Last week I described a number of books I really enjoyed in 2015, but saving the best for last, my top three novels are: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner, Thieving Forest by Martha Conway and The Physician by Noah Gordon. All three are meticulously researched with period details and have wonderful characters.
I love the opening line of The Physician: “But it came to seem that Kilmarnock had always been his life, and that what had happened before was a tale he had heard told around the fire when the wind blew cold.” This fascinating novel is set in Saxon England and 11th-century Persia. Bob Cole is orphaned in London and apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. As he grows to manhood he learns of a legendary Persian University of medicine. The adventure includes not only a dangerous journey, but a risky impersonation as he wins the Shah’s favor, falls in love and becomes a well-regarded physician. The research covers medieval medicine, Britain and Persia, and the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions of the time. Compelling, entertaining and informative, I highly recommend it. This book has been around for a long time, but I always say stories never grow old.
A Fall of Marigolds: Ah, a book to curl up with by the fire on a winter evening – a story about love and loss, secrets and the aftermath of a disaster. It is well crafted even if a couple of scenes felt a bit contrived. The lyrical writing meshes a contemporary story (of 9/11) with a tale about a nurse on Ellis Island in 1911 – all bound together by a beautiful scarf (you’ll see). An easy read that imparts some background on New York City and Ellis Island. I gave it five stars – based on the pleasure this book gave me
Finally Thieving Forest is a page-turning novel set in the 1800’s, by a new writer. Four sisters are kidnapped by “friendly” Indians, for mysterious reasons, and a fifth sister takes off in the Ohio wilderness to find them. Susanna is only seventeen years old and the hardships she endures on her harrowing, authentic journey are vivid. As writer myself, I again admire the amount of research that went into this richly detailed book. One thing people may find jarring are the occasional shifts in point of view from the main protagonist (personally I don’t mind breaking this rule.) One of the best books I read this year.
Have you read any of these books? My full reviews for these and other books are on Amazon.com. A list of my all time favorite books can be found at cindamackinnon.wordpress/books-i-have-known-and-loved/. What are yours?