This week we’re taking a closer look at our historical fiction imprint, Top Hat Books.
Whether it’s a story of rebellion, loyalty and love in Ireland in the early 20th century, or an alternative version of the epic tale of Beowulf, Top Hat’s novels all have one thing in common: a compelling story that keeps you reading well into the night.
With that in mind, let’s introduce you to some of Top Hat’s recent releases…
Angel’s Lamp centres on an unlikely love affair. Tensions are running high in Ireland after the Easter Rising, and Johnny Flynn and Nora Connolly are on opposite sides of the divide.
‘Catching his breath, Johnny turned to help the woman and froze. Nora Connolly stood staring back at him with stricken marble eyes. He watched, holding his breath as she searched his face. His mind was deceiving him. The doors of reality had closed at last. Slowly, as if to test the ground beneath him, he stepped up onto the curb somewhere between alarm and fright, feeling like he was on a tightrope a hundred feet above ground. “Stay away from me!” she said, her voice reminiscent of her father’s.’
Linda Bruckheimer, bestselling author and philanthropist, described The Angel’s Lamp as … “story telling at its finest, a tale that fuses fact and fiction together to create a grim, yet darkly romantic, portrait of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. The familiar events of the rebellion are written in vivid detail, highlighting the grit and glory and passion that were the earmarks of the Irish Independence movement. But, it is Ashby Jones’s masterfully-drawn characters and his cinematic eye that make this version so powerful and brutally human.”
The Governor of Xinjiang Province, Xiang Li, is a cultured, rational man, yet he sets out to follow a star halfway across the world. The wise man’s journey to Bethlehem sees him travel through the snow-choked passes of the Tian Shan mountains and the searing heat of the Syrian Desert.
“Richard Yeo has the gift of taking you right inside the story,” says one reviewer, author Wendy Berg. “The characters are vividly real and come alive in front of your eyes. I felt as if I was taking the journey with them, and was changed by the experience. This is a very special book.”
Described by one reviewer as “a rich blend of history, philosophy, fiction and satire”, The Secular Gospel of Sophia is set in the fourth century. Emperor Constantine has decided his people will follow the Christian religion. Sophia becomes an unwilling symbol of the Gnostic Christianity that the newly empowered Catholics are determined to destroy.
‘Sophia was not her birth name. That was forgotten. So much was forgotten. Trivial things. Important things. Mother? Father? She had no mother, no father, except for the streets of Alexandria, the wide world, and the universe. Where was she born? Perhaps a linguist, studying the curves of her inflections and the tacks of her Greek or Egyptian could have calibrated her place of birth, but she knew not.’
English professor Susan Signe Morrison brings us an alternative version of the Old English epic, Beowulf. Here Grendel’s Mother is not the monster she’s been portrayed as, but a healer, seer, and above all else, mother.
“Grendel’s Mother tells a universal story of heroic dimensions through the eyes of a woman who sees and understands and deeply feels everything that happens. It is a rare glimpse into a world that is both profoundly alien and surprisingly, wrenchingly, our own.” Susan Wittig Albert.
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