04-24-2007 01:15 PM - edited 08-15-2007 12:26 PM
The Lady and the Unicorn
Two families, two cities, one rogue go-between, and a set of gorgeous tapestries, all in a late medieval setting. Nicolas des Innocents, a handsome, lascivious artist, is summoned to the Paris home of Jean Le Viste, a nobleman who wants Nicolas to design a series of battle tapestries for his house. Jean's wife, Geneviève, persuades Nicolas to talk her husband into a softer subject: the taming of a unicorn by a noblewoman. Nicolas shapes the tapestries with his own vision, dedicating five of the six to the senses and using the images of Geneviève and her daughter, Claude, with whom Nicolas is smitten, for two of the ladies in the tapestries. Nicolas takes the finished designs to Brussels, where master weaver Georges de la Chapelle will make them. At first Nicolas is scornful of Georges, but gradually comes to respect him and his wife Christine, and to take an interest in his daughter Aliénor. Nicolas models two more of the ladies in the tapestries after Christine and Aliénor, but his heart lies with the unattainable Claude.
The Virgin Blue
American Ella Turner moves with her husband to Lisle-sur-Tarn, a small town in southwestern France hoping to start a family. Instead she is disrupted by less-than-idyllic village life and strange dreams of the color blue. Haunted by sleepless nights, bewildered by her unwelcoming neighbors, Ella decides to investigate her French ancestors. Ella's research takes her to the Cévennes, isolated mountains in the south and the birthplace of the Tournier/Turner family. 16th-century peasant Isabelle du Moulin, known as La Rousse for her red hair, is suspected of witchcraft and tormented for her association with the Virgin Mary even after she and the rest of the village have converted to the "Truth" -- the new Protestantism as preached by Calvin's ministers. When she becomes pregnant, she has no choice but to marry into the powerful Tournier family. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew in Paris sends waves of persecution throughout France, and the Tourniers are forced to flee their home near Le Pont de Montvert for a new life in the Swiss town of Moutier. Old ways follow them there, however, and Isabelle's final shocking fate lies undiscovered - until Ella Turner's arrival four centuries later...
January 1901, the day after Queen Victoria's death: Two families visit neighboring graves in a fashionable London cemetery. One is decorated with a sentimental angel, the other an elaborate urn. The Waterhouses revere the late Queen and cling to Victorian traditions; the Colemans look forward to a more modern society. To their mutual distaste, the families are inextricably linked when their daughters become friends behind the tombstones. And worse, befriend the gravedigger's son. As the girls grow up and the new century finds its feet, as cars replace horses and electricity outshines gas lighting, Britain emerges from the shadows of oppressive Victorian values to a golden Edwardian summer. It is then that the beautiful, frustrated Mrs Coleman makes a bid for greater personal freedom, with disastrous consequences, and the lives of the Colemans and the Waterhouses are changed forever. A poignant tale of two families brought reluctantly together, Falling Angels is an intimate story of childhood friendships, sexual awakening and human frailty. Yet its epic sweep takes in the changing of a nation, the fight for women's suffrage and the questioning of steadfast beliefs.
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings -- the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings. In contrast to her work in her master's studio, Griet must carve a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer's volatile wife Catharina, his shrewd mother-in-law Maria Thins, and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. On the verge of womanhood, Griet also contends with the growing attentions both from a local butcher and from Vermeer's patron, the wealthy van Ruijven. As Griet becomes part of her master's work, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even -- as the scandal seeps out -- ripples in the world beyond.
Additional Recommended Reading
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience
This beautiful, hardcover gift edition allows Blake to communicate with his readers as he intended, reproducing his illuminations and lettering from the finest existing example of the original. In this way readers can experience the mystery and beauty of Blake's poems as he created them. This unique edition is essential for those who love Blake's work, and also offers an ideal entrance into his visionary world for those encountering him for the first time.
Immensely entertaining, Passion chronicles the glamorous, scandalous lives of the Romantic poets Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats through the outrageous exploits of the passionate women who shared their world and their beds. Hedonistic rogue Lord Byron perfects the art of seduction, practicing on the irrepressible Lady Caroline Lamb, and later on his own half sister. Young Mary Godwin decamps with the married Shelley on a European odyssey, taking her stepsister along for the ride. The freethinking ménage meets up with Byron, attracting the unfavorable notice of society and fermenting dangerous jealousies from within. Back in England, Fanny Brawne strives through sheer force of will to sustain the ailing Keats, the only one of the three poetic masters whose infamy will not rival his literary legacy. The grand adventures of these men and their astonishing women are played out against the palatial backdrop of English Regency opulence, aristocratic social conventions, and the familial expectations of a culture that refuses to yield to the avant-garde arrangements of the gifted but reckless young writers. These unconventional artists developed legendary reputations, but even more remarkable is the early age at which they achieved fame and, subsequently, perished.
Portrait of an Unknown Woman
The year is 1527. The great portraitist Hans Holbein is making his first trip to England under commission to Sir Thomas More. In the course of six years, Holbein will become a close friend to the More family and paint two nearly identical family portraits. But closer examination of the paintings reveals that the second holds several mysteries.... Set against the turmoil, intrigue and, tragedy of Henry VIII's court, Portrait of an Unknown Woman vividly evokes sixteenth-century England on the verge of enormous change. At the center is Meg Gigg's, Sir Thomas More's twenty-three year old adopted daughter. Intelligent, headstrong, and tender-hearted, Meg has been schooled in the healing arts. And though she is devoted to her family, events conspire that will cause Meg to question everything she thought she knew -- including the desires of her own heart. Two men will vie for Meg's affections: John Clement, her former tutor and More's protégé who shares Meg's passion for medicine, but whose true identity will become unclear, and the great Holbein, who's artistic vision will forever alter her understanding of the world.
From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Tipping the Velvet and the award-winning Affinity comes a spellbinding, twisting tale of a great swindle, of fortunes and hearts won and lost, set in Victorian London among a family of thieves. Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness. Mrs. Sucksby's household also hosts a transient family of petty thieves -- fingersmiths -- for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home. One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives -- Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in a mental hospital. With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways. But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and surprises.
Message Edited by Amanda_R on 08-15-2007 11:26 AM
04-26-2007 10:25 PM
04-30-2007 03:44 AM
As regards the circus world depicted in "Burning Bright", I have just ordered a novel entitled "Water for elephants" by Sara Gruen. Has any of you read it?
04-30-2007 11:29 AM
This is my first answer to anything on this site - I'm dipping my toes in gently, you see.
I read Water for Elephants last month - perhaps in part because of all the research I did on Philip Astley and early circuses - and really enjoyed it. It captures the atmosphere of the circus and also of the American Depression of the 1930s really well. I then passed it on to my dad, who lived during the Depression and in fact rode the rails just like the main character in the book.
05-23-2007 11:38 PM
I also recommend "Les Miserables" and "A Tale of Two Cities" if you never had a chance to read them before.
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