Looking for something absorbing to read over New Year? You've come to the right blog. This month's Fiction Addiction hotlist features four dramatic novels traversing fascinating periods of history, from 1880s Sudan and London to 1941 Malaya, via early 20th century Greece, Finland and France. Get your fiction fix within.
1. The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall
If you enjoy novels that drip with atmosphere, pop a copy of The White Pearl by UK writer Kate Furnivall into your beach bag. It begins in 1941 in the city of Palur, Malaya, when the pampered wife of a rubber plantation owner runs over and kills a mother from the slums. The incident twists together the fates of the wife, Connie Hadley, and the mother's orphaned twins. As the Japanese enter World War II and unleash their firepower on the British colony, Connie and her husband and son flee on their yacht, the White Pearl. Ahead of them is a dangerous journey through the South China Sea to Singapore. With them is an volatile mix of friends, crew and stowaways. Furnivall's writing is rich with description, her characters are colourfully drawn and her plot is a page-turner.
2. The Wine of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky
Some 79 years after the death of Irène Némirovsky and following the extraordinary international success of the posthumously published novellas Suite Française, her 1935 novel The Wine of Solitude has been republished and translated into English. The book tells the story of Hélène, a young Russian-Jewish girl and her troubled relationship with her self-absorbed mother, against a backdrop of dramatic political upheaval and historic events. Like Némirovsky, Hélène was born in Kiev but the family flee to Finland ahead of the Russian Revolution, where they are caught up in the Great War before eventually settling in France. The book traverses difficult emotional terrain and is believed to be Némirovsky's most autobiographical novel.
3. An Honourable Man by Gillian Slovo
In 1884 an Englishwoman and her doctor husband farewell each other at London's Waterloo Station as they embark on very different journeys. John Clarke goes on a painstaking traverse of the deserts of the Sudan, as the medical man on an expedition to Khartoum to rescue the besieged General Charles Gordon. Mary Clarke heads for domestic isolation in Victorian London and a perilous addiction to laudanum that takes her into the seedy side of the city. This powerful epic novel also weaves in the experiences of the eccentric general and his sidekick Will, a boy he rescued from the London slums.
4. The Thread by Victoria Hislop
Bestselling British author Victoria Hislop returns to Greece, this time to the city of Thessaloniki where a British-born young man known as Mitsos hears his grandparents' story for the first time. His grandfather, Dimitri, was the son of a cloth merchant and was born during the great fire of 1917, which almost destroyed Thessaloniki and razed 9500 houses. His grandmother Katerina was a refugee from Asia Minor, separated from her mother in the chaos that followed the destruction of her home by the Turkish army. Their story spans a turbulent period in Greek history, including the war with Turkey, Nazi occupation, the civil war and dictatorship. The popularity of Hislop's previous novels The Island and The Return was due in part to her ability to balance historical fact with a compelling and moving storyline. This sweeping yarn would make an absorbing holiday read.