Tuesday, January 31, 2023

CHALLENGE: Historical Reading Challenge January

Marg at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader is hosting once again the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I think we are supposed to link each review, but I like this monthly round up of whatever historical fiction reviews I get written. 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

unknown time period, but before electricity was widespread; felt British early 20th-late 19th century

Time-traveling, so that makes it weird and hard to follow, mixed with a dose of Groundhog Day. A visitor to an estate has to solve a murder and keeps waking up in a different body/perspective at different times in the story. 

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
1550s Florence, Italy

I read so much English lit and historical fiction, that getting exposed to Italian historical fiction is just so different that it feels more interesting. It may be why the Neopolitan books by Elena Ferente were so popular. Here we have a poor child married off by her father, a Medici, to a count of Ferera. Poor girl had no chance. The legend is that she is the Last Duchess in the poem everyone likes, My Last Duchess by Browning and a portrait of her is a major plot point. It's also major foreshadowing to have that  quote at the start of the book.

O'Farrell uses a back and forth, past and present, to tell the story. It gives a picture of Lucrezia as a child, and the woman she becomes. Only Lucrezia gets fleshed out very much; the men are all a-* holes, filled with power and no consequences, and they remain stock characters. That was fine, I didn't want to know more about them. I did appreciate that characters didn't seem to have modern sensibilities dealing with their historical situations. So there were women trying to help Lucrezia, but only in small ways that women could have back then. O'Farrell doesn't disappoint with this HF.