Friday, August 22, 2008

Biographical novels

There is something about basing a novel on real personalities and situations that adds an extra zest to the tale - as a reader, you can't help but wonder how much is factual and how much is due to the author's imagination. When the novel is based on an obscure historical figure, it makes it that much more compelling. Try one of these three new novels for a dose of intrigue, history and love:
The Aviary Gate, by Katie Hickman, is set in the Sultan's harem in 16th-century Constantinople. A British merchant and diplomat, Paul Pindar (real person) gets word that his long-lost love, Celia (imaginary person), may actually be inside the Sultan's harem. He had thought her dead in a shipwreck, but now he must decide whether or not to risk his diplomatic mission and attempt to rescue her. In the meantime, Celia is coping with palace intrigue, shifting alliances and a possible plot against the structure of the harem.
Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland, retells the rise and fall of King Louis XIV's beloved mistress, Louise de la Valliere. Crippled in an accident, impoverished by the death of her father, she is able to enter the French court as a maid of honor, where she captivates the young king with her athleticism and spirit. Alas, like all royal courtesans, she is in a tenuous position where the various factions at court can easily pull her down.
Stealing Athena, by Karen Essex, follows not one but two enchanting women from the past - women whose stories entwine over the centuries. Aspasia is mistress to Pericles, ruler of ancient Athens. A woman of beauty and intelligence, Aspasia helps Pericles browbeat and cajole the Athenians into constructing the Parthenon as he struggles to retain his power. Two thousand years later, the young wife of Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire charms and cajoles the Turks into agreeing with her husband's plan to dismantle the famed Parthenon. When the Earl of Elgin attempts to return to Britain with his marble treasures - treasures that are still referred to by his name - he is taken as a prisoner of war by Napoleon Bonaparte and his poor wife Mary is left to try and gain his release.

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