A Hundred Years to Arras by J.M. Cobley

In this historical fiction work, Private Robert Gooding Henson leaves the family farm to enlist in the Somerset Light Infantry against his father’s wishes. 

The writing is outstanding in this captivating story that follows Henson and two of the fellow soldiers he befriends. The emotional turmoil a 23-year-old soldier feels fighting in a war is delicately explored. The horrific conditions the soldiers experience and the awful things they see are matter-of-factly juxtaposed against flirtations, humor, and lighter moments.

It was interesting, but not surprising, to learn of the connection the author had to Private Robert Gooding Henson at the end of the book. While it is a fictional account of Henson’s life, the book had a respectful undercurrent appropriate for honoring an ancestor.

A Hundred Years to Arras by J.M. Conley

The book has been compared to All Quiet on the Western Front, which is one of my all-time favorite books, and I can see why.

Like All Quiet on the Western Front, the story is poignant, moving, expertly written, and does not glorify war.

I recommend this book to those who are fans of World War I-era history or war novels told from the perspective of an individual soldier.

Thank you to J.M. Cobley for providing a free e-review copy. I am leaving this review voluntarily and the opinions expressed are my own.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

3 stars

In this novel, Marie Benedict hypothesizes about what happened during Agatha Christie’s most famous unsolved mystery, her own 11-day disappearance. 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book alternates between Agatha’s life when she first met and married Archie Christie and each day of her disappearance. In many ways, Archie Christie was the main character of this historical fiction work, and the portrait Benedict paints of Colonel Christie isn’t a flattering one. He comes across as demanding, domineering, and narcissistic, with all of Agatha’s actions centered on him.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after reading The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. While the books cover the same time period, the two fictional accounts are very different. I’d give de Gramont an edge in the writing – her prose was more captivating than Benedict’s flatter style. 

However, de Gramont definitely took a lot more creative license in her story. Benedict’s account was much more believable and seemed much closer to what could have actually happened. 

Both portray Agatha as a strong, talented woman but in different ways. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie deals more with her relationship with her mother and sister, her affection for her daughter, and the pressure she felt to be the perfect wife. For most of the book, The Christie Affair portrays her as a colder, more career-oriented person who seems ambivalent toward her daughter.

My full review of The Christie Affair is linked below: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/04/03/the-christie-affair-by-nina-de-gramont/

Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman

photo by Flash Mama Photography

4 out of 5 stars

Set in 1689 in New England, this historical fiction work centers around Ruth Miner, a young woman accused of witchcraft following the tragic murder of her parents. She stows away on a ship to escape her town’s barbaric plans for her. Owen, a handsome sailor of French ancestry who Ruth has known since childhood, is also a passenger on the ship.  

The book seems well-researched. Angstman uses a broad vocabulary, brutal descriptions, and colloquialisms (i.e. God’s teeth!) to immerse you in the time period. While I’m not sure I followed all of the political dynamics at play in the book, the characters were phenomenal.

Ruth is an unforgettable strong woman with the independence of Kya Clark from “Where the Crawdads Sing” and the fortitude of Demelza from the “Poldark” series. I wanted to know whether Ruth survived and, if so, how she conquered the challenges she faced as an orphaned young woman in a harsh, patriarchal environment. I recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction or stories about strong women.

Thank you to the Leah Angstman and Regal House for providing a free ARC in exchange for my honest review.