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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

Sometimes there are novels you read that are great, then there are others which grip you like a clamp, dragging you – body and soul – into the centre of time and place that is so graphic and so real that you are left shaken by what you have read, experienced, felt and learned.  I found myself shaking as I got to the last pages of this book, moaning to myself that no, it couldn’t end like this.

Set at the turn of the century, riddled with the dirt and dust of small Australian country towns and mixed with the desperate poverty that few today realize or knew was as harsh and unbearable as it really was,  a young girl is sold by her father for nine shillings and sixpence to a scrap man who offers them money to provide food for their other children.  The child he buys is just three years old.  Two other young children bought in previous years have lived with him for a while.  They are now aged around 20 and 12.  Their owner, the scrap man, controls their every movement.  Their fate was sealed the day they were bought.  As the youngest lives her squalid life in her new family, her constant companion is her thoughts about the day she would run away.

This story of abuse, brutality and survival is set against the historical background of country Victoria prior to and after WWI and through the hideous time of the ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic that hit Australia in 1919.   This was a difficult read.  Heartbreaking and very graphic it is suited to mature age readers.  Disher is truly one of Australia’s most outstanding authors.

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction, Social Issues
Suitable: Years 10-12+

 

 

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the-girl-in-the-blue-coatSet in Amsterdam during World War II, Hanneke expresses her defiance of the overbearing invasion of the German Army into her homeland by secretly sourcing and delivering sought after black market goods, a job she has taken to support her ailing parents.  When one of her customers begs her to help locate a young Jewish girl who mysteriously disappeared from a hiding place in her home, Hanneke starts to see the reality of what is taking place in her home.   Monica Hesse writes with clarity and empathy.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

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early-one-morningAn engaging story which has the reader transfixed from the page one!  Walking in a Jewish Ghetto in Rome in 1943, Chiara locks eyes with a woman as she and her family are forced onto a truck that will transport them to a concentration camp.  In the blink of an eye, Chiara makes a decision that will change her life forever. By screaming loudly that the young child clinging to this woman’s hand is the son of her sister she demands he be released into her custody.  Chiara is astounded when she suddenly finds the child in her arms. And so starts a saga of unimaginable proportions.  Baily’s fabulous writing style includes some outstanding, memorable extracts.

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction: 
Mystery; Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

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The perfumer's secretThe arranged marriage of Fleurette, the only daughter of a wealthy Delacroix perfume dynasty, to Aimery, the head of another pre-eminent French perfume manufacturer on the eve of World War I is dreaded by Fleurette.  She not only loathes the man, but he literally makes her skin crawl. Yet, Fleurette is being forced to marry him for the good of the family.  A letter intended to stop the wedding proceeding is sent by the estranged brother of the groom, but it arrives too late. Only the tolling of the city bells on the night of their wedding, calling all the men of France to the battle fields, saves Fleurette from having to share the matrimonial bed with this repulsive man.  Months later, when the contents of the letter are fully explained to her in person by his brother, Fleurette finally becomes privy to a shocking and profound secret.  Evocative writing combine with a complex plot to captivate and entrance the reader.  Anticipating the outcome is cloaked in mystery until the very end.  A fabulous read by Fiona McIntosh!

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 10-12+

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Shahana
In another of the ‘Through my eyes’ series, Hawke allows us to traverse the terrain of a land invaded and fought over by Pakistani and Indian soldiers.  Living in Kashmir, Shahana lives alone with her young brother, struggling on a daily basis to stay safe and alive.  The characters and description of this war ravaged region are real and frightening.  A must read!

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction
Suitable: Year 9-10

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Lawson - Freedom RideAn engaging historical fiction highlighting the racist attitude prevailing in Australia in the ’50’s and ’60’s which barred Aborigines from being treated as equal citizens in their own country.  With authentic characters created to deliver the outlandish racist attitude and behaviour of local country people, the reader is left with a clear impression of what life must have been like for Aborigines growing up in Australia in this time.  A great read by Sue Lawson.

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

 

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The Ink Bridge
Grant’s penmanship transports the reader to a world known only by Afghanis.  The abject fear instilled in them by the Taliban and by the poverty, hardship and sheer terror that surrounds them on a daily basis unfold slowly and clearly reaching into the very soul of those reading it.  Grant’s choice of words and phrases and his manipulation of them to create not only a story but a mood and atmosphere make this novel stand out.  Omed and Hec, the two main characters, one an Afghani and the other an Australian, are so credible that they feel as though they are in the room with us as we read.  Never again, on completion of this read, is it possible to consider ‘asylum seekers’ as we had previously.    A poignantly told story of Afghanistan and its people.  A great read.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

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Wrong boy
While trying to paint a picture of the bleak and horrific realities of the Holocaust, Zail has aimed to increase readership amongst the young adult audience likely to read this book by throwing in an unlikely ‘love story’ with characters that don’t seem wholly credible.  This tactic however, not only detracts from the novel’s main theme, but tends to ‘ease’ the horror that faced those tortured, starved, gassed and executed at the notorious concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Zail’s writing style, which tends to paint broad sweeping scenes that jump awkwardly in time, place and location, may only be best understood by those readers very familiar with historical facts of the Holocaust.  For those without this in depth knowledge, the picture created tends to be far ‘rosier’ than reality.

Rating: ***
Theme Fiction: Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 9-12

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Although a bit slow to start, this develops into a great read which realistically describes the experience of a young German boy during Second World War. Sent to live in an orphanage in Warsaw after his parents are killed by the Russians, Peter is soon fostered by a German family who regard his ‘Aryan’ looks to be perfect. Given the best of everything, Peter starts to question his privileged lifestyle, realizing that fitting the mould set for him is not all that easy. Paul Dowswell’s novel, based on historical fact, provides much insight into many issues surrounding those difficult war years.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 10-12

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The diary of a Russian girl who at age 12 endures famine and hardship in her small village,  while trying to fend for her family.  Documenting the four years of hardship endured after she was captured and transported to work in slave labour camps in Germany during World War II, this diary provides a memorable read of the horrors and anguish that accompanies war.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitable:  Year 7-10

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