Four new historical fiction novels that resonate in the here and now | Books And Authors

On a Night of a Thousand Stars

By Andrea Yaryura Clark

Grand Central Publishing, 352 pages, $35.00

This dual narrative moves effortlessly between 21-year-old Paloma Larrea’s 1998 current life and her father Santiago’s life in the years leading up to the Argentine military coup in 1976.

In the present, the Larrea family travels to Buenos Aires for Santiago’s installation as the Argentine ambassador to the United Nations. While there, Paloma’s understanding of her polo-playing father shifts as she discovers his part of her in the resistance movement of the 1970s, a time when paramilitary squads hunted, tortured and killed anyone who expressed left-leaning ideas.

Meeting with “Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence,” Paloma searches for information on the disappearedthe almost 30 thousand people who disappeared during Jorge Rafael Videla’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, and what she discovers alters her understanding of herself and her own life.

History is reclaimed in this magnetic debut, with Clark determined to excavate the past on behalf of its sufferers.

The Christie Affair

By Nina de Gramont

St. Martin’s Press, 320 pages, $24.99

Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days in December 1926, abandoning her car at a chalk pit, her fur coat, suitcase and driver’s license on its back seat. When she was later discovered at a hotel spa and questioned about her disappearance de ella, she said she did n’t remember what had happened. In all the years after, she never changed that claim.

In De Gramont’s fascinating, elegant reimagining of those days, Agatha’s husband Archie’s mistress, here fictionalized as Nan O’Dea, tells us, tauntingly in the opening sentence, that “a long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman. ” Both Agatha and Nan share “determination born of desperation transformed into purpose” to protect their daughters above all else.

While it’s historically true that 100 policemen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy Sayers were involved in the search for the missing author, de Gramont adds two murders at the spa where Nan’s path crosses with Agatha’s — O’Dea obliquely notes that “what some call murder , others might call justice.”

A compelling story of secrets, sacrifice and true love that richly imagines Christie’s disappearance, the mystery around which remains unresolved almost a century later.

The Tobacco Wives

By Adele Myers

William Morrow, 352 pages, $34.99

This moving coming-of-age tale follows savvy 15-year-old Maddie Sykes, whose father died in WWII and whose mother abandons her to pursue new romance, as she moves to her Great Aunt Etta’s in Bright Leaf, North Carolina in 1947. A talented seamstress, Etta has a thriving business sewing for the wives of powerful tobacco executives and making uniforms for the female factory workers, and Maddie becomes her doting apprentice.

When Etta is hospitalized with measles, Maddie is invited to live with the Winstons, as “Miss Mitzy” is not only one of Etta’s clients, but a generous citizen. “MOMints” is a new product that the Winstons’ Bright Leaf Tobacco is marketing directly to women with the slogan: “Because every woman deserves a moment to herself.” Maddie finds a letter that reveals explosive research about the dangerous effects of smoking on pregnant women and struggles with what to do about her knowledge of her.

A winning debut that reveals how our past is always with us.

The Next Ship Home

By Heather Webb

Sourcebooks Landmark, 432 pages, $24.99

At Ellis Island in 1902 two strangers meet by chance: Francesca, a young Italian immigrant hoping to begin life anew as a cook in New York City, and Alma, a German American who dreams of becoming a translator in order to live independently away from her controlling stepfather and his family business.

If refused entry to the United States, Francesca will be on the next ship home to a grim, abusive life, so she must make a desperate decision to ensure she will be accepted. Corruption abounds at the immigration center where men in powerful positions criminally manipulate the vulnerable hopefuls.

When Francesca confides her terrible secret to Alma, it threatens to destroy them both. Luckily, the kindness of a handful of strangers not only buoys both young women but also helps them navigate a way forward.

Under Webb’s skilled pen unfolds the story of how these resilient immigrants persist and female friendship triumphs in the face of adversity.

Janet Somerville is the author of “Yours, for Probably Always: Martha Gellhorn’s Letters of Love & War 1930-1949,” available now in audio, read by Ellen Barkin.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.