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A historical novel is a novel in which the story is set among historical events, or more generally, in which the time of the action predates the lifetime of the author. As such, the historical novel is distinguished from the alternate-history genre.

Book review: The Island by Victoria Hislop

A story about the loves, lives and losses of four generations of Greeks; from the fishing village Plaka to London; and the devastating effect of the island off the coast of Plaka: Spinalonga.

Book review: A Thread Of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

The Second World War was a bit confusing if you were in Europe. Sure, it was fine for those countries that weren’t actually occupied or at war, but it was bloody difficult for everyone else, running around listening to rumours about who had capitulated, who was on what side, and, if you were one of the unfortunate refugees, which new group of people had been ordered to kill you. A Thread Of Grace works its way through the harrowing years of the Second World War in Europe, and focuses particularly on the contribution of the Italian people supporting and hiding the fleeing Jewish community.

Book review: Snow Flower And The Secret Fan by Lisa See

I can’t say I ever thought that much about the tradition of foot-binding, which in some places in China was still happening at the beginning of the twentieth century. Whenever I previously heard it mentioned, it was always in a context that suggested the practice was barbaric and cruel, but I don’t think I every fully conceptualised the idea. Thanks to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I am now somewhat better informed on the subject of footbinding, as well as other traditions and lifestyle practices in nineteenth century China. Ouch.

Book review: Eureka by William Diehl

Eureka: where the California dream turns to deadly nightmare...

Pah-leeze. Who’s he trying to kid? More like Eureka: dull, plodding, took too long to get into the plot and when it did it was a bit of a let down... And the early 1900’s both-world-wars ambience didn’t really do much to improve matters in this trite and utterly standard saga replete with the wild west, whorehouses, and whodunit shoot’em mystery. I realise the man is famed for Primal Fear, but I think that is more famous thanks to Edward Norton than William Diehl’s writing skill, and Eureka didn’t even have the obligatory gore to keep the reader mildly interested.

Book review: An Artist Of The Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

Set in Japan right after the second world war, An Artist Of The Floating World draws you gradually and effortlessly into the life of Masuji Ono, a renown yet now disgraced artist from imperialist Japan. The story begins in a manner that suggests that this story is just going to be a fairly standard set of reminiscences from an old man, but the twisting narrative style and artful teasing-out of the story a bit at a time turns this simple and beautiful tale into a heartbreaking and joyful experience to read.

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