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ABBEY'S CHOICE MAY 2013 ----- If you enjoyed Hilary Mantel’s account of Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII and need something to fill in the time until the third book in the trilogy, then I commend this novel as a fine alternative! Told in an immediate and vivid style, this will do for the Borgias what Mantel has done for Cromwell: bring historical figures into colourful life. Rodrigo Borgia is a complicated man full of roaring life and passion, not to mention an insatiable appetite for power; a Spaniard in Rome who buys his way to the Papacy, holy in theory, but corrupt in practice. He uses his children as pawns in his ambition to create a dynasty, and lets nothing get in the way of his desires, either political or personal.
I became thoroughly immersed in the time and characters and it was such an enjoyable experience that I had trouble finding something new to read after having lived in renaissance Rome! Having read a bit of history I found the novel managed all those complicated alliances and cross-currents very smoothly and felt very 'true' when dealing with the Borgias themselves. The imagery was lush and almost touchable, but as I am an admirer of Dunant's writing I expect that of her, so I wasn't disappointed. Like Mantel's interpretation of Cromwell, I find myself very much looking forward to the concluding novel. Even though I know what happens in historical accounts, I want to know how Dunant will tell their story, and having to wait a couple more years to find out seems unfair! Lindy
Acclaimed novelist of the Italian Renaissance Sarah Dunant now takes on the era's most infamous family: the Borgias. By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and in the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: he is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women and power must use papacy and family to succeed. His eldest son Cesare, a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest - though increasingly unstable - weapon. Later immortalised in Machiavelli's The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. His daughter Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages: from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player. Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty is a majestic novel that breathes life into this astonishing family and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex and relentless.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Following on from Wolf Hall ($19.99), which won this same award in 2009, here is the next instalment in a planned trilogy. I recommended this unreservedly when it first came out in May, so it’s nice that the Man Booker judges agreed with me! All jokes aside, this novel is a worthy winner and a fabulous read. Thomas Cromwell is playing the dangerous game of managing Henry VIII’s capricious whims, navigating through the slippery politics of the court and pandering to Henry’s desire for Jane Seymour. After all, Anne Boleyn and her faction are no friends of Cromwell’s… Immediate, involving and brilliant writing! Lindy
WINNER: THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012. Bring Up the Bodies continues the vivid tale of the life of Thomas Cromwell and is the sequel to the Man Booker Prize 2009-winning Wolf Hall.
'My boy Thomas, give him a dirty look and he'll gouge your eye out. Trip him, and he'll cut off your leg,' says Walter Cromwell in the year 1500. 'But if you don't cut across him he's a very gentleman. And he'll stand anyone a drink.' By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith's son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church.
But Henry's actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king's pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a 'truth' that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne's final days.
In Bring up the Bodies Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.
A fictionalised account of Captain James Cook's early life, The Secret Life of James Cook depicts in imaginative form Cook's early life and ambitions, his naval career in Canada and beyond and his marriage to Elizabeth and their family life. Drawing on his deep knowledge of the South Pacific and Australasia, novelist Graeme Lay recreates the peerless navigator's life up to, and including, his first circumnavigation of the world. In particular, Graeme imagines the relationship between James and his equally remarkable wife, Elizabeth, the woman he married when he was 34 and she 21, and by whom he had six children, all born while he was away at sea. The Secret Life of James Cook also depicts an often stormy relationship between Cook and the dashing and privileged naturalist, Joseph Banks, who accompanied Cook on his first world voyage.
A brilliant and strikingly original debut novel, The Last King of Lydia imagines the bloody rise and fall of Croesus, 'the richest man on earth', and powerfully shows how happiness, even for those who have everything, is so often elusive. A beaten king stands on top of a pyre. His conqueror, the Persian warrior Cyrus, signals to his guards; they step forward and touch flaming torches to the dry wood. Croesus, once the richest man of the ancient world, is to be burned alive. As he watches the flames catch, Croesus looks over his life with clarity. He remembers the time he asked the old philosopher, Solon, who was the happiest man in the world. With his wealth, Croesus used to think it was him. But then his wealth could not remove the spear from his dying son's chest; could not cure the mute boy with matted hair; could not make him as wise as his own slave; could not bring his wife's love back; could not stop his army being torn apart and his kingdom defeated. As the old philosopher had replied, a man's happiness can only be measured when he is dead. The first coils of smoke wrap around Croesus' neck like a noose. It is suitable for readers of Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles , Mary Renault, David Malouf, Annabel Lyon and Gore Vidal's Creation .
City of love. City of splendour. City of terror. City of dreams.
Inspired by the haunting, passionate story of the city of lights, this epic novel weaves a gripping tale of four families across the centuries: from the lies that spawn the noble line of de Cygne to the revolutionary Le Sourds who seek their destruction; from the Blanchards whose bourgeois respectability offers scant protection against scandal to the hard-working Gascons and their soaring ambitions.
Over hundreds of years, these four families are bound by forbidden loves and marriages of convenience; dogged by vengeance and murderous secrets; torn apart by the irreconcilable differences of birth and faith, and brought together by the tumultuous history of their city. Paris bursts to life in the intrigue, corruption and glory of its people.
Beloved author of Sarum, London and New York, Edward Rutherfurd illuminates Paris as only he can: capturing the romance and everyday drama of the men and women who, in two thousand years, transformed a humble trading post on the muddy banks of the Seine into the most celebrated city in the world.
Bestselling author Simon Scarrow brings the Great Siege of Malta to vivid and unforgettable life in this gripping standalone novel. 1565, Malta: a vital outpost between the divided nations of Europe and the relentlessly expanding Ottoman Empire. Faced with ferocious attack by a vast Turkish fleet, the knights of the Order of St John fear annihilation. Amongst those called to assist is disgraced veteran Sir Thomas Barrett. Loyalty and instinct compel him to put the Order above all other concerns, yet his allegiance is divided. At Queen Elizabeth's command, he must search for a hidden scroll, guarded by the knights, that threatens her reign. As Sir Thomas confronts the past that cost him his honour and a secret that has long lain buried, a vast enemy army arrives to lay siege to the island...
The third book in Robert Low's stunning new trilogy about the making of Scotland. The whirl of politics makes a mockery of oaths. Loyalty can be bought. Brothers end up enemies, kin can betray you and in the blink of an eye, you become the hunted. A band of brothers has lost almost everything honouring their oath to Robert the Bruce. Wives, daughters, sisters, brothers and lovers have been slain or imprisoned. After seven long years of struggle and endurance, Bruce and his loyal supporter, Hal of Herdmanston, will come face-to-face with Edward II, the English King humiliated by defeat and determined to put down his Scottish enemy once and for all. And the last great battle for the Scottish throne will be decided on a bloody field called Bannockburn.
272 AD The Roman Emperor Aurelian has defeated Queen Zenobia and crushed the Palmyran revolt. Faridun's Banner, hallowed battle standard of the Persian Empire, has fallen into Roman hands and is to be returned to the Persians as part of a historic peace treaty. But on the eve of the signing the banner goes missing. Recalled to Syria, imperial agent Cassius Corbulo is charged with recovering the flag. Accompanied by his faithful servant Simo and ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara, Cassius must journey across the dangerous wastes of Syria to the equally perilous streets of Antioch. He and his companions face ruthless brigands, mysterious cults, merciless assassins and intrigue at every turn.
Arimnestos of Plataea is a man who has seen and done things that most men only dream about. Sold into slavery as a boy, he fought his way to freedom - and then to everlasting fame: standing alongside the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon where the Greeks crushed the invading Persians. Sometimes, however, a man's greatest triumph is followed by his greatest sorrow. Returning to his farm, Arimnestos finds that his wife Euphoria has died in childbirth, and in an instant his laurels turn to dust. But the gods are not finished with Arimnestos yet. With nothing left to live for, he throws himself from a cliff into the sea, only to be pulled by strong arms from death's embrace. When he awakes, he finds himself chained to an oar in a Phoenician trireme. And so begins an epic journey that will take Arimnestos and a motley crew of fellow galley slaves to the limits of their courage, and beyond the edge of the known world, in a quest for freedom, revenge - and a cargo so precious it's worth dying for.
I felt the worlds of ocean and ice were meeting in a frontier of rage, as if the Earth had torn in two along this line.This was a place if there ever was a place, where you could disappear. The year is 1845 and young researcher Eliot Saxby is paid to go on an expedition to the Arctic in the hope of finding remains of the by now extinct Great Auk. He joins a regular hunting ship, but the crew and the passengers are not what they seem. Caught in the web of relationships on board, Eliot struggles to understand the motivations of the sociopathic, embroidery-loving Captain Sykes, the silent First Mate French, the flamboyant laudanum-addicted Bletchley and, most importantly of all, Bletchley's beautiful but strange 'cousin' Clara. As the ship moves further and further into the wilds of the Arctic sea, Eliot clings to what he believes in, desperate to save Clara but drawn irrevocably back into the past that haunts him. The first historical novel from an author who has been critically acclaimed for his two contemporary novels (Salt and The Wake), The Collector of Lost Things is a compulsive, beautifully writtten read.
From bestselling author Lyn Andrews comes a compelling historical epic set at the endlessly fascinating Tudor court about the most infamous woman of the age - Anne Boleyn - and the man who loved her before she became queen. From the moment Henry Percy, future Earl of Northumberland, glimpses the beautiful Anne Boleyn he is captivated and quickly proposes marriage Anne has been taught to use her charms to her advantage and to secure her family's position of power at court. She sees that Henry Percy's affection is sincere and agrees to marry him. But a match of the heart has no place in a world where marriage is a political manoeuvre. Torn apart, the lovers are exiled to separate ends of the kingdom. For Henry a lifetime of duty awaits, while he remains true to the only woman he will ever love. But he is not the only man to be bewitched by Anne. And when King Henry VIII determines to make her his queen, the course of history is changed for ever...
The Moghul emperors are still bloodthirsty and entirely ruthless; they control a quarter of the world's population and have wealth beyond imagining. But this is the final flowering of a doomed empire and, while Shah Jahan mourns his dead wife and obssesses over the Taj Mahal, her monument, his son Aurangzeb is planning to take his father's throne, by any means necessary.
London 1599, a city on the brink of revolution...He is Queen Elizabeth's last, perhaps her greatest, love - Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general ...and the man that John Lawley, England's finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl - the reckless melancholic - and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many. All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen's affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: The Tragedy of Hamlet. But John is doomed by his three devils: whisky, women and Mad Robbie Deveraux. Despite every effort to evade the clutches of Elizabeth and her cohorts, John is soon enmeshed in the intrigues of court and dragged into the seemingly hopeless war in Ireland, forced to play his part in a deadly game of power and politics, conspiracy and rebellion. From the scaffold of the Globe to the one in the Tower. From ambush in Ireland to even greater menace in Whitehall, John Lawley, must strive to be - or not to be - the man who might just save England.
Is Number 67 Clarges Steet the unluckiest house in Mayfair? Every Season the beaux mondes of the Regency would hire a house in the heart of London's fashionable West End at disproportionately high rent for often inferior accommodation and yet No.67 Clarges Street, a town house complete with staff, remains vacant from year to year. Could it be that it is associated with ill luck and even death? Something must be done so that the servants of this house don't lose their livelihood...Salvation seems to come in the form of Roderick Sinclair who confirms he wishes to rent the house for the current Season. The staff are overjoyed - until they find that Mr Sinclair is a terrible miser who is planning no parties. Furthermore, his ward, Fiona, though a dazzling Highland beauty, does not seem to possess one bright idea in her head. But it is Rainbird, No.67's clever and elegant butler, who sees through her facade and resolves to help his mysterious mistress in whatever way he can...
It's up to the servants of No. 67 Clarges Street to hatch a scheme ...and arrange a match! 'Oh, to be as beautiful as Euphemia!' sighs plain Jane Hart when she joins her sister at No. 67 for the Season, as then Lord Tregarthan might notice her ...as she has noticed him and forever lost her heart. And while it is Euphemia's fate to flit her way through balls and into the arms of a marquis, Jane's is to stay at home ...until the Downstairs staff transform the plain Miss into the Season's sensation and send her waltzing into a daring liaison with the man of her dreams!
It's double trouble for poor, put-upon Harriet! Lovely but penniless Harriet Metcalf is horrified when she is named in a nobleman's will as guardian of his two ghastly and snobbish twin daughters. And is the innocent Harriet wily enough to cope with the intricacies of the London Season - or two of its most eligible bachelors, the Marquis of Huntington and Lord Vere? Harriet views them only as suitors for the twins, while the gentlemen see only Harriet's charms. And soon she is falling for one of them ...but a cruel betrayal will be her ruin unless the Clarges Street servants can save her honour while she loses her heart!