Interesting Time Period

  1. Girl with the Pearl Earring
    by Tracy Chevalier

    The beautifully-told tale of Vermeer’s maid and model. First paragraphs:  My mother did not tell me they were coming.  Afterwards she said she did not want me to appear nervous.  I was surprised, for I thought she knew me well.  Strangers would think I was calm.  I did not cry like a baby.  Only my mother would note the tightness along my jaw, the widening of my already wide eyes. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen when I heard

    Continue Reading
  2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
    by Louis DeBernieres

    Love story set on a Greek island during WWII.  Get past the first chapter. Opening paragraph:  Dr. Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.  He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced on abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema, and had produced a miracle by a feat of medical prestidigitation. Quotes from critics:  “Astonishing . .

    Continue Reading
  3. Bleak House
    by Charles Dickens

    Two fascinating narrators tell the tale of the long-buried secrets of Esther Sommerson’s life and a generations-long family lawsuit.  A host of unforgettable characters.  Romance, mystery, comedy, and satire. Opening paragraph:  London. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet

    Continue Reading
  4. The Crimson Petal and the White
    by Michel Faber

    Long, Victorian-style novel that includes the seamier side of Victorian life; depicts what it was like to be a woman during that time, in both the lowest and the higher classes. Opening paragraph:  Watch your step.  Keep your wits about you; you will need them.  This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before.  You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered

    Continue Reading
  5. Suite Française
    by Irène Némirovsky

    Moving stories of a cast of regular people in Vichy France.  “Storm in June” about flight from Paris.  “Dolce” about an occupied village. Opening paragraph:  Hot, thought the Parisians.  The warm air of spring.  It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid.  But dawn was near and the war far away.  The first to hear the hum of the siren were those who couldn’t sleep—the ill and bedridden, mothers with sons at the front, women

    Continue Reading
  6. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
    by Lisa See

    Women’s lives in pre-Communist China, including foot binding and secret messages to one another hidden in the folds of a fan. Opening paragraph:  I am what they call in our village “one who has not yet died,” eighty years old.  Without my husband, the days are long.  I no longer care for the special foods that Peony and the others prepare for me.  I no longer look forward to the happy events that settle under our roof so easily.  Only

    Continue Reading
  7. The Age of Innocence
    by Edith Wharton

    Nineteenth-century story of love and society in upper-class America. Opening paragraphs:  On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in “Faust” at the Academy of Music in New York. Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances “above the Forties,” of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the

    Continue Reading