What’s new and good to read this month? Jessica Bloom has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Four Treasures of the Sky, Joan and The House of Fortune.
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
‘A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West’
Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive.
From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been-including the ones she most wants to leave behind-in order to finally claim her own name and story.
At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat.
Images above: Four Treasures of the Sky front cover, author Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Joan by Katherine J. Chen
‘A stunning and ambitious feminist reimagining of the life of Joan of Arc, Chen’s sumptuous historical saga follows the titular protagonist’s path through fifteenth-century France with thrilling pace and rich characterisation.’
Girl. Warrior. Heretic. Saint?
France is mired in a losing war against England. Its people are starving. Its king is in hiding. Yet out of the chaos, an unlikely heroine emerges.
Reckless, steel-willed and brilliant, Joan has survived a childhood steeped in both joy and violence to claim an extraordinary – and fragile – position at the head of the French army. The battlefield and the royal court are full of dangers and Joan finds herself under suspicion from all sides – as well as under threat from her own ambition.
With unforgettably vivid characters and propulsive storytelling, Joan is a thrilling epic, a triumph of historical fiction, and a feminist celebration of one remarkable – and remarkably real – woman who left an indelible mark on history.
Images above: Joan front cover, author Katherine J. Chen
The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton
The House of Fortune is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s million copy bestselling The Miniaturist. Set in the golden city of Amsterdam in 1705, it is a story of fate and ambition, secrets and dreams, and one young woman’s determination to rule her own destiny.
Thea Brandt is turning eighteen, and is ready to welcome adulthood with open arms. At the theatre, Walter, the love of her life, awaits her, but at home in the house on the Herengracht, winter has set in – her father Otto and Aunt Nella argue endlessly, and the Brandt family are selling their furniture in order to eat. On Thea’s birthday, also the day that her mother Marin died, the secrets from the past begin to overwhelm the present.
Nella is desperate to save the family and maintain appearances, to find Thea a husband who will guarantee her future, and when they receive an invitation to Amsterdam’s most exclusive ball, she is overjoyed – perhaps this will set their fortunes straight. And indeed, the ball does set things spinning: new figures enter their life, promising new futures. But their fates are still unclear, and when Nella feels a strange prickling sensation on the back of her neck, she wonders if the miniaturist has returned for her.
Images above: The House of Fortune front cover, author Jessie Burton
Jessica Bloom is a bookseller at her family bookshop, ‘Bookcase London’, an independent bookshop open in Chiswick since 1993.
See Jessica’s and Anna Klerfalk’s book choices from previous months here.
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