Longbourn by Jo Baker

Hello Bookworms!

I am SO EXCITED today! I’m going to my very first author event tonight to meet Jo Baker at my local library. I’d had Longbourn on my shelves for a while when I saw the announcement for her visit and bumped it up my reading list. I have to send a big thanks out to Kelly from Read Lately for sending me her ARC of Longbourn just because I commented that I was excited to read it. Book bloggers can be super nice, in case you didn’t already know that.

longbournLongbourn follows the events of Jane Austen’s fabulous and much loved Pride and Prejudice, but this time it’s from the perspective of the servants. The only reason the five lovely Bennet sisters were able to spend their days playing piano, working on needlepoint, and worrying about attracting husbands is because they had people doing their cooking, cleaning, and laundry for them.

Sarah is the main protagonist and a servant at Longbourn, the Bennet homestead. Sarah was orphaned as a child and eventually landed a place in service at Longbourn. While it’s a good deal better than a workhouse, it’s not a glamorous position. I mean, it’s the early 1800s. There are chamber pots to empty, fires to light, and (GAG) menstrual rags to launder.

You guys, I LOVED this book. One of my favorite things about reading historical fiction is the dirty gritty stuff. I like to know what MY life would have been like if I lived back in the day. It de-romanticizes things for me and makes me super grateful for indoor plumbing and electricity. I certainly wasn’t raised a destitute orphan, but I wasn’t born into an outrageously wealthy family either. I don’t know that I’d be in service, but I probably would have to get my hands dirty from time to time.

If you enjoy historical fiction, Jane Austen, or classic story re-tellings, Longbourn is fabulous. Oh, and never fear, Bookworms, I’ll be sure to inform you of all the different ways I manage to embarrass myself in front of Jo Baker.

Tell me something, Bookworms. Does historical fiction ever make you grateful for living in the here and now? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

Salutations Bookworms,

If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, it would be impossible to miss the fact that I’m a little bit obsessed with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Funnily enough, this is the first time I’ve “reviewed” one of the major books in the series because since becoming hooked on the novels, I’ve read every new major installment the minute it was released. An Echo in the Bone was released waaaay back in 2009. That’s three years before I started this blog, if you are interested in the math. I’ve been pining for the next book for FIVE YEARS. The waiting was made all the worse because of an accursed cliffhanger. But now? I HAVE IT! Muahahahahaha!

writteninmyownheartsbloodWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood was released on June 14th. It was auto-delivered to my Kindle because OF COURSE I pre-ordered it. I spent the next week staying up too late and drinking in all the Gabaldon goodness. What can I say? This is the eighth book in the epic series and it did not disappoint!

Seeing as it was indeed the eighth book, it seems a bit silly to write a review. I mean, how can I do that without giving all sorts of spoilers for the preceding seven books? Instead, I’m just going to launch into a long, weird, fangirl rant about why you need to be reading these books. Cool?

OMG, what are you waiting for?! Gabaldon’s amazing series includes something for everyone. You like sci-fi? We’ve got time travel. You like history? Adventures in the highlands start in the 1740s. You like romance? I challenge you to find another literary love like that of Jamie and Claire. (Or Bree and Roger. Or Jenny and Ian. Or, or, or…) Interested in the medical ministrations of the past? You’ll be up to your elbows in poultices and leeches. Political maneuvering? Battle? Seafaring? For heaven’s sake, it’s all here!

You will laugh, you will cry, and you will simply fly through these chunky tomes! So go, please. Read them. Love them. Come back and talk to me about them. Oh! I almost forgot. Anybody who has finished reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and wants a safe place to chat about all the spoilers, I made a little Facebook group dedicated to the cause.

Tell me something good, Bookworms. How many of y’all read and love Diana Gabaldon?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Let’s Get Lewd: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

Greetings Bookworms!

You’re in for a treat today, because we’re talking about Emma Donoghue. Again. She’s awesome, what can I say? After reading and loving Frog Music a while back (review) I decided I needed MORE of Emma Donoghue’s historical fiction, and if prostitutes were involved, all the better. Luckily, Emma Donoghue’s back list offered me Slammerkinand oh my stars, I’m glad of it!

slammerkinSlammerkin tells the sordid tale of Mary Saunders. Born into the working class of 18th Century London, Mary’s prospects are limited. Though she is afforded the advantage of attending school, she is prepared only to work in domestic service or follow in her seamstress mother’s footsteps. Disheartened by her lack of opportunity, Mary soon chases a fancy into dire circumstances and is forced to take up prostitution as a means to support herself. Oh yeah. I should probably mention that she’s all of 14 at the time. 14!

Selling your body isn’t glamorous work by any means, but Mary finds it offers her a sense liberty she wouldn’t have enjoyed in a “virtuous” occupation. She becomes obsessed with clothing- the flashier the better. It was her lust for a red ribbon that started her down her path to depravity, after all.

THIS BOOK, you guys! Holy cow, I loved it so hard! Mary’s story was so captivating. And!!! I didn’t realize until the end that it was based on a true story! Donoghue did a glorious job of capturing 18th Century London’s underworld, and didn’t sugar coat the grimy details (STDs are no joke, y’all, especially before antibiotics. Yowza.) I am endlessly fascinated by the plight of women throughout the ages. Even though the current world is far from perfect, I’m SO GRATEFUL to have opportunities beyond becoming a servant or a prostitute. Sheesh.

My love for hooker books has been very well documented. I feel a little creepy about it, to be honest, but I suppose everyone has their fixations. Is there a controversial/tragic/less than savory topic that you simply can’t get enough of, Bookworms? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission.*

Hannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane

BOOKWORMS! THIS. IS. SPARTA CARTHAGE!

Why yes, I have seen 300. And Gladiator. And you know? Despite the gore, I rather enjoyed both films. Thanks to these movies, when I was offered a copy of Hannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane, I thought I’d give it a shot. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

hannibalHannibal: Enemy of Rome is set during the second Punic War. Don’t know what that is? Well. Rome was around, doing its Roman thing (conquering territory, enslaving the natives, all that good stuff.) Carthage was located in North Africa, near modern day Tunisia. They weren’t big fans of Rome, but they were big fans of war. E’erybody liked a war back then, it seems.

Anyhow, Hannibal Barca, Carthaginian general and elephant enthusiast (not to be confused with Hannibal Lecter, fictional serial killer and genius) is making a name for himself and plotting revenge on Rome for a past war. On the eve of this military expedition, a young teen named Hanno and his best friend Suni go out fishing, get drunk, and are swept out to sea. They are (of course) captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Because that was a thing. ANYBODY could be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Spoils of war… Or piracy. Hanno winds up as a slave in a Roman household (ROMAN?! Ptooey!) and rather unexpectedly becomes friends with the son of the household, Quintus.

Hanno and Quintus, Carthaginian and Roman, friends? You remember that song from South Pacific? That you have to be carefully taught who to hate? These guys are teenagers, they’ve been raised to hate one another, but they’re still young enough and honorable enough to accept that there are exceptions to every rule.

Aside from that whole star-crossed friendship thing, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome is a lot of war with a lot of detail. Military strategy, battle tactics, and graphic gore abound. There’s also quite a bit of colorful language. Apparently calling someone a “whoreson” was the ancient equivalent of a “yo mama” joke. You know. If “yo mama” was a whore.

Who would like this book? Despite the heavy military emphasis (which isn’t usually something I enjoy), it is well-written historical fiction. If you enjoyed Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth (review) or John Jakes’s North and South series (review), this might be the book for you. I will warn you that it’s the first in a series, a fact I didn’t realize until I hit the end and the war wasn’t over yet. I can only hope the forthcoming books include more about the elephants!

Alright Bookworms. Fun question for you today. Although Hannibal didn’t technically ride an elephant into battle, it’s a pretty sweet steed. What animal would YOU ride into battle? (Fictional creatures are allowed. No judgement if you choose a unicorn.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will use that commission to beef up my battle steed fund.*

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini: A TLC Book Tour

Greetings Bookworms!

I don’t know what is is about the American Civil War, but I cannot get enough historical fiction based on the time period. From Gone with the Wind to North and South, I am compelled to read about this fascinating era. When the lovely crew at TLC Book Tours sent me a synopsis of  The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini, I couldn’t resist. *I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m from Illinois and this is Honest Abe’s regime we’re talking about: it would be extremely bad form for me to lie. *

TLC SpymistressElizabeth Van Lew was born into a prominent slave-holding family in Richmond, Virginia. Having been raised by a socially progressive mother and educated in the North, Lizzie held some unusual sentiments for a woman of her stature in Richmond at the time. Specifically, Elizabeth Van Lew was of the opinion that slavery was a big steaming pile o’ horse manure. After her father’s death, Lizzie and her mother freed as many of their slaves as they could, and when prevented from doing so by her father’s will, they unofficially freed their slaves by allowing them to live wherever they liked in the city and paid them for their labor.

When the Civil War broke out, the Van Lew family’s stance on slavery was not popular. Even less popular was their suspected sympathy for the Union. Desperate to help the Union cause, Lizzie begins her quest by attempting to offer aid and comfort to the Union prisoners living in deplorable conditions. Her dogged determination serves her well as she moves from bringing food to injured soldiers to smuggling information to the Union from behind enemy lines. Though she takes the utmost care to keep her activities a secret, Lizzie’s activities place her in an extremely dangerous position.

Y’all, this book was great! Elizabeth Van Lew was a REAL woman in Richmond (only the capitol of the Confederacy where she might accidentally run into Jefferson Davis) who led a frigging spy ring for the Union. She was rumored to have Unionist leanings, but without any proof, she was written off as just another eccentric, wealthy spinster. THAT is what you get for underestimating a lady with chutzpah, Confederacy! (Yes, I just smack talked a government that ceased to exist 150 years ago. I’m nothing if not timely.)

I’ve read a bit about the Civil War, and being a lady of the North, I’ve always found the Southern perspective interesting. I think the entire modern-day universe would agree that slavery is/was THE WORST THING EVER, so it fascinates me the way Southern society was able to rationalize it. Judging people outside the context of their time is an easy trap to fall into while reading historical fiction, particularly when it comes to such a horrifying institution. That said, when your way of life is being threatened, it’s natural to get defensive. Before tackling The Spymistress I felt like a had a pretty good grasp the Southern female response to the war. I simply hadn’t considered that there would be an element of Southern society loyal to the Union, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever since I can name half a dozen other major wars and their resistance movements. I think I might be guilty of some Northern snobbery and sore winner’s syndrome…

In any case, I found The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini to be an enlightening and entertaining read. I would recommend it to any historical fiction buff, but especially to those with a fondness for Civil War novels.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Have you ever found yourself judging a historical figure or character’s actions by modern standards? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

I Am Livia (A TLC Book Tour and GIVEAWAY!)

Friends, Romans, Bookworms, lend me your ears!

If you’re been around this little corner of the internet a while, you’ll know that I”m a huge fan of historical fiction. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself in a bit of a rut as far as the historical periods I travel to… The Tudors and I are perhaps a bit too well-acquainted. I was recently contacted by TLC Book Tours with a request to review Phyllis T. Smith’s new novel, I Am Livia and I jumped at the chance. We’re going to ancient Rome, y’all! *I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

i am livia tlc This book opens on the eve of Julius Caesar’s assassination. 14 year old Livia overhears her father and some of his political companions discussing the plot. Livia possesses a keen political mind, despite her age and the fact that Roman women were discouraged from participating in the public sphere… Overtly, at least. She knows that this plot is fraught with danger and that it could threaten her family’s existence as they know it.

Et tu, Brut? And all that comes to pass, and Rome is plunged into political upheaval. Livia is hastily married off to one of her father’s political connections. She isn’t excited about the proposition, but after her father implores to her patriotism and she goes through with the wedding.

One day at the chariot races seated next to her new husband, Livia meets Julius Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. She’s a teenager. He’s a teenager. And he’s hot. A bit of witty repartee and some flirtatious banter follow, but as the wife of a politically active senator, everybody keeps their togas on. What Livia doesn’t know is what a huge impact she and Octavianus will have on one another’s lives…

YOU GUYS! I loved this book! It was so refreshing to read about ancient Rome. I’ve never read any Roman historical fiction, so I learned a TON of stuff. I’m not silly enough to think that reading historical fiction is the same as doing a super scholarly study or anything, but this book painted a fabulous picture of Roman life. I mean, they ate lounging on couches. There were DASTARDLY doings in the political sphere. There were honor suicides and gladiator battles and scandals galore. I couldn’t put this book down, I just HAD TO KNOW. I am super excited to be able to share it with you, because the awesome folks at TLC Book Tours have offered to let me give away a copy of I Am Livia to one of you, my fabulous bookworms… Or at least the ones in the US and Canada (sorry international folks!) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Halló Bookworms,

Today we’re going to Iceland. Yes, the land of Björk and that volcano that destroyed air travel for a time in 2010 (Eyjafjallajökull, say that three times fast!) Every blogger in all the land, it seems, read and adored Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and I could no longer in good conscience go about having not read it. Call it peer pressure. In any case, I just finished reading Burial Rites, and I’m going to tell you all about it. Whether you like it or not. Because I’m just like that.

burial ritesBurial Rites tells the story of Agnes. Agnes is accused of the murder of her employer and one of his associates. She was convicted of the crime with along with two companions, and sentenced to death. It’s 1829. And it’s Iceland. They didn’t exactly have a great prison system infrastructure, so they sent Agnes to  the modest family farm of a low ranking government official to await her execution.

At first the family is pretty freaked out at the idea of keeping a convicted murderer in their home. They live in an old-school Icelandic dwelling where everyone sleeps in a single room- a murderer in their home meant a murderer in their bedroom. Agnes isn’t really what they expect, though. She’s not some blood-thirsty knife-wielding psycho, she’s a woman well versed in farm work who never balks at the icky tasks. As time goes on, Agnes’s heartbreaking story slowly comes to light.

The novel is based in part on a true story- Agnes did, in fact, live. She was convicted of murder in 1829 and sentenced to death. Hannah Kent did a beautiful job of giving a voice to a person who would otherwise be lost to history. A gorgeous, heart-wrenching book.

I really enjoyed Burial Rites, but I’ve got to admit I fell down the Wikipedia rabbit hole several times while reading this. I know virtually nothing about Iceland, so I kept looking things up. My real stumbling block, though, was the names. Holy cow, Icelandic, man. Accent marks and umlauts and discordant groupings of consonants! I’ve heard that Finnish is the most difficult language to learn (that’s according to an eccentric English professor I once had) but Icelandic has got to be right up there. Wowza.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you know much about Iceland? What are your immediate associations with it? (Anybody who says D2: The Mighty Ducks gets 5 knucklepuck points!)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Hey There Bookworms,

I loooove me some Emma Donoghue. You might remember that from me going on and on about Room (review) and Astray (review), so it won’t surprise you to hear that when I found out Emma Donoghue had a new book on the horizon, I had to get my grubby little hands on it. I typically get the books I review (at least as far as ARC’s go) through Netgalley or publisher pitches. This is the first book I’ve ever reached out to the publisher and downright begged for. Luckily, the very sweet representative from Little, Brown, & Company obliged me and sent me an advanced copy of Frog Music. (Thanks Meghan!) *Even though I’m super grateful that I was sent a free copy of this book, my review will remain honest and whatnot. But for heaven’s sake, it’s an Emma Donoghue, it’s not like it was going to suck anyway.*

frogmusic

Frog Music takes place in 1876 San Francisco. Blanche is a French circus performer turned burlesque dancer/prostitute living the Bohemian life with her  layabout paramour and his buddy. The city is in the grips of a record breaking heatwave AND a smallpox epidemic. After a short acquaintance with the enigmatic Jenny Bonnet, Blanche’s world is rocked when Jenny is shot dead through the window of a railway saloon. (That’s not a spoiler, y’all, it’s like the first scene.)

Jenny Bonnet was a heck of a character. She was repeatedly arrested for wearing pants. Yup, back the day, dressing in “men’s clothing” was grounds for arrest. Crazy, right? Jenny was a frog catcher by trade. She delivered these frogs to San Francisco’s many French restaurants. Because frog legs are tasty… To people who aren’t me. (I don’t much care for them, but to each their own, I say!)

And Blanche? Absolutely fascinating. I don’t know why I’m always so enthralled by tales of prostitutes, but they’re all so dang varied and interesting. The girl ran away to join the circus, emigrated to the US, and became one of the most successful (ahem) entertainers in San Francisco. Her friendship with Jenny put Blanche’s life on a completely new trajectory in ways Blanche never saw coming.

The craziest thing about this story? It’s TRUE! Well, it’s based on a true story, and I read the author’s notes at the end- this novel was very thoroughly researched. Jenny Bonnet was indeed a woman murdered in 1876 San Francisco. She was in the company of Blanche, a burlesque dancing prostitute. Her murder was never officially solved, though the list of suspects was not short. Was it an enemy of Blanche? An enemy of Jenny? A random drunk who liked shooting people through windows? Very mysterious.

You guys, this book was AWESOME. I could not put it down, I simply had to know all the sordid details of Blanche and Jenny’s lives. I had to know about the smallpox epidemic sweeping the city. I also had to get a visual image of Jenny’s Highwheeler bicycle (though I prefer the term “Penny-Farthing” to describe the contraption.) Can you imagine trying to ride that thing?

File courtesy Wikimedia Commons, author Dave Hogg.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, author Dave Hogg.

Tell me, Bookworms. Is there a particular type of character you’re drawn to in books? Am I the only one who is absolutely enthralled by ladies of the night? (In a non-sexual, purely literary sort of way. It’s hard to talk about hookers without sounding pervy.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

The Fellowship of the Worms: The House Girl

Welcome, Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s that time again. The Fellowship of the Worms is now in session! This month’s selection was The House Girl by Tara Conklin. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of The House Girl and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed The House Girl on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up!

1. The House Girl is told in a dual narrative, switching back and forth between Lina in modern day NYC and Josephine in 1852 Virginia. In addition to the two major narrators, there are a number of additional characters advancing the story through letters. Did you enjoy the multiple perspectives? Did you find it added or detracted from the story Conklin was trying to tell? 

Personally, I dig the dual (or more) narrative. I like being able to get inside the heads of multiple characters. I thought Conklin did a great job in fleshing out Josephine and Lina’s personalities. Though, if I could lodge one small complaint, it’s that I couldn’t get inside the head of Lu Anne Bell. What a crazy contradiction SHE was. I’m always interested in how people rationalize cruelties to themselves. Given what Lu Anne clearly knew about her husband’s non-consensual relationships with his female slaves, it’s no wonder she seemed to yo-yo between compassion and jealousy when dealing with Josephine.

thehousegirl

2. Do you think that Lu Anne intentionally passed off Josephine’s art work as her own? Do you think she would have done things differently had she known the notoriety the art would eventually garner? 

Lu Anne was a complicated character, I’m a little obsessed with her, since I was thwarted in my desire to get inside her head. The Pollyanna in me doesn’t think that Lu Anne had any idea that the artwork she and Josephine (okay, mostly Josephine) created was going to become famous. Of course, as much as I’d LIKE to think that Lu Anne would have taken steps to ensure proper credit was given had she known what was going to become of the art, I doubt she would have changed her actions. The product of her shameful environment, that one.

3. Lina is the daughter of the artsiest artists in all the land, and yet she chose to pursue a career in law. What in her upbringing to you think helped spur her decision to choose a career so based in reason? 

Lina’s upbringing was never quite stable. When it was just Lina and Oscar, their existence always seemed precarious. I think Lina’s choice of career was based in part on the desire to have some financial security (I can’t blame her for that!) I also think there was an element of rebellion there… She sort of goes Alex P. Keaton and rebels against her artsy upbringing by going corporate. (If you’re too young to get my Family Ties joke, get thee to the CBS.com. Full episodes!)

4. As a house slave, Josephine walks a lonely road. How does her unique status contribute to her desire to run? 

Poor Josephine! Because she was tasked with domestic duties, she was separated from the field workers. However, being in the house didn’t mean that she was a part of the family- she was still a slave, for heaven’s sake. She was stuck in this crappy middle ground trying to muddle through. Yes, she had relationships with Lottie and a few others, but Josephine was still separate. Oh, yeah. And being in the house only made it easier for her master to make his nocturnal visits- that sure as heck wasn’t a perk. Loneliness, prolonged sexual abuse, and, uh, being property? Yep. Seems like enough motivation to get out of Dodge to me!

5. How did you feel when Oscar dropped the bombshell about what really happened to Lina’s mother Grace?

What I want to know is how this was even possible. I know Grace told Oscar to tell everyone she’d died, but COME ON. It can’t be that easy to disappear! Wouldn’t people be suspicious that there was no funeral or memorial service? Maybe artsy people don’t do funerals? The whole thing seemed really weird to me. I’m glad Oscar came clean and gave Lina her mom’s contact information, but sheesh! What would you even SAY to your fake dead mother?! I can’t even.

Tell me your thoughts, Bookworms! How did you feel about The House GirlPlease link up if you’re so inclined! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Hist-ART-ical Fiction

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means! The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have tempted me with yet another list prompt. Today they’ve asked us to list our top ten books in ANY GENRE WE WANT. I can make up a genre, right? I mean, if I can think of ten books with a similar theme it should count as a genre, shouldn’t it? Historical fiction with  a work of art as a centerpiece is my genre of choice today… I’m going to call it Hist-ART-ical Fiction!

histarticalfiction

1. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland:  This book follows a fictional Vermeer painting back through time from the present day to its inception. It’s chock full of interesting historical tidbits throughout the eras. I also learned a surprising amount about flooding in the Netherlands… And windmills. Bonus!

2. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier: The dual narrative is a popular style when it comes to hist-ART-ical fiction, so it’s lucky I love it. A modern American woman moves to France with her husband and uncovers her ancestral history… Along with a very particular shade of blue paint.

3.  I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis: Based on the fictionalized life of the woman who modeled for the world’s most famous painting, I, Mona Lisa takes you deep into Renaissance Italy. You really can’t go wrong with Florence as a backdrop, I tell you. Add DaVinci and throw in Savonarola (the dastardly art hater) and you’ve got yourself a tasty piece of hist-ART-ical fiction!

It's the mother-flipping Mona Lisa, y'all! (Source)

It’s the mother-flipping Mona Lisa, y’all! (Source)

4. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira: (my review) Mary Cassatt meets up with Degas and Renoir and Monet and Manet in this book and it’s a heck of a good time. I love me some French Impressionists! Funnily enough, I was watching The Simpsons earlier today and Sideshow Bob referred to the Impressionists as “the boy band of the art world.” The art snobbery of a cartoon character can’t destroy my enthusiasm. It’s all so pretty!

5. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant: Ah yes, back to Renaissance Florence! The young daughter of a cloth merchant is enthralled by the painter the family brings in to decorate their chapel. Art and love and Florentine drama ensue… There’s a rather scandalous tattoo involved as well.

6. The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: Another Chevalier? Don’t mind if I do! This book is based on a very real painting by the Dutch master Vermeer. It’s some kind of amazing, I tell you, even if there’s a rather cringe inducing ear-piercing scene…

7. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes: (my review) More delicious dual narratives! This book is half set during WWI in occupied France and half set in present day England. A (fictional) painting vastly important to two women at the two points in time interweaves the stories. It’s Jojo Moyes, so it rocks pretty hard.

8. Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex: Renaissance Italy and the master of them all, DaVinci! This book explores the lives of the models of some of DaVinci’s lesser known pieces. The fame obsessed were as desperate to be immortalized on canvas as reality show contestants are to be immortalized in trashy television. Plenty of scandal to be had!

9. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan: (my review) Man, I love the crap out of reading about the people behind the art. The model for Degas’s super famous ballerina sculpture? The Painted Girls tells Marie’s story as an impoverished ballerina-in-training. It’s as amazing as you think.

Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

10. In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant: Alright, this isn’t as art-centric as everything else on this list, but it’s set in Renaissance Italy, so the art is THERE, if not center stage. Plus there’s a prostitute and a dwarf- how can you go wrong?

Honorable Mention: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This doesn’t get to count in the official list because A. I haven’t read it yet, and B. it’s really not historical fiction. BUT it’s got a painting in a pivotal role, so it semi-counts.

My dear artsy Bookworms, do you have a favorite hist-ART-ical fiction book?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*