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Girl Reading, 1874 Giclee Print

Girl Reading by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874

A new wave of 19th century inspired codices are making their way to library and bookstore shelves in the up coming months. It appears there is an influx of non-fiction titles being published at the moment. I wanted to provide an equal amount of fiction and non-fiction titles for you, dear readers; so more research was in order. I ended up striking a few non-fiction titles off the list to meet this self-imposed criterion.

Be sure to ask your local library for a purchase request, if they have not ordered it. Also, do know that given budget constraints, circulation statistics, and topical interests your desired title may never be purchased for the local library shelves. Never fear my dears! Libraries have InterLibrary Loan services you may wish to inquire about. Or if you are truly impatient, which happens from time to time, you may purchase the item online.

Again, these titles are not yet published, but they will soon be available in the upcoming months. Needless to say, I have not read any of this books either, so I cannot, with any authority, promote or recommend one title over the other. However, I made comments on a few titles as denoted by an asterisk (*).

Fiction

The Barbed Crown by William Dietrich

When last we left our intrepid hero (in The Emerald Storm), Ethan Gage was on a Haitian beach, disconsolate because his wife had been swept away by a hurricane. He still had their son, but prospects were dire. Because Napoleon Bonaparte created this tragedy. Ethan returns to London and then Paris to exact revenge against the French ruler. But a surprise awaits him in France that changes his plans to sabotage Napoleon’s coronation as emperor.

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

In Victorian London, only-child Frances Irvine is used to a life of leisure and excess. Although her Irish roots mark her as “other,” she is marginally accepted into society. However, when her father dies suddenly leaving her alone and penniless, Frances is forced to choose between becoming a live-in nurse for her aunt’s children or moving halfway around the world to marry her cousin, Edwin Matthews, a man he hardly knows and does not particularly like. Unwilling to face a lifetime of subservience, she quickly boards a ship to South Africa, where she meets William Westbrook, whose daring attitude is a stark contrast to her fiancé’s seriousness and makes Frances yearns for her freedom. Things are hardly as they first appear and Frances must quickly adapt to a new way of life in a strange land where the comforts she once enjoyed are a thing of the past. To survive, she must move beyond the spoiled child she once was and her new existence.

Ghost Bride by Yangsze Ghoo

In 1890s Malaysia, penniless Li Lan agrees to become the “ghost bride” of a wealthy family’s recently deceased son, following an ancient Chinese custom meant to pacify an anguished spirit. But she finds her husband’s spirit intruding darkly on her dreams and must enter the stilly dread of the Chinese afterlife to set things right.

Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold

This Georgian-era saga by historian Rubenhold was a Romantic Times Book Review Top Pick and generated lots of reviews and blog heat.

The Paris Affair by Teresa Grant

British attaché and intelligence agent, Malcolm Rannoch and his wife, Suzanne, turn up in Paris for their third print appearance (after Imperial Scandal). A dead family member brings long-held secrets to the surface in this suspenseful Regency-era historical.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Eli McCullough, the first male child born in the Republic of Texas, is kidnapped at age 13 by Comanches, and from then on his life becomes a study in conflict. During three years of living with the Indians, he wins their respect and is thought of as an upcoming chief. But by the time he turns 16, having mastered the art of scalping, he is set free. Forever restless, he becomes a Texas Ranger, a cattle rancher, and later, a colonel in the Civil War. His son, Pete, is cut from a different cloth and rebels against his family’s history of violence and anti-Mexican racism. His rebellion includes the love of a Mexican woman. Pete’s daughter Jeanne Anne, struggles to be taken seriously as a rancher and oil tycoon. The broody McCulloughs gain in wealth but often pay dearly. A strain of misunderstood lonesomeness hounds each generation.

The Thing about Thugs by Tabish Khair

A serial killer preys on Victorian London’s poor and immigrant communities–cutting off victims’ heads–in this historical novel about phrenology and thievery.

*I find this to be a bit disturbing, yet intriguing. . .

Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

A study of the master/slave relationship in antebellum Tennessee, this four-star People Pick will intrigue readers.

Non-Fiction

Dear Mark Twain: Letters from his readers ed. by R. Kent Rasmussen

Twain scholar Rasmussen introduces previously unpublished letters written to Twain, adding another perspective to the writer’s life. Among the rarer qualities of the letters is that they are all penned by general readers; some request money, others seek autographs or assistance with publishing. Overall, the content is diverse and intriguing. Rasmussen divides the book into five sections beginning with letters written from 1861 to 1870 and ending with the period 1901-10; a time line of significant events in Twain’s professional and personal life provides context. Arranged chronologically, each piece of correspondence is followed by Twain’s skeptical and often hilarious comments on the authenticity of its author. Rasmussen’s tireless research taken from census reports, obituaries, and online resources such as ancestry.com tracks the information of Twain’s respected fans.

*Slightly curious about this one, if only for Twain’s commentary

How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s most ineligible bachelor and his enlightened quest to train the ideal mate by Wendy Moore

This is a seductive book. Readers will be captivated as the tale unfolds, marveling at the many layers of meaning and historical significance that London journalist Moore has woven together through painstaking archival research. Thomas Day was an 18th-century British philosopher, freethinker, antislavery advocate, and pioneering children’s author. Inspired by Enlightenment and  the educated philosophies of Rousseau, Day embarked on an experiment to mold the perfect wife for himself by controlling his chosen partner’s education and upbringing from a young age. He illicitly adopted two  teenage girls from a British foundling hospital and, set out to create his perfect companion. Day’s scheme never worked out as intended; readers will recoil at the physical and psychological abuse to which he subjected his charges, and they will ponder the fate of women, especially poor ones, in a supposedly enlightened age. Moore places the story in the context of the eternal human fantasy of creating a perfect being, and links Day’s obsession to the Pygmalion myth, popular in the 18th century. While Day’s friends sought to protect his reputation after his death, the story of his strange attempt lived on in various works, including Shaw’s Pygmalion. This is also the story of Sabrina Bicknell, the thrice renamed orphan whose life remained intertwined with Day’s until his death.

*This title is the one my most anticipated one on the list. While it is not 19th century, I could not resist excluding it just by its sheer oddity. I believe at one point in our lives, no matter how fleeting, we all hypothesized this same experiment, albeit never actually putting it into practice. . .

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity ed. by Gloria Groom

Accompanying a traveling exhibition of the same title at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musee d’Orsay (Paris), this book examines the rise and role of fashion in 19th-century French painting and how both fashion and painting reflected and portrayed modern life in Paris during the 1860s and 1870s. During this period, fashion intersected with painting in different ways. Many of the Impressionist–including Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Degas–portrayed women in contemporary dresses, reinforcing Baudelaire’s dictum to portray “the heroism of modern life” while also equating fashion with modernity. Paintings that depicted men and women strolling the streets of Paris–a kind of fashionable parade–also reinforced  the idea of modernity of urban life. Images of actual clothing, such as gowns by the couturier Charles Frederick Worth, appear alongside images of 19th century French paintings.

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age murder and the birth of moving pictures by Edward Ball

National Book Award winner, Ball’s narrative tells two stories about motion-studies photographer Edward Muybridge: his role in 1874 murder and his work in creating moving pictures. This wonderfully illustrated and well-researched book takes readers on a journey from the photographer’s beginnings in England (he was then known as Ted Muggeridge) to his rise to fame once he exhibited moving pictures for the first time. Ball pairs this with the story of Muybridge’s benefactor, Leland Stanford, a railroad-magnate millionaire and founder of Stanford University. For this narrative, the ample use of Muybridge’s photographs and other contemporary images are especially revealing of the world that the photography and Stanford inhabited in the Gilded Age California, where the murder and subsequent trail–the fame that stemmed from his photographic work, not his scandal-ridden personal life.

The Millionaire and The Mummies: Theodore Davis’s Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings by John M. Adams

Lord Carnarvon is well known as the wealthy patron who funded Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. Forgotten is the American lawyer and wheeler-dealer who earlier financed and directed a methodical exploration of the Valley of the Kinds from 1902-1914. Theodore M. Davis (1838-1915) and his team astounded the world with yearly discoveries of major tombs including those of Pharaoh Thutmose IV, Yuya, and Thuya (grandparents of Akhenaten), and Queen Hatshepsut. Adams juxtaposes Davis’s biography with his  archaeological achievements in a fast-paced narrative that includes land deals and frauds. New York’s Boss Tweed, and all the local color of the turn-of-the-century Egypt. Davis was the first amateur to employ professional archaeologists to carry out this excavations and to arrange for publication of the findings in a timely fashion for the edification of others.

*For the unfamiliar, Lord Carnarvon is the one of the real Lords of Highclere Castle also known as its fictitious moniker Downton Abby. This real Lord Carnarvon parallels the timeline of Lord Gratham from the Downton Abbey series, however there are no other similarities between the real and the imagined Lords. One can learn more about the real Lord Carnarvon and his wife in the book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the (current) Countess of Carnarvon

O My America! Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World by Sara Wheeler

Actress Fanny Kemble and novelist Catherine Hubback, a niece of Jane Austen’s who consigned her husband to a madhouse, are among the women profiled here who came to America to reinvent themselves.

Selected Letters of Willa Cather ed. by Andrew Knopf and Jewell and Janice Stout

Willa Cather’s will forbade the publication of her letters. Knopf and Stout argue for making the letters accessible to readers because “she was a great writer, and these words of hers deserve to be read.” Cather’s writings to family and friends, business associates, and readers are compelling; she describes her creative process, delights in praise received, and thanks Thornton Wilder for  writing Our Town. She comments on the books she reads, the plays she attends, and her splendid French cook, Josephine. She describes beautiful landscapes and meeting new people, agonizes over the deaths of her brothers, and mourns the brutality of the two world wars. More than 500 letters chronologically beginning in 1888 (Cather was 14 years old) and ending with a letter written one week before her death in 1947. Notes accompany each entry, and a biological directory provides the names of those with whom Cather corresponded.

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard

“Lady of the bedchamber,” “Superintendent of the nursery,” “Maid-of-Honour,” and “Resident Medical Attendant” were all some of the positions in Queen Victoria’s court household. As impressive as these titles might sound, those ladies and gentlemen of the lesser aristocracy who filled them did so largely out of a sense of duty. Life in the royal household is described as “miserable,” made up of “stiff dinners, ditch water and cold bedrooms.” One of the queen’s doctors became such a “hopeless” alcoholic he was persuaded to resign. A lady of the bedchamber, Lady Jane Ely, desperate to leave after years of devoted service and her healthy broken, was roundly told “Lady Ely’s health and well being were of little consequence beside those of the Queen.” She could not be spared, though it was “killing her.” It is a testament to Hubbard’s talent that she manages to convey why Victoria’s household remained devoted to a monarch they all recognized as a selfish woman who did very little work.

*The more I learn about Queen Victoria, the more I believe almost all the things I love about the age stem from Albert . . .

**Please note all blurbs are taken directly from Library Journal Magazine**

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