Monday, November 24, 2014

Victorian England

This fall I've found myself turning to books set in Victorian England. But just because they have similar settings doesn't mean these stories are all the same!
The Quick by Lauren Owen might be my favorite adult fiction of the year so far. Most of the publicity for the book has kept major information about the plot a secret, but here’s what I can tell you without spoiling anything (although  for me, that information was what made me pick the book up in the first place). In London in 1892, the young poet James Norbury is befriended by Christopher, a young aristocrat who introduces him to high society. When James vanishes, his older sister Charlotte searches for him, a quest which takes her among both the wealthiest and poorest parts of the city. Part historical literary novel and part genre novel, The Quick examines power and class structure of Victorian London, but doesn't skimp on terror or adventure.

The Asylum by John Harwood is a straight up novel of suspense. A young woman, Georgina Ferrars, wakes up in a private asylum with no memory of the past few weeks, and is told that she arrived there the day before under the name Lucy Ashton, then suffered a seizure. When he doctor telegrams her uncle back in London, the reply is that Georgina Ferrars is in London, so the woman must be an imposter. True to gothic storytelling, we get a glimpse into Georgina’s diary and letters as she struggles to find out what led her to the asylum—and what will lead her out of it. This book is ideal for fans of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas takes us into the strange and compelling world of theatrical performers. The charismatic and ambitious stage magician Devil Wix partners with a dwarf named Carlo to create an illusion called The Execution of the Philosopher at a newly reopened theater called the Palmyra. As their illusion increases in popularity, the two men align themselves with others such as Heinrich Bayer and his disturbingly lifelike automata, waxworker and artist Jasper Button, and the beautiful Eliza Dunlop. As the motley group struggles to make their shows at the Palmyra more and more successful, they face jealousies, romances, and even physical danger.

Do you have any favorite books set in Victorian England? Or does a different historical setting call out to you?

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