Readers of this blog know I like to highlight fiction and non-fiction that present capable women with strong personalities. I read a post in a forum recently that intrigued me. The person was looking for historical fiction recommendations, but “none of those anachronistic modern women dressed up in historical costumes crap.” I don’t think he was disparaging time travel fiction and, yes, I’ve read a few stories where the women seem to have more modern sensibilities than might be warranted. But not all strong females in historical fiction are anachronistic. I’ve read other blog posts by historical fiction writers also deploring recent criticism about strong women described by readers as “too modern” in spite of ample historical evidence that women did and thought as the writers wrote them. Where does the dissonance come from? Why would a reader think a woman couldn’t be a doctor in Late Antiquity, captain a whaling ship, or teach men to fly planes during WWII — all documented events?
I blame school history books. The protagonist in my novel, Selene of Alexandria is a young woman who wants to become a physician in fifth century Alexandria — not a “healer” or midwife — a trained and apprenticed physician. There is ample written and archaeological evidence of women physicians through the ages, including this period. But if you don’t look outside the traditional history texts, you wouldn’t know that. Continue Reading »
Posted in Essays/Research, History, Wonderful Women, Writing | Tagged historical fiction, writing, hypatia, selene of alexandria, strong women | Leave a Comment »
I delight in spotlighting the lives and accomplishments of women in past times—particularly “ordinary” women doing extraordinary things. Eighty Days is a true adventure story about two young female journalists who traveled around the world—in opposite directions—alone, during the heart of the Victorian Age. From the back cover:
“On November 14, 1898, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left new York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Vern’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, this is history with the heart of a great adventure novel.”
Matthew Goodman does an excellent job bringing these two women to life, filling in the background of exotic locations and Victorian attitudes as they make their remarkable journey—not just around the world, but through life. In his prologue, Goodman sets up the reader with vivid descriptions of the two journalists leaving on November 14, 1898. He then backtracks to tell each of their stories and the ambitions that led to their history-making race. In a tactic used throughout the book, this leads to exploring the history of women in journalism up to that time—a remarkable tale—introducing the reader to a raft of intrepid women who covered politics, corruption and social justice issues; as well as tea parties and fashion shows in an era hostile towards women in any public role.
Continue Reading »
Posted in Biographies, Books, History, Reviews, Wonderful Women | Tagged book review, eighty days, elizabeth goodman, history, matthew goodman, nellie bly | 2 Comments »
As a gift to my readers and the followers of this blog, I’ve joined Passages to the Past and 30+ other blogs in the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop. Each blog in the hop has a great giveaway package: historical fiction, history books, gift cards and more. So give yourself a present this year and check out the list here. ”Hop” from blog to blog to see who’s giving away what and sign up for some great goodies. There are also Grand Prizes (I’ve donated a paperback and an ebook copy of my own novel Selene of Alexandria.) For my blog giveaway we have three prizes, once-read review copies of:
And the winner is: sara!
The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer made NPR’s list of the year’s best historical fiction of 2012 (read a guest post by Enid here.) A literary novel about the imagined meeting of Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert when they both traveled the fabled river–before they became famous.
- Title: The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
- Author: Enid Shomer
- Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2012
- ISBN: 978-1-4516-4298-4
- Format: Hardcover, 449 pages
- Price: $26.00
And the winner is: Meg!
The Seven Wonders by Stephen Saylor (read my review here.) Gordianus the Finder is back in this prequel to Steven Saylor’s popular series of mysteries set in the Roman Republic. Follow his adventures as Gordianus embarks on the First Century BCE equivalent of a “Grand Tour” of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
- Title: The Seven Wonders: A Novel of the Ancient World
- Author: Steven Saylor
- Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2012
- ISBN: 978-0-312-35984-3
- Format: Hardcover, 321 pages
- Price: $25.99
And the winner is: milliebotdesigns!
The Raven’s Seal by Andrei Baltakmens (read a guest post by Andrei here.) A historical mystery with a brooding gaol (jail for us in the US), intriguing characters and a twisty plot. If you like Dickens, you’ll like this one!
Giveaway Details (US addresses only)
Entry is easy: leave a comment on this post saying which book(s) you would like, by midnight Monday, December 17 (email not necessary in the comment, but please give it when asked, so I can get back to you if you win.) If you want a second entry, sign up to follow the blog or indicate you’re already a follower. For additional chances, repost this giveaway on your Facebook, blog, Twitter, website, etc. and post the link in your comment (maximum five chances.) Don’t worry if your post doesn’t appear immediately, because I moderate comments and don’t spend my life at my computer. I’ll randomly select the winners and announce it on Tuesday, December 18. Also, there will be a mystery prize! Good luck, everyone, and happy holidays!
And the winner of the mystery prize is: Helen! She’ll receive a signed copy of my novel Selene of Alexandria
Thanks to everyone who entered the Blog Hop and congratulations to our winners.
Safe and happy holidays to all!
Posted in Free stuff | Tagged andrei baltakmens, blog hop, enid shomer, free books, free stuff, giveaways, historical fiction, steven saylor | 41 Comments »
I’m back from New Zealand and–totally by coincidence–I’m hosting a New Zealand author. As readers of this blog know, I’m a Dickens fan. I can’t get enough of his quirky characters, dark settings, twisty plots and–yes!–even his social preaching. One of my favorites, Little Dorritt (reviewed here) features a debtor’s prison which is just as much a character as its human inhabitants. That’s why I was so pleased to score a copy of The Raven’s Seal a historical mystery written in the style of Dickens. The author Andrei Baltakmens is a Dickens scholar and plants an eighteenth-century prison in the heart of his novel. The gaol (jail for us in the US) broods over the prose and lurks in the background infusing the story with its dark presence. From the first paragraph:
The Old Bellstrom Gaol crouched above the fine city of Airenchester like a black spider on a heap of spoils. It presided over The Steps, a ramshackle pile of cramped yards and tenements teeming about rambling stairs, and glared across the River Pentlow towards Battens Hill, where the sombre courts and city halls stood. From Cracksheart Hill, the Bellstrom loomed on every prospect and was glimpsed at the end of every lane.
Many thanks to Andrei for providing a guest post on eighteenth-century crime and punishment and to his publisher Top Five Books for providing a giveaway copy (details at the end of the post.)
Early-Modern Crime (and Punishment) in The Raven’s Seal
by Andrei Baltakmens
My novel, The Raven’s Seal, is a historical mystery set in and around a fictional eighteenth-century prison, the Bellstrom Gaol. The gaol is a commanding presence in the novel, presiding over the equally fictional city of Airenchester. But of course there would be no gaol, and no mystery, without crime and punishment, and though the Bellstrom dominated my imagination for a long time, the history of crime in the early-modern period (roughly 1500 to 1800), particularly under the Black Act, makes for a fascinating background which occasionally peeks through into the mystery. Continue Reading »
Posted in Books, Fiction, Free stuff, Guest Post, History | Tagged andrei baltakmens, dickens, free stuff, giveaway, guest post, historical mysteries, the raven's seal | 8 Comments »
I just finished The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, a novel about the imagined meeting of Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert when they both traveled the fabled river–before they became famous. It’s a lovely literary effort with wonderful insights into two intriguing characters. I’m pleased to host a guest post by the author Enid Shomer where she tells us how she came to know both these remarkable people and write about them. Ms. Shomer’s short fiction and poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The Paris Review among other publications. This is her first novel. Thanks to her publisher Simon and Schuster for providing two copies of this book for a giveaway (details at the end of the post.) If you want to learn more about Ms. Shomer and her writing, please visit her website. Enjoy!
TWO GENIUSES ON THE NILE
by Enid Shomer
I live in Florida, and was, therefore, surprised to see that Florence Nightingale was running against Thomas Jefferson on my last sample presidential election ballot. While nurses on every continent know that Nightingale invented nursing as a profession, that before her, nurses were regarded as loose women no better than drunkards, slatterns, or opium addicts, most Americans know little about her. Throughout the old British empire, by contrast, she is recognized as an iconic heroine, the “Lady with the Lamp.” That epithet derives from the fact that she made rounds at night to tend the wounded soldiers in the hospital at Scutari during the Crimean War, a revolutionary practice at the time. Continue Reading »
Posted in Books, Fiction, Free stuff, Guest Post, Wonderful Women | Tagged book giveaway, enid shomer, florence nightingale, free stuff, guest post, gustave flaubert, historical fiction, twelve rooms of the nile | 10 Comments »
Folks who read my website and this blog know I’m a bit two-faced. Like the Roman god Janus I peer both into the past and the future. I read science fiction/fact with the same fervor I read (and write) historical fiction/fact. I love it when science meets history in such passions as archaeology, palentology and geology. This post is a tribute from my science self to a remarkable woman who made history in my lifetime. Sally Ride was a hero of mine and an inspiration to a generation of girls. From the Sally Ride Science website:
Dr. Sally Kristen Ride in 1984.
Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.
Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.
Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.
In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.
“Ride, Sally Ride!”
I wanted to be an astronaut since I was little. I followed all the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches; clipping news items and storing them in a banana box I got from the local grocery. I noticed there were no female US astronauts, but the Russians sent up Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova in 1963 to become the first woman and first civilian in space. The US couldn’t be far behind, right? Then NASA scrubbed the Mercury 13 project (First Lady Astronaut Trainees or FLATs.) It was clear that no woman need apply to that boys’ club. Disappointed, I still hoped. I was only eleven, still time to change the boys’ minds and let me play. Continue Reading »
Posted in History, History in the News, Wonderful Women | Tagged dr. sally ride, first american woman in space, nasa, sally ride, sally ride dies, science, space program, women in space | 8 Comments »
Gordianus the Finder is back in this prequel to Steven Saylor’s popular series of mysteries set in the Roman Republic of Cicero and Caesar. Gordianus is eighteen and embarks on the First Century BCE equivalent of a “Grand Tour” with his old tutor and famous poet Antipater of Sidon. As the Italian peninsula simmers with rebellion, the pair head east to visit the Seven Wonders of the World encountering murder, mysteries and political intrigues. Over the course of their year+ journey, Gordianus evolves into “the Finder” series readers have come to know and love.
For the record, I am not a Gordianus fan. I very much enjoyed Saylor’s multi-generational epics Roma and Empire, which I reviewed, but didn’t take to the couple of Finder novels I sampled. Not because they were bad books, but because I’m not that into historical mysteries. Every reader has her quirks. This book has a distinctly different structure from the others. Saylor uses the journey to visit the Seven Wonders as a framework for several short stories (many of which were previously published in mystery and fantasy magazines.) Each Wonder gets a story with a few interludes, such as attending the Olympic Games and visiting the ruins of Corinth, resulting in ten chapters dealing with murder, witchcraft, ghosts and gods. As their journey continues, a larger mystery entangles Gordianus and Antipater with spies and other enemies of Rome. Continue Reading »
Posted in Books, Fiction, Free stuff, Reviews | Tagged antipater of sidon, book review, free stuff, gordianus, gordianus the finder, historical fiction, historical mysteries, steven saylor, the seven wonders | 14 Comments »