This time I’ve decided to recommend some of my favourite historical fiction books. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it simply refers to books written in the modern day but set in the past. Without further ado, I’ll just start talking about the books, but as always, I invite you to share your own recommendations in the comments below.
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
With Church of Marvels, Parry has created a gorgeous tapestry of storytelling that follows a diverse group of characters that seem at first to be entirely unrelated, but whose paths move towards each other in stunning revelations and heart-breaking twists. The immersive settings include the gritty streets of 19th century New York, a brutal women’s asylum and an enchanting sideshow.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
In Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, we follow a fictionalised account of the last execution to take place in Iceland, during which a young woman accused of murder is sent to live with a family as she awaits trial and seemingly inevitable death. This is not an action packed read, but one full of quiet beauty where the power of the dramatic Icelandic setting becomes a character in its own right, adding rich atmosphere to this melancholy tale.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This is in essence a placeholder for both the Sepetys books I’ve read thus far, the other being Salt to the Sea, as both handle lesser known aspects of wartime history with expert care and a heavy dose of emotional impact. Though approachable for a YA audience, I felt they both successfully avoided the distracting angst that often overpowers such books. Between Shades of Gray itself follows a Lithuanian girl and her family as they are seized by Soviets and sent on a perilous journey to an even more deadly work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See follows the dual perspectives of a blind French girl who is forced to flee her home with her father, and a boy recruited to the Nazi regime, and the haunting story that sees their lives gradually converge. Above all, I found it to be a wonderful portrayal of the inherent goodness that lies within us, and the human desire to show it, even in our darkest moments.
Black Sheep by Susan Hill
Very ‘Hardyesque’ in feel, Susan Hill perfectly captures the struggles of rural working life, as a family of mine workers each long for freedom in their own ways – or flat-out reject it even as a possibility. Their attempts to escape the vice-like grip of poverty and uphold a societally acceptable image have devastating consequences in a bleak yet powerful tale of hardship and social order.
What are some of your favourite historical fiction books?