I just got through reading a really good book that I want to recommend. Now, I do not have any connection to the author, and I'll confess that I borrowed the book from a friend. It's just that this is one of those books where you want to go and grab everyone you know and say, "Read this book!!!"
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is the story of a young man who ran off and joined a traveling circus during the Depression. He is a trained veterinarian and a sensitive, caring young man with a strong survival instinct. By the end of the first two chapters, the reader has been so deeply immersed in two very different worlds that s/he can practically smell what the narrator is smelling. The book carries the reader deep into the desperation felt by those on the edges of society during the Great Depression as well as the social problems faced by the elderly of our modern day. I kept stealing time for this book from other tasks because the worlds it describes were so fully fleshed out and compelling.
I have also just finished reading another very good book - although not as riveting as WFE. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier is also a historical novel. It is about the creation of one of the masterworks of the late Middle Ages, a set of six tapestries woven, probably in Brussels in the 1490s. The story is told in a variety of voices, with each chapter being narrated by a different character (although some characters get two chapters, each at a different point in the story). I love books by this author, and I think the main reason is that she loves her characters, and she has clearly done her research so that the historical details ring true. This is a short book, and I was stunned at how quickly I sped through it. I kept going back and re-reading chapters, just to prolong the delicious experience.