Book Review: Go back in time with 3 historical fiction titles | SteamboatToday.com

Book Review: Go back in time with 3 historical fiction titles

"Lincoln in the Bardo"

by George Saunders

I would like to start off by saying that this book is definitely one of the most creative and experimental works of fiction that I have ever read. With a cast of 166 characters, this book has a unique narrative unlike any other.

The year is 1862, and the American people are learning just how bloody and deadly the Civil War is becoming. At home, President Lincoln and his family are facing an even more personal struggle: The devastating death of their 11-year-old son, Willie. Many newspapers from that time report that Lincoln, whose already existing depression and mental illness only deepened after the loss of his son, returned to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.

Using this historical truth, Saunders has created a beautifully imaginative story of love, loss and letting go. Willie finds himself trapped in a sort of purgatory, inhabited by many ghosts and spirits that attempt to help him move on, despite his father’s inability to let go. This book is shocking, bizarre, and above all, moving.

This novel recently was awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize, and it more than deserves it.

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"The Yid"

by Paul Goldberg

This is an absolute masterpiece of historical fiction. I was genuinely stunned to find that this was Goldberg’s debut novel. The setting is Moscow, 1953. The plans for Stalin’s final epic attack on the Jewish population are in full swing, bringing arrests and executions by the thousands.

Enter a crazy, old war veteran turned actor, who sets into motion a series of events as violent and deadly as they are philosophical and hysterical. This book has some of the most unique writing techniques I have seen, reading like a literary psychological vaudevillian horror show (insane, right?), and is a perfect blend of comedy and tragedy. “The Yid” is simply brilliant.

"Lilac Girls"

by Martha Hall Kelly

Inspired by true events that took place during World War II, this novel is a stunningly dark work that will move readers to the deepest emotional depths. The story is told through the eyes of three women — Caroline Ferriday, a French consultant doing whatever she can to help those affected by Hitler’s Army from overseas; Kasia, a Polish teenager, who becomes part of the resistance, which carries consequences one could have ever dreamed of; and Herta, a young female German doctor who will do anything to prove herself in the male-dominated Nazi Germany.

This tragic tale unfolds throughout the entirety of WWII, and the utter depravity of the the time is expressed very truthfully and brutally. But though this book is incredibly dark, it is hopeful and optimistic at it’s core, as Caroline and Kasia attempt to bring justice for those affected by this disastrous time in our history.

I ate this book up in two days, I could not put it down except to sleep. An absolute must-read.

These books are available at Off the Beaten Path and Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Marissa Mattson is the marketing and events coordinator at Off the Beaten Path.

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