I have had an excellent week at the library. Two long awaited reservations arrived ,and I spotted two more gems on the shelves. All are historical, so please come with me on a journey through time:
We start in the 14th century:
The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland
“England, 1321. Deep in the heart of countryside lies an isolated village governed by a sinister regime of Owl Masters – theirs is a pagan world of terror and blackmail, where neighbour denounces neighbour and sin is punishable by murder. This dark status quo is disturbed by the arrival of a house of religious women, who establish a community outside the village. Why do their crops succeed when village crops fail; their cattle survive despite the plague? But petty jealousy turns deadly when the women give refuge to a young martyr. For she dies a gruesome death after spitting the sacramental host into flames that can’t burn it – what magic is this? Or is the martyr now a saint and the host a holy relic? Accusations of witchcraft and heresy run rife while the Owl Masters rain down hellfire and torment on the women, who must look to their faith to save them from the lengthening shadow of Evil … a shadow with predatory, terrifying talons.”
Karen Maitland’s debut was one of my favourite books of last year and I have been looking forward to this one. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? And isn’t the cover lovely?
And then we travel forwards, to the middle of the 19th century:
McNaughten by Sian Busby
“The winter of 1843 is one of bitter strife for England. The nation is on the brink of ruin and revolution, the government struggling to stand firm against the rising chaos.
Out of this apocalyptic landscape emerges a young Scotsman, Daniel McNaughten. He has been on a journey, a descent into his own despair, mirroring the tribulations of society at large. His journey will end in London, with the death of an apparently innocent man. One freezing day in January, he takes a shot at the Prime Minister’s Private Secretary, Edward Drummond, as he makes his way to Downing Street. The incident rocks the nation. Has the assassin perhaps mistaken Mr. Drummond for the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel? And who is this McNaughten? A dangerous political radical – possibly the agent of an entire network of revolutionaries – or a religious fanatic? Is he a lunatic, or merely a victim of the collective madness that surrounds him?”
I love the period and this is based on a true story I know nothing about.
On now to the early years of the 20th century:
The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon
“Evelyn is a young woman who has defied convention to become one of the country’s pioneer female lawyers. Living at home with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, Evelyn is still haunted by the death of her younger brother James in the First World War. Therefore when the doorbell rings late one night and a woman appears, claiming to have mothered James’s child, her world is turned upside down. Evelyn distrusts Meredith at first, but also finds that this new arrival challenges her work-obsessed lifestyle. So far her legal career has not set the world alight. But then two cases arise that make Evelyn realise perhaps she can make a difference. The first concerns woman called Leah Marchant whose children have been taken away from her simply because she is poor. The second, Stephen Wheeler – a former acquaintance of Daniel Breen, her boss – has been charged with murdering his own wife. It is clear to Breen and Evelyn that Wheeler is innocent but he won’t talk. After being humiliated in court, Evelyn is approached by a dashing lawyer called Nicholas Thorne. She is needled by his privileged background and old-fashioned attitudes, but despite being engaged, he cannot seem to resist sparring with this feisty young female. In the meantime, Meredith makes an earth-shattering accusation about James. With the Wheeler case coming to a head, and her heart in limbo, Evelyn takes matters into her own hands.”
Another period I love. I like the sound of the story and I’m hoping to learn a little about how women established themselves in the legal profession.
And finally, a few decades forward, to the years just after the war.
A Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
“In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.”
This must be one of the most anticipated books of the year. I was tempted to rush out and buy a copy, but I restrained myself and placed an order at the library instead. It arrived a couple of days ago, reading is well underway and I’ll be writing something at the weekend.
And then, with just a hop, a skip and a jump, we are back in the present day.
Do you like to travel in time? Do you have a favourie period?
Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
And what did you find in the library this week?
See more Library Loot here.