Jennifer Chiaverini, Emma Donoghue, Mona Susan Power & More: Historical Fiction, Aug. 2023, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Travel the world, travel the past. 

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Benjamin, Melanie. California Golden. Delacorte. Aug. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780593497852. $28. CD. HISTORICAL

In 1960s California, Mindy and Ginger’s unconventional mother would rather be out surfing than hanging around at home, and the sisters miss out on basic motherly love. Mindy eventually proves to be a talented surfer herself, but Ginger looks for community among the burgeoning counterculture. From the New York Times best-selling author of The Aviator’s Wife.

Boyd, William. The Romantic. Knopf. Aug. 2023. 464p. ISBN 9780593536797. $28. HISTORICAL

As soldier, farmer, felon, and writer, County Cork–born adventurer Cashel Greville Ross travels across multiple continents during the 1800s, moving from Massachusetts to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to Pisa, Italy, ever haunted by his one true love. From the Booker Prize short-listed Boyd, following Trio .

Chiaverini, Jennifer. Canary Girls. Morrow. Aug. 2023. 432p. ISBN 9780063080744. $32. lrg. prnt. CD. HISTORICAL

In this latest from historical fiction queen Chiaverini, the women urgently recruited by the British government to work in World War I munitions factories include Lucy Dempsey, wife of Olympic gold medal footballer Daniel Dempsey. Not surprisingly, she’s quickly drafted to play in the arsenal ladies’ football club, the Thornshire Canaries—so named because the toxic chemicals they handle turn their skin yellow, an issue forthrightly addressed in the book.

Donoghue, Emma. Learned by Heart. Little, Brown. Aug. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780316564434. $28. CD/downloadable. HISTORICAL

The celebrated author of Room returns with a novel about orphaned heiress Eliza Raine, sent from India to England at age six, and rule-breaking Anne Lister, who meet and fall passionately in love at the Manor School in 1805 when they are 14. Drawing inspiration from Lister’s voluminous journal; with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Grodstein, Lauren. We Must Not Think of Ourselves. Algonquin: Hachette. Aug. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781643752341. $27. Downloadable. HISTORICAL

Asked to help secretly document events in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he’s forced to reside, Adam Paskow includes flatmate Sala Wiskoff among his subjects. Though she is married with two children, they fall in love. Then he discovers a possible escape route from the ghetto and must decide whom he can save. The New York Times best-selling Grodstein ( A Friend of the Family) was inspired by an actual archive code-named Oneg Shabbat. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Han, Jimin. The Apology. Little, Brown. Aug. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780316367080. $28. Downloadable. HISTORICAL

Jeonga Cha strives to preserve her family’s good name, even sending away a daughter-in-law to hide an illegitimate birth, a decision that threatens to splinter the family decades later. The story is narrated by a 105-year-old South Korean woman who takes on ghosts in the afterlife to lift a family curse. From the author of the multi-best-booked A Small Revolution ; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

Martin, Madeline. The Keeper of Hidden Books. Hanover Square: Harlequin. Aug. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781335005779. $30; pap. ISBN 9781335455024. $18.99. HISTORICAL

Salvaging books from bombed-out buildings, Zofia and Janina build an underground library in German-occupied Warsaw, leaning on literature in hard times. It gets harder still when Janina is confined to the ghetto. Inspired by a true story, this work follows the New York Times best-selling The Last Bookshop in London. With a 150,000-copy paperback and 10,000-copy hardcover first printing.

North, Claire. House of Odysseus. Redhook: Hachette. (Songs of Penelope, Bk. 2). Aug. 2023. 464p. ISBN 9780316444002. $29. Downloadable. HISTORICAL

The World Fantasy Award–winning North works in multiple genres, here continuing a trilogy revisiting the Odyssey from a female perspective and thus joining many recent feminist retellings of Greek mythology. Awaiting her husband’s return, Penelope is caught between guilt-ridden, mother-murdering Orestes and his power-hungry uncle, Menelaus, king of Sparta, as war rages around them. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Pearce, AJ. Mrs. Porter Calling. Scribner. (Emily Lake Chronicles, Bk. 3). Aug. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781668007716. $28. HISTORICAL

The popular Pearce continues the story of rising journalist Emily Lake, now in charge of the “Yours Cheerfully” advice column in Woman’s Friend magazine in 1943 London. But the column is threatened when the Honorable Mrs. Cressida Porter becomes publisher and announces plans to turn the magazine into a glitzy fashion spread.

Power, Mona Susan. A Council of Dolls. Mariner: HarperCollins. Aug. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780063281097. $30. CD. HISTORICAL

The PEN Award–winning Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, chronicles three generations of Yanktonai Dakota women aided by their “council of dolls.” In the late 1800s, Cora’s beaded doll Winona is burned at the white-run school she’s forced to attend, but Winona’s spirit lingers. In the mid-1900s, a doll named Mae defends Lillian and her classmates at a similar school. And Sissy overcomes personal trauma in the Sixties with help from the doll Ethel. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Williams, Pip. The Bookbinder. Ballantine. Aug. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780593600443. $28. HISTORICAL

Peggy and sister Maude live on a narrowboat in Oxford and drudge through work at Oxford University Press’s book bindery, but Peggy wants more from life: to study books, not just bind them. Then World War I brings an influx of Belgian refugees into town, upending the world. Following the Reese’s Book Club pick The Dictionary of Lost Words.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; winner of ALA's Louis Shores Award for reviewing; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle, which awarded her its inaugural Service Award in 2023.

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