by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
With the kids this summer, we’ve been talking about how “Reading Takes You Everywhere,” our summer reading theme, and that includes other times in history. It’s true for adults, too: getting wrapped up in a story can feel as though you’ve traveled through time. A number of new historical fiction titles at the Litchfield Library can carry you to different eras.
Love and Other Consolation Prizes is a new-ish novel by Jamie Ford, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. A twelve-year-old half-Chinese boy named Ernest is a charity student at a boarding school when, to his surprise, he is raffled off at the 1909 World’s Fair. The raffle winner is the madam of a high-class brothel, where he becomes the houseboy and befriends the madam’s daughter and the scullery maid. Returning to another World’s Fair in 1962, he looks back on the path his life took. Surprisingly, this novel is inspired by a true story.
The Hamilton craze has led to an interest in Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. She was a force in her own right, co-founding the first private orphanage in New York City, which exists to this day as a family services agency. The new novel My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was written by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, based on letters and other original documents. This popular biographical novel allows the reader to dive into founding mother Eliza’s life and the early days of America, from the Revolutionary War and meeting Alexander to her many active years of widowhood, preserving his legacy and advocating for causes important to her.
Set during the Civil War, A Hope Divided is the second book in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series. This historical romance features a free African-American woman who is a scientist and a spy, quietly helping with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings, treating Union prisoners, and assisting people who are fleeing the South. When the Confederate Home Guard takes over her home, she and an escaped prisoner of war hiding in her laboratory have to get away through the Underground Railroad. Readers enjoy learning about little-known aspects of the Civil War included in Cole’s books.
Mysteries are often set in historical time periods. Catherine Lloyd’s Death Comes to the School is set in 1820. This is the fifth book in the Kurland St. Mary mystery series, set in an English village. Major Sir Robert and his wife Lucy have settled into village life, but their three-year marriage is less comfortable, and Lucy is unhappy that she is not yet a mother. Lucy and others receive anonymous letters accusing them of witchcraft, and then the local schoolteacher is murdered. Lucy steps in as a substitute, hoping to solve the mystery.
The Whispering City: Barcelona 1952 by Sara Moliner was first published in Spain. This historical thriller is set during the height of General Franco’s fascist government, in a city full of rumors and violence. A wealthy socialite is found murdered, and a young journalist is given the privilege of accompanying the police inspector handling the investigation. But the journalist soon realizes that the clues don’t add up, and she and her scholarly cousin find themselves in danger when they become too curious.
Whether you enjoy reading romance, mysteries, thrillers, or even fantasy novels, you can find books set in different eras of history. Historical fiction can help us learn more about the past and broaden our perspective on the human experience.