a love triangle with the usual unpredictable consequences. Based on the known marital troubles of Vladimir Nabokov—and perhaps his novel Lolita—so how could a Russianist like me resist? The hard-cover is already out; I plan to talk to the author around the time of the paperback release in May.
Jennifer Robson, The Gown
Fans of the film Phantom Thread, of whom I’m one, will welcome this literary exploration of the postwar UK fashion industry and one of its most famous productions: the wedding gown in which the future Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip in 1947. A dual-time story, The Gown focuses on the women who produced the hand-embroidered flowers that made the dress a priceless treasure. As someone who grew up hearing her mother’s memories of this exquisite gown, which circulated around the country after the wedding, I’m looking forward to finding out more about its creation. Due out on New Year’s Eve.
Joan Neuberger, This Thing of Darkness
Not historical fiction, this one, but a historical study of the many decisions that went into the creation of Sergei Eisenstein’s famed three-part film Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein had time to finish only two of the three parts before his death, and of those only the first was released, although the second is available on YouTube). The 1940s were a difficult time to make any film in the USSR, especially one commandeered and monitored by Joseph Stalin, and Neuberger traces the process by which Eisenstein balanced his cinematic vision against historical sources and political reality. I plan to interview the author in March 2019, the month after the book’s release, for the New Books Network.
Liza Perrat, The Swooping Magpie
Second in a series of suspenseful family novels set in 1960s and 1970s Australia, this book is not a sequel to The Silent Kookaburra but a stand-alone tale that explores similar themes. A sixteen-year-old from a troubled family falls for a sexy schoolteacher, with—as one might expect—life-changing consequences. Based on a true-life case and the very real turmoil that racked Australia as conservative morality clashed with the sexual revolution, this story, released in November 2018, is a welcome development from a writer whose work I’ve always enjoyed in the past. Another interview scheduled for March.
Ann Weisgarber, The Glovemaker
This novel opens in Utah’s Mormon country in January 1888. Sister Deborah, a married woman awaiting her husband’s long-delayed return, opens her door to find a strange man on her threshold. A fellow Mormon, he is also a fugitive from justice, and his pursuers won’t hesitate to punish anyone who shelters him. His crime? Deborah suspects polygamy, which the US government has outlawed and is actively trying to stamp out in Utah but the Mormon Church still supports. Forced to choose between her safety and the demands of her religion, Deborah has only seconds to decide. Due in February 2019, and I plan to interview the author in April or May.