Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Six best historical novels, 2012

Mary Sharratt lives in Lancashire, England. Her historical novels include Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen.

She named six of the best historical novels of the year for NPR, including:
The Book Of Madness And Cures
by Regina O'Melveny

I was enthralled by this strikingly original and gorgeously written quest story. In Venice, anno 1590, we meet Gabriella Mondini, a physician trained by her father, who sponsored her entry in the otherwise all-male Physicians' Guild. As the novel opens, he's been missing for 10 years, having left on a journey and never returned. His letters home, meanwhile, reflect an increasingly troubled mind. Without his patronage, Gabriella can no longer remain in the guild or practice medicine. Following the clues in his letters, she embarks on an epic journey to find her lost father, an odyssey that takes her through the dark forests of Germany all the way to Edinburgh. Finally, she leaves Europe behind for the Atlas Mountains, in North Africa. The narrative is interspersed with Gabriella's entries into her magnum opus, The Book of Madness and Cures, detailing rare diseases such as the Plague of Black Tears. The book plunges the reader into the zeitgeist of an era when medical science rubbed shoulders with alchemy and astrology — and when any woman who claimed medical knowledge could be burned for witchcraft.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue