Tough Broads

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It is with great pleasure that I welcome a new author to the mystery genre: Minerva Koenig. In Nine Days, she creates truly memorable characters and a quick-turn-that-page story. Julia Kalas is staring down forty and is not a completely socially acceptable dress size. An expert house renovator and remodeler, she is now in the federal witness protection […]

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Ladies of Dagenham, Unite!

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Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins) is nothing out of the ordinary, working at the Ford factory and raising her children with her husband in their blue-collar suburb of London in 1968.  O'Grady works in the all-female section of the plant sewing seat covers, along with 146 other women. What starts out as a dispute over job designation grows into […]

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The Problem With Virtue

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Often when I read historical fiction, it seems that the 21st-Century world view is imported with the characters.  No more is this true than with the themes of sex and religion.  Fortunately, Marci Jefferson manages to avoid this pitfall in Girl on the Golden Coin. Young Frances Stuart, the protagonist, wishes only to make a good […]

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Hellenga and his Women

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I picked up The Confessions of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga not entirely sure what to expect, but I thought a book in which a woman has conversations with God had to be at least somewhat interesting. I liked it even more than I thought I would. Frances does indeed talk to God (and He answers her back, […]

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Beware a Dashing Man

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  England, 1961, is in a full post-colonial hangover. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is sixteen and full of dreams of Paris and the wider world. She gets them for a brief time by becoming the girlfriend of an older man, David (Peter Sarsgaard). David is dashing, glamorous, good looking, and rich. How he gets his money is a bit unscrupulous, […]

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The Midwife of Venice and the Harem

Roberta Rich has written only two books so far, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. In The Midwife of Venice, Hannah Levi, a midwife of legendary skill and confined to the Jewish Ghetto, makes a decision to help a countess in natal distress. She takes along her "birthing spoons", a form of forceps, with her despite the […]

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Afghan Women Breaking the Mold

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Though the past decade and a half has brought enormous change to Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan, very little has changed in the villages, especially for women. Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl That Broke Its Shell tells the parallel stories of Shekiba, a woman at the turn of the last century, and her great-great-granddaughter Rahima just after […]

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Between the Unspeakable and the Unknowable

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After the Holocaust, many of the surviving European Jews went to British Palestine, soon to become the nation of Israel. However, the forces that destroyed their families often destroyed their vital documents as well, so those without official papers or family already in Palestine were put in detention camps until things could be sorted out.  Anita Diamant […]

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Sarah Waters Tells Some Tales

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Sarah Waters hit the mainstream big time with The Little Stranger a few years ago, but she was already a superstar among lesbians and historical fiction buffs for her novels depicting gay and lesbian life in England. Her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, is a picaresque tale that combines Charles Dickens with Henry Fielding.  Sheltered Nan […]

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Living with the Complexities

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Axie Muldoon wants: nice clothes, a big house, a meal in her belly.  As an orphan on the streets of 19th century New York, these things seem out of reach. And yet, by the time she is thirty, Axie (AKA Madame Beausacq) has them all. Along the way, she rides the orphan trains, delivers her mother's baby, apprentices […]

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