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Yes! The new Pre-Reads are here! March gave me a large selection to sift through. There were three times the amount of Fiction books to select from. Difficult choices were made. The Non-Fiction also had an adequate amount to choose from. So just know these top sixteen are not the only 19th century related tomes coming out this month. They just happen to be some of the most highly reviewed of the lot within their subgenres. I am quite pleased with this month’s list. Must be the luck of the Irish?
If you have landed on this page. Welcome to 19th Century Modern. Every last Wednesday of the month, I dip into my Librarian recourses to bring you, Dear Readers, the eight most highly starred Victorian-esque fiction and eight non-fiction titles to be published (or reprinted as the case may be for non-fiction) during the course of the current month. I utilize Kirkus Review, Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon, and Baker and Taylor First Look to acquire the titles, as well as the reviews. All summaries and reviews below are taken directly from these publications and sites. Not all libraries, nor bookstores may have these in stock, so you might have to request them (or purchase them yourself, if you are inclined to that route).
What titles sound interesting to you? Leave your favorites in the comment section.
As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . . Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army. Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia. Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy’s favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other . . .
Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective’s rise during one of the nation’s times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country. With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin—unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective. Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming—capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses—the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?
The lives of Rosie Killeen, from a poor Irish farmhouse, and Victoria Bell, from the wealthy manor serviced by Rosie’s family, are forever altered when an act of kindness is the catalyst for Rosie becoming Victoria’s study companion. As Rosie gets educated and comes to learn the privileges and responsibilities of the upper class, and Victoria becomes more intrigued by the life of her new companion as well as by those who service her home, each woman finds herself a fish out of water. World events, from the sinking of the Titanic to the outbreak of the Great War and the movement toward Irish independence, seep into their lives, and the two women make choices that challenge their relationship. Rosie leaves the Bell household and strikes out on her own, working for the Gaelic League, a major organization behind the nationalist movement in Ireland. Victoria abandons employment in a private clinic to work in a general hospital, where she is more fulfilled by her work there. Not incidentally, each is romantically drawn to someone outside of her class.
The third entry in Sandra Byrd’s Daughters of Hampshire series portrays the life of Gillian Young, a prospering middle-class woman in Victorian England. In A Lady in Disguise, Gillian, an up-and-coming seamstress for ladies of the aristocracy and a costume designer for a famous London theater, uncovers clues that suggest her recently deceased father might have been living a secret life beyond his respected role as an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police. Though her questions about her father’s accidental death are clearly not welcome, Gillian feels there is more to the story than what his longtime partner at the department is telling her. Adding fuel to an already volatile situation, Gillian meets her dashing new neighbor, Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Despite their instant attraction, as the mysteries surrounding her father’s death deepen, she can’t help but wonder if anyone’s motives toward her are truly pure. The novel is unique in that they put the focus on women who are viewed with disdain by high society. Though she moves in aristocratic circles at times, Gillian is a woman who works to support herself.
The third novel by O’Loughlin is a complex tale of historical intrigue about 19th-century polar explorers, the strange disappearance of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition in 1845, and the unexpected discovery of key evidence relating to the disappearance in 2009. When a chronometer issued to Franklin shows up in London 150 years after the expedition crudely disguised as a carriage clock, speculation about the fate of Franklin and his 129 men is reignited. In Canada’s Northwest Territory, drifter Nelson Nilsson searches for his missing brother, Bert, but meets a British woman, Fay Morgan, who is researching her grandfather’s past. Unwilling allies, Nelson and Fay look through Bert’s papers, discovering unlikely connections between their own searches and Franklin’s fate, but neither trusts the other and secrets remain hidden. O’Loughlin uses frequent historical flashbacks to trace the chronometer’s passage among polar explorers, from Franklin, Joseph Bellot, and Elisha Kane to Cecil Meares and Roald Amundsen, without clearly defining the chronometer’s provenance. Nelson and Fay’s investigation is further clouded by Bert’s apparent obsession with the real identity of Canada’s infamous cop killer Albert Johnson, “the Mad Trapper of Rat River,” and the World War II spy activities of Fay’s grandfather.
From Île de la Cité to Pigalle, every nook and cranny of Paris-on-the-page provides a telling backdrop to the misadventures of Marcel Després, a peasant boy-turned-savant. Marcel remembers every detail of everything that has ever happened to him. This talent was undiscovered—in fact, unrealized—until he arrived in Paris from the vineyards of his native Étoges. In dire straits, Marcel’s artist friends transform his perfect memory into a stage act as Marcel Mémoire at the Cabaret of Insults. Soon naïve Marcel marries cabaret dancer Ondine, who’s extraordinarily beautiful and practiced in using beauty as currency. Finding Ondine in flagrante delicto one day, Marcel strikes out and is immediately arrested for her murder. Too quickly, the legal process secre ts him in an asylum. Sureté detective Petit is suspicious. Petit’s curiosity soon becomes a Javert-like obsession. Dr. Morel, the asylum’s Assistant Chief Alienist, at first thinks Marcel is catatonic, but he soon discovers that he’s “lost in labyrinths” of infinite memories.
Final installment (The Paradox, 2015, etc.) of Fletcher’s rich and splendid Victorian gothic fantasy trilogy, and once again independently intelligible.For centuries the Oversight of London has guarded the border between the natural and magical realms and kept hidden the deadly dangerous magical Wildfire. But now the black hats have learned of the Wildfire’s whereabouts. The ghastly Citizen has made a pact with the seemingly immortal Elizabethan magician, Dr. Dee, to seize the Wildfire and release it into the mirror-maze. Viscount Mountfellon, the malign scientist-wizard, needs the Wildfire to realize his megalomaniacal dreams. But will the Templebane clan, sworn enemies of the Oversight, try to take advantage? What of the ancient race known as the Sluagh, now almost allies? Elsewhere, freelancer Caitlin Sean ná Gaolaire arrives in America with her apprentice, Lucy Harker, but the local Oversight, who call themselves the Remnant, prove independent-minded and reluctant to cooperate. Worse, the Remnant’s being duped by a powerful somebody via the mirror-maze, as we readers but not the characters themselves immediately grasp. Wayland Smith journeys to the remotest corner of the Scottish Hebrides—but why, and who will he meet there? Will the mad Ghost of the Itch Ward fullfill her desire to kill Mountfellon, and will we learn why? Can poor abused innocent Amos Templebane learn how to control his gifts and find redemption?
Author Lyndsay Faye (who wrote Jane Steel–and to which, I Doyenne, recommend!), presents pitch-perfect Watsonian narration in 13 of the 15 tales in this outstanding collection; the other two are told from Holmes’s perspective. The stories are divided into four chronological sections: the first predates the Holmes-Watson partnership; the second covers the period before Reichenbach; the third dates to after Holmes’ resurrection; and the fourth treats the pair’s later years sleuthing together. Most take Conan Doyle’s tantalizing references to untold tales as their starting point, as in “Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore,” which deals with a man who vanished after returning home to retrieve his umbrella.
The Gambler King of Clark Street tells the story of a larger-than-life figure who fused Chicago’s criminal underworld with the city’s political and commercial spheres to create an urban machine built on graft, bribery, and intimidation. Lindberg vividly paints the life of the Democratic kingmaker against the wider backdrop of nineteenth-century Chicago crime and politics. McDonald has long been cited in the published work of city historians, members of academia, and the press as the principal architect of a unified criminal enterprise that reached into the corridors of power in Chicago, Cook County, the state of Illinois, and ultimately the Oval Office.
Egan’s biography of Irish revolutionary Thomas Francis Meagher (1823–67) illustrates a singularly Irish-American story. In outlining Meagher’s life, Egan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the National Book Award winner The Worst Hard Time, seeks to demonstrate how Meagher’s experience was emblematic of Irish immigrants’ spirit and resolve. Meagher was born in a well-to-do family in Ireland but was deeply empathetic toward the plight of the Irish poor, having lived through the Great Famine in the 1840s. After a failed uprising against the English, Meagher was banished to a penal colony in Tasmania, Australia. He escaped to the United States and took up the cause of freedom, identifying with the new country’s anti-British attitudes. Leading the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, Meagher fought in some of the bloodiest battles, including Bull Run in 1861. He survived the war and was appointed governor of Montana territory where he hoped to create a “New Ireland.” His death by drowning in 1867 remains a mystery.
Today’s Goat, the celebrated West Point cadet finishing at the bottom of his class, carries on a long and storied tradition. George Custer’s contemporaries at the Academy believed that the same spirit of adventure that led him to “blow post” at night to carouse at local taverns also motivated his dramatic cavalry attacks in the Civil War and afterwards. And the same willingness to stoically accept punishment for his hijinks at the Academy also sent George Pickett marching into the teeth of the Union guns at Gettysburg. The story James S. Robbins tells goes from the beginnings of West Point through the carnage of the Civil War to the grassy bluffs over the Little Big Horn. The Goats he profiles tell us much about the soul of the American solider, his daring, imagination and desire to prove himself against high odds.
This book uses the nineteenth-century legend of Spring-Heeled Jack to analyse and challenge current notions of Victorian popular cultures. Starting as oral rumours, this supposedly supernatural entity moved from rural folklore to metropolitan press sensation, co-existing in literary and theatrical forms before finally degenerating into a nursery lore bogeyman to frighten children. A mercurial and unfixed cultural phenomenon, Spring-Heeled Jack found purchase in both older folkloric traditions and emerging forms of entertainment. Through this intriguing study of a unique and unsettling figure, Karl Bell complicates our appreciation of the differences, interactions and similarities between various types of popular culture between 1837 and 1904. The book draws upon a rich variety of primary source material including folklorist accounts, street ballads, several series of “penny dreadful” stories (and illustrations), journals, magazines, newspapers, comics, court accounts, autobiographies and published reminiscences. The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack is impressively researched social history and provides a fascinating insight into Victorian cultures. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in nineteenth-century English social and cultural history, folklore or literature.
As thoroughly examined as the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln have been, virtually no attention has been paid to the life of the Union cavalryman who killed John Wilkes Booth, an odd character named Boston Corbett. Corbett became an instant celebrity whose peculiarities made him the object of fascination and derision. A hatter by trade, he was likely poisoned by the mercury then used in the manufacturing process. He was one of the first volunteers to join the US Army in the first days of the Civil War, a path that would land him first in the notorious Andersonville prison camp and eventually in the squadron that cornered Booth in a Virginia barn. The Madman and the Assassin is the first full-length biography of Boston Corbett, a man thrust into the spotlight during a national news event—an unwelcome transformation from anonymity to celebrity.
The Civil War was the greatest health disaster the United States has ever experienced, killing more than a million Americans and leaving many others invalided or grieving. Poorly prepared to care for wounded and sick soldiers as the war began, Union and Confederate governments scrambled to provide doctoring and nursing, supplies, and shelter for those felled by warfare or disease. During the war soldiers suffered from measles, dysentery, and pneumonia and needed both preventive and curative food and medicine. Family members—especially women—and governments mounted organized support efforts, while army doctors learned to standardize medical thought and practice. Resources in the north helped return soldiers to battle, while Confederate soldiers suffered hunger and other privations and healed more slowly, when they healed at all. In telling the stories of soldiers, families, physicians, nurses, and administrators, historian Margaret Humphreys concludes that medical science was not as limited at the beginning of the war as has been portrayed. Medicine and public health clearly advanced during the war—and continued to do so after military hostilities ceased.
After the Franco-German War of 1871–1872, Paris experienced a remarkable artistic, literary, and scientific surge in the midst of immense political and religious turbulence, reshaping worldviews to embrace rapid change and immortalizing the period’s innovators. McAuliffe (Dawn of the Belle Epoque) revisits this vibrant, controversial era and weaves brief chronological snapshots of the eponymous figures—plus others like Sarah Bernhardt and Émile Zola—and their (often long-suffering) companions throughout her narrative. Visual artists receive the most biographical attention, illuminating the rise and fall of Matisse’s Fauvism and Picasso’s transformation into cubism, while the Curies’ heartbreaking story of love for science and each other balances out the art colonies’ fatalistic frivolity.
William Boyd Dawkins was a controversial Victorian geologist, paleontologist and archaeologist who has divided opinion as either a hero or villain. For some, he was a pioneer of Darwinian science as a member of the Lubbock-Evans network, while for others he was little more than a reckless vandal who destroyed irreplaceable evidence and left precious little for future generations to assess. This volume, provides an unbiased archaeological and geological account of Boyd Dawkins’ career and legacy by drawing on almost twenty years of research as well as his archive of published and unpublished work which places him at the center of Victorian Darwinian science and society. At the heart of this book is a detailed study of the circumstances surrounding the Victorian excavations at Creswell Crags, where two celebrated finds became a cause celebre.