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Historical Fiction

  • Eight

    The Eight by Katherine Neville. Written in 1997, “an intense thriller that is steeped in history. The story revolves around a chess set with magical powers that is sought after across the ages. Highly complex and quick-pace at the same time.”

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine

    Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir. “France, England. Good old raucous Royals.  Ok, I love good romps of royals in historical fiction and normally love Alison Weir's books. This one didn't do it for me (too dry), but big Alison Weir fans may really love it. It got very good reviews.” (This reader preferred The Children of Henry VIII by Weir, saying it was “wildly more interesting and entertaining.”)

  • English Passengers

    English Passengersby Matthew Kneale. I LOVED this book!  Description:  "In 1857 when Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of rum smugglers from the Isle of Man have most of their contraband confiscated by British Customs, they are forced to put their ship up for charter. The only takers are two eccentric Englishmen who want to embark for the other side of the globe. The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson believes the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania. His traveling partner, Dr. Thomas Potter, unbeknownst to Wilson, is developing a sinister thesis about the races of men...Meanwhile, an aboriginal in Tasmania named Peevay recounts his people’s struggles against the invading British, a story that begins in 1824, moves into the present with approach of the English passengers in 1857, and extends into the future in 1870. These characters and many others come together in a storm of voices that vividly bring a past age to life."

  • Flashman

    Flashman by George Macdonald Fraser (and others in the Flashman series). These are guy books. Drew has really enjoyed them. They are “satirical histiography” about this a rascal -- Harry Flashman – who finds himself amid great events of the 19th century, while being chased by jealous husbands and getting (and accepting) credit for courage that he didn’t actually possess.

  • Garden of Evening Mists

    The Garden of Evening Mistsby Tan Twan Eng. "On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan.... Eng's writing is poetic at times and full of beautiful imagery. The Malaysian settings of the Japanese garden and the tea estate are fully drawn and for the past few days my head has been filled with visions of lush jungle and a formal structured garden of rock and foreign plants - contrasting images that parallel life in a country controlled by outsiders, first by the British and then the invading Japanese during the war. Teoh Yun Ling is a retired judge who returns to the Cameron Highlands with aphasia - she will slowly forget how to speak and write and understand language. As a result, she starts to document her past and her story is told through her writing interspersed with episodes in the present day. The story unfolds slowly and while the book is character driven, the plot is generally compelling."

  • Gentleman in Moscow

    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  This isn’t exactly a revelation.  Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility was a previous top pick, and this book was much-anticipated and was an immediate hit.  But I can’t not include it as a top pick, because it just IS a top pick. The story follows an aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest in a luxury hotel in Moscow during the Russian Revolution and stays there for decades.  "The book is a lot more fun than it sounds.  Well written and the narrator is quite an engaging character.  There are some implausible plot twists but otherwise a very good book."  “Loved it.  What a wonderful character.  So much to chew on and think about, but also just a rollicking good story.”  “Loved it. My whole book club loved it.”

  • Gilead

    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  From Amazon:  "The narrator, John Ames, is 76, a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life.  Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man." Won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

  • Girl with the Pearl Earring

    Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.  The novel was inspired by the Vermeer painting of the same name.  (The author had a poster of the painting - it moved wherever she did for 16 years.  She said she was fascinated by the ambiguous expression on the model's face).  Sixteen-year-old Griet lives with her family in Delft.  Her family has fallen on hard times and sixteen-year-old Griet is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Johannes Vermeer. The novel was a runaway bestseller in 1999.  They made a movie out of it with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johanssen.

  • Good Lord Bird

    The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  “A real winner.  It’s an historical fiction take on John Brown and the raid of Harper's Ferry.  It is funny, interesting and well written.”

  • History of Love

    The History of Love  by Nicole Krauss.  From Amazon:  "A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness.  Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of “extraordinary depth and beauty” (Newsday).

  • History of the Pleasure Seeker

    History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason.  “Set in the early 20th century Holland, this novel follows the upwardly mobile Piet Barols who is hired as a tutor in a fabulously wealthy household.  Piet moves easily between the upstairs and downstairs, charming his way into good fortune and insinuating himself into the lives of the rich around him.

  • How the Garcia Girls Lost their accent

    How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez. From Amazon: "The Garcías —Dr. Carlos (Papi), his wife Laura (Mami), and their four daughters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía—belong to the uppermost echelon of Spanish Caribbean society, descended from the conquistadores. Their family compound adjoins the palacio of the dictator’s daughter. So when Dr. García’s part in a coup attempt is discovered, the family must flee. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Dominican Republic. Papi has to find new patients in the Bronx. Mami, far from the compound and the family retainers, must find herself. Meanwhile, the girls try to lose themselves—by forgetting their Spanish, by straightening their hair and wearing fringed bell bottoms. For them, it is at once liberating and excruciating being caught between the old world and the new, trying to live up to their father’s version of honor while accommodating the expectations of their American boyfriends. Acclaimed writer Julia Alvarez’s brilliant and buoyant first novel sets the García girls free to tell their most intimate stories about how they came to be at home—and not at home—in America."

  • I am Livia

    I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith.  “The story of Livia Drusilla, second wife of Cesar Octavianus, from when she was 14 until Cesar Octavianus returns from his victory over Egypt. Told by Livia in a fairly contemporary voice yet historically accurately.  It is a love story and a story of power, ambition, and intellectual curiosity, set in the aristocracy of the Roman Empire. An easy read, yet fascinating because of the historic importance.  Perfect for the beach

  • In Sunlight, In a Beautiful Garden

    In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden: A Novel by Kathleen Cambor. From Amazon:  “In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden is the story of a bittersweet romance set against the backdrop of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood -- a tragedy that cost some 2,200 lives when the South Fork Dam burst on Memorial Day weekend, 1889. The dam was the site of a gentlemen's club that attracted some of the wealthiest industrialists of the day -- Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon, and Andrew Carnegie -- and served as a summertime idyll for the families of the rich. In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden imagines the lives that were lived, lost, and irreparably changed by a tragedy that could have been averted.”

  • Instance of the Fingerpost

    An Instance of the Fingerpostby Iain Pears. “If one gets into historical mysteries, this is an all-time winner.” From Amazon (quoting People):  "It is 1663, and England is wracked with intrigue and civil strife. When an Oxford don is murdered, it seems at first that the incident can have nothing to do with great matters of church and state....Yet, little is as it seems in this gripping novel, which dramatizes the ways in which witnesses can see the same events yet remember them falsely. Each of four narrators—a Venetian medical student, a young man intent on proving his late father innocent of treason, a cryptographer, and an archivist—fingers a different erudite and entertaining tour de force."

  • Invention of Wings

    The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd  “Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.”  “This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women”  “This is a flat-out masterpiece. Kidd has always written beautifully about the power of relationships between women (Secret Life of Bees) and in this book she does so again, set against the realities of slavery in the early 1800s. She focuses on fractious and loving mother-daughter relationships as well as how women grow in wisdom as well as years. The writing is perfect in every respect. This one deserves to become a classic.”

  • Kite Runner

    The Kite Runner, by Khalid Hosseini. They recently published a tenth anniversary edition of this novel, which became an instant classic when it was published in 2003.  Powerful, engaging, sad, yet also a page-turner, it tells the story of a friendship between a wealthy Afghan boy and the son of a family servant, set against the ominous backdrop of 1970s Afghanistan.

  • Known World

    The Known World By Edward P. Jones. "Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a black slaveowner two decades before the start of the Civil War."

  • Last Convertible

    The Last Convertible by Anton Myrer: A wonderful story about five young men who go to Harvard together in the 1940s. It spans many decades, and is a wonderful read. A PERFECT beach book.

  • Last Dickens

    The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl "A historical mystery, this is a lovely, exciting read. Charles Dickens has died during the writing of Edwin Drood, leaving the work unfinished. Or did he finish it? You'll see."