Author Geraldine Brooks to visit Wichita this week

Foreign correspondents get a window on the world that few other people do: they see what’s happening in remote places, learn about various cultures, and often have a front-row seat to wars and coups and natural disasters. But they don’t always get a sense of the past the way Geraldine Brooks does.

The Australian-born Brooks most recently worked as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal before making the shift into fiction. Since then, she’s written four historical novels, all richly detailed, meticulously researched and beautifully written.

“Year of Wonders,” set in England during the plague of 1666, follows the life of a young woman whose life and worldview are forever altered by the illness sweeping her village. “March,” for which Brooks won a Pulitzer Prize, is set during the Civil War and imagines the life of the absent father — away at war — from “Little Women.” “People of the Book” is the centuries-spanning story of a mysterious Jewish manuscript inspired by a real manuscript called the Sarajevo Haggadah.

“Caleb’s Crossing” was also inspired by history, in the person of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a Wampanoag Indian who was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard — in 1665. The novel is told from the point of view of Bethia Mayfield, a headstrong clergyman’s daughter whose life intersects with Caleb’s.

“Caleb’s Crossing,” now out in paperback (Penguin, 318 pages, $16), is what brings Brooks to Wichita this week. She’s the final author in Watermark Books’ Penguin Author Series, and will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at Watermark. Tickets are required and may be purchased at the store. For more information, call 316-682-1181.

New book details early history of Manhattan

“Frontier Manhattan: Yankee Settlement to Kansas Town, 1854-1894” by Kevin G.W. Olson (University Press of Kansas, 203 pages, $29.95) traces the first 40 years of Manhattan’s history. The city was founded in 1854, the year of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, when pro- and anti-slavery settlers began pouring into Kansas in an attempt to influence the direction of the territory.

The city grew quickly, survived Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War, and became a thriving business center and college town.

Olson draws on original documents to tell the town’s story, and the book is illustrated with historical photos and maps.