SEVEN CIRCUMSTANCES

Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

More Historical Fiction – Short Reviews

About these reviews

These reviews were written for FairLady Magazine, a South African women’s monthly magazine. The word limit was 125, occasionally expanded to 250. Often, the books were galley proofs or early editions. Some of these reviews have been updated with recent author information.

⭐️Good enough for the genre
⭐️⭐️ Very good
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Excellent – A keeper

⚡️Mediocre but there’s hope
⚡️⚡️Bad for any number of reasons
⚡️⚡️⚡️Ghastly – don’t read it

The Piano - A Novel, by Jane Campion and Kate Pullinger (Miramax Books, 1994)

The Piano – A novel, by Jane Campion and Kate Pullinger
⭐️⭐️⭐️
One of the most gripping sex scenes I’ve ever read are from The Piano – A Novel, by Jane Campion and Kate Pullinger. It is an erotic romance novel set during the mid-19th century on the West coast of New Zealand. (Continue reading…)


The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
⭐️⭐️
Eco, born 5 January 1932, the renowned novelist, essayist, literary critic, philosopher, and semiotician, wrote to the last, publishing Il cimitero di Praga (2010)…(Continue reading…)


(2010) Michelle Moran writes so evocatively about the women of ancient Egypt and Rome, that they come alive and are unforgettable. Her novels are genuinely gripping, and though she dramatises select periods, she sticks to the historical facts. Recounting the early years of Princess Cleopatra Selene II, the story begins with the banishment of Selene and her brother to Rome after their mother’s death. Spied on, threatened, and ostracised, they had adapt to Roman life. But Selene’s saving graces were her intelligence, iron will and compassion, and only she survived. Contrary to convention, she was educated as an architect and married King Juba II of Numidia, establishing a great dynasty in Mauretania. All one can say is: More please, Michelle Moran.

Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Michelle Moran
⭐️½
Michelle Moran writes so evocatively about the women of ancient Egypt and Rome, that they come alive and are unforgettable. (Continue reading…)


Envy, by Anna Godbersen

Envy, by Anna Godbersen
⚡️⚡️⚡️
Least said, soonest forgotten. (Continue reading…)

 


John, by Niall Willams

John, by Niall Williams
⭐️
Niall Williams wrote this because he wondered what the apostle John of Patmos was doing the day before he wrote the Book of Revelation. (Continue reading…)


Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey
⭐️⭐️
This is a witty and highly entertaining take on the nature of democracy, status and social acceptance…(Continue reading…)


Pearl of China, by Anchee Min

Pearl of China, by Anchee Min
⭐️½
Part eulogy, part fond memoir, part political thriller, this novel resurrects the forgotten literary phenomenon that was Pearl S. Buck. (Continue reading…)


The Book of Human Skin, by Michelle Lovric

The Book of Human Skin, by Michelle Lovric
⭐️⭐️⭐️
The title is a fair indication of what lurks inside the covers of this book. It has been compared to Harris’s Silence of the Lambs, Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Süskind’s Perfume – but I have never read anything quite like it. (Continue reading…)


The Collector of Worlds, by Iliya Troyanov

The Collector of Worlds, by Iliya Troyanov
⭐️½
In this book, Troyanov has created more than a novelized history of the life of the famous explorer, Sir Richard Burton. (Continue reading…)


The Courier's Tale, by Peter Walker

The Courier’s Tale, by Peter Walker
⭐️⭐️
It takes enormous skill to turn really intricate and esoteric religious debate into gripping fiction, and Peter Walker demonstrates this skill perfectly… (Continue reading…)


The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran

The Heretic Queen, by Michelle Moran
⭐️½
The Heretic Queen is the story of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses the Great and niece of the “heretic queen”, Nefertiti. (Continue reading…)


The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet2

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, by Colleen McCullough
⚡️⚡️½
All highly unlikely and rambling, perhaps the author had actually intended it to be a Regency comedy of manners… (Continue reading…)


The Invisible Mountain, by Carolina de Robertis

The Invisible Mountain, by Carolina de Robertis
⭐️⭐️½
As much as this novel is a family saga, it is also a history of Uruguay from the early 1900s to the present. (Continue reading…)


The Lady and the Poet, by Maeve Haran

The Lady and the Poet, by Maeve Haran
⭐️½
“We had not one another at so cheap a rate, as that we should ever be weary of one another.” (Continue reading…)

 


The Mistaken Wife, by Rose Melikan

The Counterfeit Guest, by Rose Melikan

The Blackstone Key, by Rose Melikan

The Blackstone Key, by Rose Melikan ⭐️
The Counterfeit Guest, by Rose Melikan ⚡️
The Mistaken Wife, by Rose Melikan ⚡️⚡️

This, Rose Melikan’s debut novel, is far more entertaining and plausible than the second novel in the series, The Counterfeit Guest. She starts well, but cannot sustain the style in the subsequent novels. Call it writer’s fatigue if you wish, but it went from OK to bad. (Continue reading…)


The Other Queen, by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen, by Philippa Gregory
⭐️½
Philippa Gregory depicts Mary, Queen of Scots, as darkly beautiful and simultaneously demure and alluring. She was actually unattractively pale, eyebrow-less, and thin-lipped. (Continued reading…)


The Sonnet Lover, by Carol Goodman

The Sonnet Lover, by Carol Goodman
⚡️
This novel is based on an interesting literary conundrum:- Did William Shakespeare have an Italian lady love who was also a poet? (Continue reading…)


I wish I could say nice things about this novel, because it is a quite clever, modern take on the knight’s quest of an Arthurian legend, with more than a nod in the direction of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The setting might be Medieval, but Phillips’ writing style is modern, and so are the ideas of the characters. There are evil knights, good knights, squires, damsels in distress, battles and castles and horses aplenty, and at the end of a fairly diverting few hours, I ended up wondering what the point was, other than entertainment.

The Table of Less Valued Knights, by Marie Phillips
⭐️½ ?
I promise this one gets much better, and more challenging, on the second or third reading. (Continue reading…)

 


The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, by Ellen Bryson

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, by Ellen Bryson
⭐️½
The title and cover illustration of this book give the impression that it is about someone turning into a saint, but is turns out to be the opposite. (Continue reading…)