Welcome to the September edition of the Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re exploring alternative histories and viewing history from a different perspective. Some of the featured titles and those you’ll find in displays at our buildings look at a historical event with a key factor changed (What If the Nazi’s had won? What If Lincoln had lived?), others take an individual’s life and examine what might have happened if they had made different choices. All of them help open your mind to how one decision may have changed a life, or all of history.
Our main title this month is the delightful My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, a rollicking, white-knuckle adventure set in Tudor England. Edward is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d rather be planning his first kiss than who will inherit his crown. Jane, Edward’s cousin, is far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately, Edward has arranged to marry her off to Gifford secure the line of succession. And Gifford is, well, a horse. That is, he an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated) who becomes a chestnut steed every morning, but wakes as a man at dusk, with a mouthful of hay. Very undignified. The plot thickens as the three are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy, and have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads? Highly recommended.
Other titles in our Book Flight include Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susan Clarke. In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England – until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers and becomes an overnight celebrity. Another practicing magician then emerges: the young and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s pupil, and the two join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wild, most perilous forms of magic, and he soon risks sacrificing his partnership with Norrell and everything else he holds dear.
First Impressions by Charles Lovett. Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of A Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.
As always, you can find displays of these titles and many more at each of our Davenport Library locations!