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Victoria-era Winners: What to Read After Watching Victoria on PBS

Dear BookBrowsers,

VictoriaSome of the best historical fiction is set in Britain's Victorian Era, and for good reason--the social mores of the time coupled with the increasingly prominent role the country played on the global stage provide much fodder for great literature. Upheavals at home were spurred on by the Industrial Revolution which stoked the Empire's grand ambitions. The landscape is an arresting canvas for compelling stories, not least the story of Queen Victoria herself who ascended the throne aged 18 after an extremely sheltered, arguably abusive childhood, and reigned for 63 years.

Inspired by the new PBS Masterpiece series, Victoria, and the book of the same name (both created by Daisy Goodwin), here are seven fine books set in this period. We are also discussing Victoria in our Book Club, please do join us!

Girl in a Blue Dress Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens by Gaynor Arnold
Paperback Aug 2010. 432 pages. Published by Three Rivers.

What is it they say about there being a woman behind every successful man? Victorian England's most high-wattage author, Charles Dickens, indeed had an adoring wife whom he summarily cast away after his affair with another woman. The real-life Catherine Dickens is breathed into life in this novel which is also an eloquent look at the complexities of marriage. Longlisted for multiple awards including the Man Booker.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
Remarkable Creatures Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Paperback Oct 2010. 320 pages. Published by Plume.

When it comes to dogged determination, Mary Anning, one of the world's most celebrated paleontologists, leads the pack. This fictional exploration of the remarkable scientist illuminates the early stages of Mary's obsession with fossils in the rocky cliffs and beaches of Dorset, England. Her passion found an unlikely ally in an older woman in town. This heartwarming story is about the pursuit of dreams and the necessity of women's friendships.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
The Children's Book The Children's Book: A Novel by A.S. Byatt

Paperback Aug 2010. 896 pages. Published by Vintage.

A children's book author takes in a child runaway when she and her family discover him in a museum. Young Philip soon becomes a part of her life but doesn't know what secrets are buried under the veneer of everyday domesticity. Set in Victorian England and moving on through the cusp of World War I, this panoramic novel is studded with historical nuggets such as the invention of automobiles and electricity, and is a rewarding ride.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth

Paperback Jan 2008. 368 pages. Published by Touchstone.

Love a portion of mystery along with your historical fiction? Well, here's a generous serving. The murder of a young man in Victorian England that served as inspiration for Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray forms central plot focus here as Wilde, poet Robert Sherard and the legendary Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock fame) set about to solve the crime. This fictional recreation has dashes of period history to satisfy the most particular Victorian-era enthusiasts.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
The Great Stink The Great Stink by Clare Clark

Paperback Oct 2006. 372 pages. Published by Harvest Books.

An engineer who works on London's developing sewer system in Victorian England is shocked out of his routine when implicated in murder. Cholera epidemics are raging and corruption too seeps into the fabric of the city. It is against this backdrop that the protagonist finds an unlikely ally who just might be his saving grace.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Paperback Jul 2015. 336 pages. Published by Bloomsbury USA.

A tiny golden watch left on a watchmaker's pillow one day proves to be his lucky charm as he escapes near-certain death. Determined to track down the artist who crafted such a work of perfection, Thaniel Steepleton travels to Japan to explore the rich history behind its making and its relevance to his life. A beautiful and intricately designed story set in Victorian England and Japan.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more
The American Heiress The American Heiress: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin

Paperback Mar 2012. 496 pages. Published by St. Martin's Griffin.

If you're looking for a soupcon of sass, you just might have hit the motherlode with this debut novel from Daisy Goodwin, author of Victoria. The book promises to pay homage to Jane Austen's creations so you know what that means...plenty of swoon-worthy characters to be savored on the page. Lest you assume this is all only vapid high-society hobnobbing, there's a strong story that will keep you riveted.
Reviews, excerpt, reading guide & more

A New Year's Challenge

Well, here we are. The beginning of a new year with the conclusion of a turbulent presidential campaign behind us. Dare I say that most of our heads are still spinning? Some with glee, others with, what?, political angst? Over the past weeks there has been much written about our divided nation, including BookBrowse's encouraging message of helping us come together by reaching for the bookshelf.

I am not a well-traveled person, having spent all of my life within the confines of North America. But I have traveled extensively via books. Whenever possible I reach for a book about someone who lives or has lived in a country or era that I am unfamiliar with. Books have given me a worldview I think even world travelers can easily miss out on. Especially those who travel abroad but never venture far from their 4-star hotel. It's one thing to "see" a country, quite another to "live" there vicariously through a book.

This brings me to my purpose. I'd like to throw out a New Year's challenge to you, my reading friends. I am challenging you to read a book by an author from an opposite political ideology to the one you currently embrace. If you're a liberal please read a book by and about those who hold a conservative position. If you are a conservative please read a book by and about those who are liberal. Lists of recommended books abound on Google, Goodreads and Amazon to name a few websites.


Ten of the Best Author Interviews of 2016

The most interesting author interviews delve deeper than just asking the authors about their writing schedules or what advice they'd give to budding scribes. These interviews look at issues and events from around the globe and provide readers with plenty of food for thought.


BookBrowse's 2016 Award Winners

Dear BookBrowsers,

The end of the year is a perfect time to take stock, to reflect on the many great books we made time for and to add additional recommendations to our ever-expanding "to read" lists.

This is where BookBrowse's annual Best of the Year awards come in. As opposed to most other award programs which encourage vote stuffing and are more an indication of an author's fan base, our best of year winners are chosen on a weighted scale by our subscribers. No vote-stuffing, no simple yes or no vote. These are considered responses; we take our awards program seriously. In this issue, we feature the four overall winners in the Fiction, Non-Fiction, Debut and Young Adult categories, plus our full Top 20 2016 Favorites, consisting of fourteen fiction titles, three non-fiction and three YA books.

Longtime BookBrowse favorite Louise Penny wins the fiction prize with A Great Reckoning (#12 in her Inspector Gamache series). When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi's life-affirming reflections on the challenge of facing death, wins in non-fiction. The best debut award goes to Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing which traces three hundred years of Ghanian history. The best young adult novel, All We Have Left, views 9/11 through the eyes of two American teenagers showing that love and hope will always triumph.

2016 Fiction Favorites

A Great Reckoning A Great Reckoning: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, #12
by Louise Penny

Winner of the 2016 BookBrowse Fiction Award

Bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.
More details and reviews about this book

Homegoing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Winner of the 2016 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
More about this book


The Top 10 Reader Reviewed Books of 2016

We're counting down our best books of 2016, beginning with the Top 10 First Impressions books of the year.

First Impressions is a great source of truly impartial reviews. Only BookBrowse members who are assigned a copy of the book can share their opinions as a First Impressions review. This means that it is effectively impossible for people associated with the book to sway the reviews, as can happen elsewhere. You can see which books have been reviewed recently in our "What's New" section, and here are the top 10 finds culled from more than 1,500 reviews of 60 books.

Rated 4.7 out of 5 Stars

Cruel Beautiful World Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Hardcover & ebook Oct 2016. Paperback TBA. 352 pages. Algonquin Books

"Caroline Leavitt's ability to bring complex characters to life in a way that touches the reader to the core is amazing. I found myself completely immersed in each subplot as the novel progressed. This ability to engage the reader in such a complex way is the mark of a great novel." - Melissa S. Rowland, NC (read all 23 reviews)

Reviews, beyond the book article & excerpt

The Midnight Watch The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer

Hardcover & ebook Apr 2016. Paperback Apr 2017. 336 pages. St. Martin's Press

"I was fascinated by the idea that such a very small sliver of time could be the subject of a full-length novel. But Dyer fabulously investigates and portrays the facts around the failure of the closest ship to the Titanic to rush to her aid." - Erica M. Chicago, IL (read all 23 reviews)

Reviews, beyond the book article & excerpt

Miss Jane Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Hardcover & ebook Jul 2016. Paperback Jul 2017. 224 pages. W.W. Norton & Company

"It is not often that you happen upon a book so eloquently written, interesting in subject matter and overflowing with emotions. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, this wonderful novel tapped every single feeling possible." - Aleksandra E. Alpharetta, GA (read all 24 reviews)

Reviews, beyond the book article & excerpt


A Message From BookBrowse

Dear Readers,

Last week's election was one of the most contentious the United States has ever seen. And in the aftermath, regardless of how we voted, all of us in the USA are feeling a sense of divide, one that we know is mirrored across much of the world. How do we reach across that chasm to engage in meaningful dialogue? How do we build a bridge between us? To continue that metaphor, how do we find the bricks to build that bridge, made of the solid stuff we have in common? Because we do have so many things in common.

We don't have any good answers about how to find one another again. But we do know one thing: books. All of us at BookBrowse know that books can be a part of the process. You do too. Books are doors through which we can walk to learn about new people, new places, and new ideas. They are mirrors into which we can see ourselves just a little more clearly. And they are maps which can guide us as we get up in the morning, move through our day, go to bed and do it all again the next day. Books are a safe way to try on new perspectives. They are a bold way to articulate what we believe, and to challenge our beliefs.


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