Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I read of the historical-fiction genre since 2001.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads API.
The Green Glass Sea cover
The Green Glass Sea
by Ellen Klages (2008)
My review: Ellen Klages is the author of one of my favorite books, Passing Strange, so I was quite excited to learn she was going to speak at a local bookstore. It was very fascinating to learn about all the historical research the author did to write the book. While there I decided to also buy another one of her book with similar historical grounding. I finally got to read it... and what a treat it was!
The book is set in 1943. An eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is en route to New Mexico to live with her mathematician father. Soon she arrives at a town that, officially, doesn't exist. It is called Los Alamos, and it is abuzz with activity, as scientists and mathematicians from all over America and Europe work on the biggest secret of all... "the gadget." None of them, not J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project; not the mathematicians and scientists; and least of all, Dewey, know how much "the gadget" is about to change their lives.
A fascinating YA novel exploring the life of the young kids living in the Los Alamos secret facility where the Nuclear Bomb was invented. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 30 2019 Finished: Jan 14 2020
The Underground Railroad cover
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
Publisher review: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned--Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor--engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey--hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 16 2017 Finished: Apr 27 2017
Come See the Living Dryad cover
Come See the Living Dryad
by Theodora Goss (2017)
My review: A sublime short story, something that reads like a memoir, and that sits between historical fiction and mystery. Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss is the story of contemporary woman investigating the murder of an ancestor suffering from a rare disease who was a famous sideshow attraction in the nineteenth century. The disease, Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is unfortunately real, as was the exploitation of the sick and deformed in freak shows. The reader is left wondering how much of this story is fictional, and how much is real. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 09 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) cover
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
by Hilary Mantel (2010)
My review: This is the beginning of one of the most intriguing historical series of the century, the only series to ever win twice the Man Booker Prize for best novel. This is the story of Thomas Cromwell, from his humble beginning as an abused and violent kid, to the most powerful man in Henry VIII England. England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? (★★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2016 Finished: Sep 11 2016
The Danish Girl cover
The Danish Girl
by David Ebershoff (2015)
My review: A novel loosely inspired by the lives of Einar and Gerda Wegener, and Lili Elbe. In the book, Gerda is Greta, a rich and independent Californian, that follows her father to Denmark, when he leaves the States in a diplomatic mission. While there, she studies arts, and she meets (and falls for) her future husband, a shy yet famous painter. The book follows their extraordinary lives, before, during, and after the first world war, as they come to realize that, inside of Einar, lives Lili, a young woman, that will became Greta's muse. The book portrays their touching and moving relationship through Lili awakening, all the way through her gender confirmation surgery (she was one of the first recipients, and her case one of the most publicized).
This is a remarkable book, and I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 14 2016
The Devil in America cover
The Devil in America
by Kai Ashante Wilson
My review: I did not realize this short novel was nominated for the Nebula award, but I am far from being surprised: it is an incredibly powerful and memorable story.
Set shortly after the Civil War, this is the story of a mysterious family confronts the legacy that has pursued them across centuries, out of slavery, and finally to the idyllic peace of the town of Rosetree. The shattering consequences of this confrontation echo backwards and forwards in time, even to the present day. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 01 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
Dora Bruder cover
Dora Bruder
by Patrick Modiano
My review: This is the (real) story of an author (Patrick Modiano himself) fighting against the amnesia of time, and of a society that does not want to remember. In 1988 the author stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: "Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes". Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942. What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period: lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Petain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 02 2015 Finished: Jan 03 2015
Ultimo Viene Il Corvo (Opere di Italo Calvino) (Italian Edition) cover
Ultimo Viene Il Corvo (Opere di Italo Calvino) (Italian Edition)
by Italo Calvino
Publisher review: "... preferisco dividere la materia in tre parti, per mettere in evidenza tre linee tematiche del mio lavoro di quegli anni. La prima è il racconto 'della Resistenza' (o comunque di guerra o violenza) visto come avventura di suspense o di terrore, un tipo di narrativa che eravamo in parecchi a fare a quell'epoca. La seconda linea è pure comune a molta narrativa di quegli anni, ed è il racconto picaresco del dopoguerra, storie colorate di personaggi e appetiti elementari. Nella terza domina il paesaggio della Riviera, con ragazzi o adolescenti e animali, come personale sviluppo d'una 'letteratura della memoria'. È superfluo osservare che spesso le tre linee si congiungono." (Italo Calvino). Con uno scritto di Genio Pampaloni.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Aug 28 2014 Finished: Aug 31 2014
Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno cover
Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno
by Italo Calvino (2013)
My review: In questo caso, l'autore stesso ha scritto una review perfetta per questo straordinario libro: Questo romanzo è il primo che ho scritto; quasi posso dire la prima cosa che ho scritto, se si eccettuano pochi racconti.
Che impressione mi fa, a riprenderlo in mano adesso? Più che come un'opera mia lo leggo come un libro nato anonimamente dal clima generale d'un'epoca, da una tensione morale, da un gusto letterario che era quello in cui la nostra generazione si riconosceva, dopo la fine della Seconda Guerra Mondiale.
Al tempo in cui l'ho scritto, creare una "letteratura della Resistenza" era ancora un problema aperto, scrivere "il romanzo della Resistenza" si poneva come un imperativo; ... ogni volta che si è stati testimoni o attori d'un'epoca storica ci si sente presi da una responsabilità speciale ... A me, questa responsabilità finiva per farmi sentire il tema come troppo impegnativo e solenne per le mie forze. E allora, proprio per non lasciarmi mettere in soggezione dal tema, decisi che l'avrei affrontato non di petto ma di scorcio. Tutto doveva essere visto dagli occhi d'un bambino, in un ambiente di monelli e vagabondi. Inventai una storia che restasse in margine alla guerra partigiana, ai suoi eroismi e sacrifici, ma nello stesso tempo ne rendesse il colore, l'aspro sapore, il ritmo...
Started: Aug 15 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
Eye of the Needle cover
Eye of the Needle
by Ken Follett
My review: Another good historical-fiction / thriller from Ken Follett, set during world war II. One enemy spy, a brilliant aristocrat and ruthless assassin, learn the secret to the Allies' greatest deception. This information is the key to ultimate Nazi victory. Only one person stands in his way: a lonely Englishwoman on an isolated island, who is beginning to love the killer who has mysteriously entered her life. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 15 2014
The Book Thief cover
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Publisher review: Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time. (Note: this title was not published as YA fiction)
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 12 2014 Finished: Jun 28 2014
Wakulla Springs cover
Wakulla Springs
by Andy Duncan (2013)
My review: Despite being a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula 2013 awards, I would classify this novella as historical fiction, and not as science fiction or fantasy.
The story starts in the 1930s, in the deep South, at a time when segregation was the law of the land. Each chapter focuses on one pivotal moment in the life of a different member of the same family, each one belonging to a different generation. We are told the history of Wakulla Spring, a "white-only" retreat in the more pristine and wild corner of Florida, through their eyes.
The first two chapters are remarkable, because of the incredibly successful portrait of the past, as seen by the people living back then, and because of the well rounded character development. I just wish that the rest of the book was as good!
The last three chapters are quite short, almost as if they were written in a rush, and they feature characters that feel flat, quite uninteresting. The author introduces a couple of very small supernatural events, that do not fit well with the rest of the story, and that do not really add anything to it.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: (★★★)
Started: Jun 17 2014 Finished: Jun 19 2014
Burning Girls cover
Burning Girls
by Veronica Schanoes
My review: This is a rare example of sublime literature, an adroitly crafted, magnificently written novella spanning between the historical fiction and dark fantasy genres. The mix of the two genres works incredibly well: fantastic demons are metaphors of the real historical horrors, and supernatural elements reflects a system of beliefs and the superstitions of a community.
This is the story of Deborah, a Jewish girl growing in Poland at a time when anti-Semitic discrimination was the law, and the whole community lived in fear of pogroms. Her family is also faced with the prospect of poverty, since their main trade and source of income (sewing) suddenly has to compete with the products coming out from textile factories. Deborah inherited the holy powers from her grandmother, the zegorin of the village, that starts to train her to become one. Unfortunately her family is soon to be faced by a new wave of pogroms and supernatural events.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
On Wings of Eagles cover
On Wings of Eagles
by Ken Follett (1984)
My review: Apparently even the greatest authors have a price. On Wings of Eagles is based on real events: 2 American businessmen are put in jail with non formalized bribery accusations in the middle of the Iran Khomeini's Iran revolution, and they managed to escape back home. The story is told as told to the author by the main characters, one of which, Perot, pretty much commissioned the book. As a result the book reads like a puff job, where Perot and his executives are hailed as heroes for actions that are quite troubling. Faced with the incarceration of two of his executives, Perot decides to bypass the US government, and instead forms his own militia rescue party (using retired US army soldiers) and send them in Iran, to risk their life, ready to kill innocent civilians, endangering the US-Iranian relations (and the lives of the thousands of American in Iran at the time) in the middle of an extremely delicate situation (i.e. a full blown revolution), to save his two executives. The executives, at the end, are saved by the action of "Rashid", a smart Iranian employee, and by a lot of luck. I love Ken Follett work because it helps me to better understand history. This book does not shed any light on the Iranian revolution (but for a quick paragraph or two in the whole book). It focuses entirely on the event as seen from Perot, and it is clear that the only thing that matter to him was to save his two executives, at any coast, completely disregarding the well-being of the Iranian civilians and the other American in Iran. The story is adroitly written, but I found it very disturbing. I strongly recommend the following review, that I believe really touch all the important strengths and weaknesses of the book: . (★)
Started: Dec 20 2013 Finished: Jan 03 2014
The Color Purple cover
The Color Purple
by Alice Walker (1985)
My review: A deeply moving book, describing the lives of African American in the South of the United States in the 30s. The book touches many dramatic themes, such as domestic violence, incest, racism, sexism, gender roles, faith.
The book is the story of Celie, a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister", a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 25 2012 Finished: Nov 12 2012
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1) cover
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)
by Ken Follett
My review: It has been a while since I enjoyed so much reading a book. This impossible to put down book follows the interrelated stories of 5 families at the time of the first world war. History is lived through the fictional but historically accurate lives of the characters, German, British and Russian proletarians and nobility. It's mesmerizing to observe empires, political and social systems that have been existing for centuries crumble into dust, and to see a new world order emerging from the ashes of what it was, from all the destruction and the millios of deaths. The book made me realize how much social progress toke place in such a short time span, it made me grateful and appreciative of everything I have, and gave me hope for an even better future. Thanks for all those who fought for justice and democracy, and gave their life to give all of us a better world to live in.
Learn more in this blog post: (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2011 Finished: Dec 11 2011
March cover
by Geraldine Brooks (2006)
My review: In this Pulitzer prize winner book, Geraldine Brooks follows the steps that led Mr. March (the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women) to leave his family behind to join the anti-slavery Union cause during the America Civil War. The story told by Mr. March is drastically different from the optimistic child tale we are accustomed to. The moral certainties and optimistic views of Little Women are shattered in this extremely honest and sincere portrait of a country at war with itself. The horrors of slavery, war, and the weaknesses and hypocrisies of the human nature are exposed and laid bare for the reader to see. But the book is not only an incredible historical portrait of the Civil War, it is also a psychological novel focusing on the complex marriage of a man that struggle to live up to the person that he would like to be, and a courageous woman that has to bear the cost of her husband choices. (★★★★★)
Started: May 27 2011 Finished: Jun 12 2011
The Night Watch cover
The Night Watch
by Sarah Waters
My review: The Night Watch is the story of four commoners in World War II London, coping with personal and historical tragedies during air raids, black-outs and rationing. It is a story of loss, illicit affairs, desperation, hope, and love. Historical novels and movies have the tendency to be epic, to turn the characters into heroes, events into epics. As a result it is hard to identify with the characters, to understand what was like to live those events. The Night Watch does not fall in that trap. Its WWII London and its characters are just commoners, with common weaknesses, hopes, fears and tragedies. As a result it is impossible to not identify with them. It is impossible to not experience all the horrors, the destruction, the fears they experience, or not to share their hopes or their joy for historically insignificant but extremely real events. The result is an extremely powerful novel, able to shake the reader to the core. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 10 2010 Finished: Dec 04 2010
The Master cover
The Master
by Colm Tóibín
My review: Like Michael Cunningham in The Hours, Colm Toibin captures the extraordinary mind and heart of a great writer. Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of a man born into one of America's first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers. In stunningly resonant prose, Toibin captures the loneliness and the hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably failed those he tried to love. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 03 2010 Finished: May 09 2010
The Charioteer cover
The Charioteer
by Mary Renault
My review: This is the story of Laurie, an injured world war II soldier, recovering from his injuries in a hospital. While there he meets a Quaker and conscience objector, Andrew, whom he slowly falls in love with. The love is strictly platonic, both men haven't even come to terms with their homosexuality, or even realized that they are gay. Then Laurie meets his school senpai, his never confessed first love. It is at this point that the story become quite interesting (after a very slow start) in the discovery of the humanity and fragility of each character. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 19 2010 Finished: Mar 21 2010
The White Castle cover
The White Castle
by Orhan Pamuk
My review: The book reads, at first, as a classic novel. The first person narrator is the main characters, and everything is seen and described from his point of view. At first, the story is a reckoning of his misadventures (he was a 17th century Venetian, that was captured and enslaved by the Turks). Soon enough the book gets more intriguing. The unnamed Venetian is given in custody to the scholar Hoja, which physically resemble him to an almost sinister degree. The East and the West meet in Hoja's house. They start discussing science and philosophy. They discuss the mysteries of the mind, why we are what we are. Hoja's strongly believes that at the end the Christians European will prevail against the Turks thanks to technological superiority. He strongly recognizes the importance of science, and he laments that its importance is not understood by many others, that he labels "the fools". Discussion after discussion, the characters start to blur one into the other, they take the role of the other and at the end it is not even clear which one is the Turk and which one the Venetian. An incredible literary achievement. I am not surprised that the 2006 Nobel Prize for the literature was awarded to Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures". (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 22 2007 Finished: May 01 2007
La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana. Romanzo illustrato cover
La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana. Romanzo illustrato
by Umberto Eco (2004)
My review: In tutti I romanzi di Eco il protagonista principale e' sempre la storia, ricostruita nei minimi particolari, con precisione certosina. Questo libro non fa eccezione, e l'italia del fascismo e' la protagonista. A differenza dei precedenti romanzi pero', l'autore ha vissuto quel periodo storico. Di colpo il tutto si tinge di autobiografismo e la ricostruzione si colora di emozioni, desideri. Non e' piu' la storia degli storici, ma quella vissuta sulla propria pelle da ragazzini, ove le guerre si mescolano ai fumetti e i film alle cotte. Oltre al tema storico/autobiografico si innesta il tema portante del libro, quello della memoria, dei ricordi e dell'esperienze come elementi di definizione della persona. Questo e' uno dei romanzi piu' riusciti dell'autore, che consiglio vivamente. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 06 2007 Finished: Feb 03 2007
The Story of the Night cover
The Story of the Night
by Colm Tóibín
My review: I read and really liked Toibin's Mothers and Sons a couple of years ago, hence I decided to read more of his work. I was not disappointed. He's a great storyteller, able to communicate in a very powerful way emotions and feelings. He's able to create extremely realistic and credible characters. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 02 2006 Finished: Dec 21 2006
As Meat Loves Salt cover
As Meat Loves Salt
by Maria McCann
My review: If you never felt in love, get scared of it, and lost the person you loved, do not read this book, it won't make sense to you. If you have been driven mad by the loss, and you have tried to not let it go using your fingernails, losing it because of it for good... if the searing pain is not abated yet, do not read this book, because the demon of loss and despair will tear your soul apart. It is rare to find a book able to shake you deeply all the way to your core. This is one of them. This is the author first book. It is sometimes slow toward the middle, but the author is always adroit in communicating what is not said or admitted through the cunning use of powerful little gestures, word choices and signs. It is the final though that turn the book into a masterpiece and shows how such a talented writer Maria is. I am looking forward her next book. (★★★★★)
Started: May 29 2006 Finished: Jul 20 2006
Hornet Flight cover
Hornet Flight
by Ken Follett
My review: A great historical spy thriller set in World War II Denmark. 18-year-old Danish schoolboy Harald Olufsen grows increasingly dissatisfied with his country's cooperation with the German invaders. His resentment of the Wehrmacht leads him to discover the truth about a hidden military installation, a truth known to only a select few in the Nazi organization. Harald knows that he must get to Britain to turn the tides of this war, but to do so in time to save the bombers, Harald has one option: flight. (★★★)
Started: Aug 01 2005 Finished: Aug 19 2005
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil cover
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt
My review: This book is quite hard to describe: it starts as a diary, a Savannah city guide, a travel book. Soon it turns into dirty-linned airing and mystery book. A surprising and interesting book. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 18 2004 Finished: Dec 29 2004
Uncle Tom’s Cabin cover
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1999)
My review: This is a great masterpiece: it is powerful and moving, intense and breathtaking. It reminded me how important freedom is and how much we take it for granted every day. It also made me understand this country better. (★★★★★)
Started: May 01 2004 Finished: Nov 11 2004
Jackdaws cover
by Ken Follett
My review: This is the third Follett's book I read and so far my favorite one. It is as fast paced, enjoyable and historical accurate as usual but this book succeed in creating very memorable and well-rounded characters, that manage to fascinate and capture your interest. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2004 Finished: Feb 21 2004
Code to Zero cover
Code to Zero
by Ken Follett
My review: I am a big fan of Ken Follett, and this is quite an entertaining book, but it pales in comparison to some of his other books. The historical setting this time is the cold war, and the space race between Russia and the Unites States. The book is an hard to put down suspenseful read, with a lot of unexpected plot twists. (★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2004 Finished: Jan 12 2004
Five Quarters of the Orange cover
Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris
My review: Incredible and amazing. This is one of the best book I have ever read. The story is captivating, evocative, powerful and realistic. The characters feels real and alive. The author is an expert, powerful, and incredible storyteller. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 19 2003 Finished: Sep 25 2003
Girl with a Pearl Earring cover
Girl with a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier (2005)
My review: With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries, and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of this novel. Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant, and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. I was disappointed by the book. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. But... At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic and some epiphanic scenes do not work at all. (★★)
Started: Sep 02 2003 Finished: Sep 15 2003
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1) cover
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1)
by Ken Follett (2002)
My review: In twelfth-century feudal England, a master builder plans to erect a towering cathedral. But, unfortunately, he lives in a world of rigid class structures where corrupt kings and queens rule, and the common man shows eternal promise. Around the construction site swirls a cast of characters in a story of betrayal, revenge, and love. Another epic masterpiece by Ken Follett.
Read more about the Kingsbridge series here: (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2003 Finished: Jun 26 2003
Year of Wonders cover
Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks (2002)
My review: The book is based on a real story: in 1666 a small town in England is hit by the Plague. The town decided to close itself out from the outside world to avoid spreading the disease. As more and more people die in the village, the tension start rising, bringing forth the best and the worst of the human nature. The plot is gripping and fascinating, but what sets the book apart is the stunning emotional characterizations of the various protagonist. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 22 2002 Finished: Feb 06 2003
The Fig Eater cover
The Fig Eater
by Jody Shields
My review: I usually am not really fond of mystery books, but I quite enjoyed this book, a mix of historical fiction, psychological introspection, mystery, and feminism. It is inspired by one of the most famous and controversial of Freud's cases (Dora's case, a girl that discovers the father infidelity with the father of his best friend, the same friend that later tries to seduce Dora), and it starts with the body of a young girl found dead in the middle of a park in turn-of-the-century Vienna... (★★★★)
Started: Oct 23 2002 Finished: Dec 05 2002
Baudolino cover
by Umberto Eco (2003)
My review: Ho sempre amato i libri di Umberto Eco, e ho particolarmente amato questo libro. In questo libro il protagonista (Baudolino, nato contadino e arrivato ad essere figlio di Barbarossa) e' narratore, risultando in uno stile ben diverso dallo scolastico ed erudito parlare dell'Eco dei libri precedenti. Il risultato e' piu' facilmente fruibile, piu' scorrevole, ma sempre storicamente accurato e affascinante. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 23 2001 Finished: Oct 13 2001
Memoirs of a Geisha cover
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden (1999)
My review: I was just landed in the US, and I decided to start reading some American books to improve my English. My friend Kirsten suggested me a couple of books: this one and "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson. She lent me this one. I was amazed to be able to read an English book without using the Dictionary... I really enjoyed it. Maybe the happy ending is a bit artificial, but it is a really good book. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2000 Finished: Jan 05 2001
L'isola del giorno prima cover
L'isola del giorno prima
by Umberto Eco (1994)
Publisher review:

Nell'estate del 1643 un giovane piemontese naufraga, nei mari del sud, su di una nave deserta. Di fronte a lui un'Isola che non può raggiungere. Intorno a lui un ambiente apparentemente accogliente. Solo, su un mare sconosciuto, Roberto de la Grive vede per la prima volta in vita sua cieli, acque, uccelli, piante, pesci e coralli che non sa come nominare. Scrive lettere d'amore, attraverso le quali si indovina la sua storia: una lenta e traumatica iniziazione al mondo secentesco della nuova scienza, della ragion di stato, di un cosmo in cui la terra non è più al centro dell'universo. Roberto vive la sua vicenda tutta giocata sulla memoria e sull'attesa di approdare a un'Isola che non è lontana solo nello spazio, ma anche nel tempo.

My rating: ★★★
Finished: Mar 15 1999
Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini cover
Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini
by Giorgio Bassani (2001)
Publisher review: Il romanzo si apre con un Prologo in cui Bassani descrive come una sua visita, nel 1957, alla necropoli etrusca di Cerveteri abbia suscitato in lui una breve riflessione sul rapporto dialettico tra la vita e la morte, fortemente intrecciato con quello fra il tempo passato e il presente. L’occasione lo spinge indietro con la memoria, a Ferrara, e al cimitero ebraico in fondo a via Montebello, e in particolare alla tomba monumentale dei Finzi-Contini, dove riposa un unico membro della famiglia che aveva conosciuto negli anni precedenti la seconda guerra mondiale. Il libro è, quindi, un omaggio memoriale postumo a questo gruppo di israeliti, destinati a morire nei lager nazisti, per restituirli alla vita attraverso la forza dell’arte. La vicenda è ambientata nei tempi cupi del fascismo e delle leggi razziali che colpirono tante case ebraiche e che esclusero i giovani dalle scuole pubbliche e da tutte le associazioni culturali e ricreative. Per questo motivo Ermanno e Olga Finzi-Contini rompono la loro cortina di riservatezza e aprono i cancelli del proprio giardino a un gruppo di coetanei dei figli Alberto e Micòl. Fra questi giovani c’è anche l’io narrante, già da tempo affascinato da quel luogo, ma soprattutto dal modo d’agire enigmatico e imprevedibile di Micòl, personaggio simbolico che richiama gli archetipi mitici del viaggio iniziatico dall’adolescenza alla maturità. La delicata storia di un amore tacito e discreto, chiuso nell’ambito di un giardino, di un campo da tennis e di una casa, si apre allora nella prospettiva di una storia più ampia, che coinvolge l’intimo inafferrabile di ogni creatura umana.
My rating:
Finished: Jul 04 1997
Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis cover
Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis
by Ugo Foscolo (1993)
Publisher review: Librarian's Note: this is an alternate cover edition - ISBN 10: 8817172839
My rating: ★★★★★
Finished: Jul 01 1994
Vita di Galileo cover
Vita di Galileo
by Bertolt Brecht (2013)
Publisher review: Frutto di diverse stesure, la commedia nasce negli anni che precedono immediatamente la Seconda guerra mondiale e che vedono sperimentare e utilizzare a fini bellici la scissione dell'atomo, gli anni in cui si compie definitivamente una paurossa frattura tra progresso tecnico e progresso sociale. La figura di Galileo, lo scienziato che con le sue rivoluzionarie intuizioni rischia di mettere a repentaglio gli equilibri teologici e sociali del suo tempo e che si piega alla ritrattazione per timore della tortura e per mancanza di agonismo eroico, è la metafora dello scienzito moderno, dell'intellettuale perseguitato dall'inesorabile binomio scienza-fanatismo. Eppure, nonostante il suo intimo dissidio, la sua contraddittorietà, questo Galileo brechtiano è figura umanamente ricca, moderna proprio perché, pur asserendo in modo geniale la verità contro l'ignoranza, la superstizione e il conformismo, egli resta in bilico perenne tra due fronti. Dramma implicitamente antiatomico, "Vita di Galileo" mantiene oggi, al di là della sua straordinaria efficacia scenica, una notevole attualità proprio tematizzando la figura degli scienziati "deboli", subalterni al potere politico, "gnomi" venali, troppo spesso privi di coraggio etico.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Mar 01 1994
L'avventura d'un povero cristiano cover
L'avventura d'un povero cristiano
by Ignazio Silone (1998)
My review: Il dramma dell'eremita Pietro Angelerio del Morrone, eletto pontefice nel 1294, con il nome di Celestino V, poi dimessosi perchè convinto dell'impossibilità di conciliare lo spirito del Vangelo con i doveri del trono. (★★★)
Started: Jan 01 1991 Finished: Jan 01 1991
Bent cover
by Martin Sherman
Publisher review: (Applause Books). Martin Sherman's worldwide hit play Bent took London by storm in 1979 when it was first performed by the Royal Court Theatre, with Ian McKellen as Max (a character written with the actor in mind). The play itself caused an uproar. "It educated the world," Sherman explains. "People knew about how the Third Reich treated Jews and, to some extent, gypsies and political prisoners. But very little had come out about their treatment of homosexuals." Gays were arrested and interned at work camps prior to the genocide of Jews, gypsies, and handicapped, and continued to be imprisoned even after the fall of the Third Reich and liberation of the camps. The play Bent highlights the reason why - a largely ignored German law, Paragraph 175, making homosexuality a criminal offense, which Hitler reactivated and strengthened during his rise to power.
My rating:
Il Gattopardo cover
Il Gattopardo
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Publisher review: Alternative cover for 9788807810282. Don Fabrizio, principe di Salina, all'arrivo dei Garibaldini, sente inevitabile il declino e la rovina della sua classe. Approva il matrimonio del nipote Tancredi, senza più risorse economiche, con la figlia, che porta con sé una ricca dote, di Calogero Sedara, un astuto borghese. Don Fabrizio rifiuta però il seggio al Senato che gli viene offerto, ormai disincantato e pessimista sulla possibile sopravvivenza di una civiltà in decadenza e propone al suo posto proprio il borghese Calogero Sedara.
My rating:
Dieci Novelle cover
Dieci Novelle
by Giovanni Verga (1988)
Publisher review: Dieci delle piu' famose novelle di Giovanni Verga.
My rating:
Mastro Don Desualdo cover
Mastro Don Desualdo
by Giovanni Verga (1989)
Publisher review: Con Mastro Don Gesualdo, pubblicato in volume nel 1889 dopo una serie di tormentosi rifacimenti, Verga raggiunge la prima tappa del progettato ciclo dei Vinti, allargando la sua indagine a un ambiente piu' complesso di quello dei Malavoglia. Il romanzo da' vita ad un ampio affresco della provincia siciliana dell'Ottocento.
My rating:
I Malavoglia cover
I Malavoglia
by Giovanni Verga (1983)
Publisher review: Nei Malavoglia (1881) Verga si immerge nella realtà locale di un paese siciliano, Aci Trezza, e racconta la semplice e rissosa quotidianità in cui vivono i Toscano, detti appunto i Malavoglia. Avvertendo come poco espressive le realtà borghesi, Verga cerca di rompere l'impianto romanzesco classico, reinventando le regole del gioco narrativo per dare spazio alla coralità dei personaggi, ritratti nella loro vitale specificità. Questa edizione mette in luce la storia e la formazione del testo attraverso i successivi progetti e abbozzi dell'autore. L'ampio commento a piè di pagina, oltre a spiegazioni letterali e notazioni intertestuali, sottolinea l'organizzazione delle sequenze e la funzione dei motivi, individua le voci principali del romanzo e i controcanti interni, fornisce gli elementi per comprendere i congegni della macchina narrativa.
My rating:
Tutte le novelle cover
Tutte le novelle
by Giovanni Verga (1992)
Publisher review: La Sicilia è una terra aspra e difficile, che concede poco, ma che ha regalato nel corso del tempo grandi storie, scritte da chi ha saputo coglierne il nucleo incandescente e metterlo in scena in forma narrativa. Tra questi, un posto di primissimo piano spetta a Giovanni Verga, l'autore dei "Malavoglia" e di Mastro don Gesualdo, ma anche di un numero eccezionale di novelle nelle quali si sperimenta un nuovo modo di fare racconto, ricorrendo ai criteri di un realismo asciutto e crudo in grado dì far avvertire al lettore le condizioni di vita -i costumi e le prassi sociali - della Sicilia del secondo Ottocento.
My rating:
I Promessi Sposi cover
I Promessi Sposi
by Alessandro Manzoni (2010)
Publisher review: "Storia milanese del XVII secolo scoperta e rifatta da Alessandro Manzoni" era il sottotitolo con cui l'autore presentava 'I promessi sposi', uno dei capolavori della nostra letteratura, romanzo in cui si fondono poesia, impegno umano e ironia. Questa edizione si avvale di una premessa e di un corredo di note.
My rating:
La morte a Venezia cover
La morte a Venezia
by Thomas Mann (1990)
Publisher review: Il famoso scrittore tedesco Gustav Aschenbach, che ha basato la sua vita e l'intera opera sulla più ostinata fedeltà ai canoni classici dell'estetica e dell'etica, è spinto a Venezia da un misterioso impulso. Nell'attimo in cui balena sulla spiaggia del Lido la spietata bellezza del ragazzo polacco Tadzio, Aschenbach avverte il definitivo segno del destino: l'anelito allo sfacelo. La morte a Venezia (1913), oltre che un romanzo, è una cerimonia.
My rating:
Gli uomini con il triangolo rosa cover
Gli uomini con il triangolo rosa
by Heinz Heger (1991)
Publisher review: Ricordo di aver letto questo romanzo per la prima volta quando apparve la traduzione inglese, nel 1981, e di esserne stato scosso: nonostante avessi letto molti libri sull'olocausto nazista, quella era la prima volta che veniva detto che esso aveva coinvolto direttamente gli omosessuali. Si tratta si di un romanzo, ma racconta in effetti vicende documentate da testimonianze autentiche. Questo lo rende diverso da tante ricostruzioni di fantasie intese piu'a tintillare la morbosita' del lettore che a ricostruire una vicenda umana e storica. Inglobando i vari documenti in una narrazione che ha la forma della testimonianza in prima persona , ne e' risultato un libro che ha colpito l'immaginazione degli oomosessuali di tutto il mondo, e ha permesso loro di identificarsi in quella tragedia apparentemente cosi' remota nel tempo e nello spazio. (Giovanni Dall'Orto, storico)
My rating: ★★★★★
Il pendolo di Foucault cover
Il pendolo di Foucault
by Umberto Eco
Publisher review: "... questo romanzo magico sulla magia, questo romanzo misteriosa sul segreto e sulla creatività della finzione, questo romanzo tumultuoso, questo romanzo luminoso su un mondo sotterraneo..." (Jacques Le Goff, L'Espresso); "Il messaggio del suo libro, se letto - come bisogna fare - come un libro sui misteri della fine del XX secolo, potrebbe anche voler dire che la storia da lui raccontata non è ancora finita..." (Alberto Asor Rosa, La Repubblica); "Il pendolo è libro superiore al Nome della rosa, pur se meno organico, proprio in quanto vi si incontra anche un Eco che non è più ludico ma, come dice Mondo, 'ha messo in gioco tutto se stesso'." (Maria Corti, L'Indice)
My rating: