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Historical Fiction

  • Last Painting of Sarah DeVos

    The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. "This was the best novel I read in 2016.  It's a page turner that tells the story of a 1960s forgery by a young art historian in NYC and then transports you to 1600 Holland and the story of the artist whose painting was forged. Both are women and their lives parallel and connect in surprising ways."

  • Lilac Girls

    Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. "A historical novel based on real women during WWII.  An American socialite, a Polish girl in a Nazi-camp, and the Nazi doctor who run experiments.  The writing is excellent, and the story of these 'rabbit girls' of the camp is both horrifying and uplifting".

  • Lincoln at the Bardo

    Lincoln at the Bardo by George Saunders "This is such a different way of story telling (including quotes - real and fictional - about Lincoln and the historical setting). I think going in without a lot of preconceived ideas and just letting the story unfold is the best way to go. The premise is Lincoln visiting his eleven year old son's grave the day of his burial. But really the heart of the book for me was the wide ranging cast of characters who are between the worlds - in the Bardo of the title - and their touching, funny, tragic, and heart breaking stories. I listened to this book on audio which I highly recommend. There are over 160 voices and they all bring these characters to life (so to speak). Many of the characters make fairly brief appearances but they are vivid in my memory.”

  • Lissette's List

    Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland. “Another great art-centric period piece by Vreeland.  This one is centers on Lisette, a newly-wed Parisian art gallery worker who moves to the countryside of France to care for her husband's dying grandfather.  He has a beautiful art collection, and teaches Lisette about the artists before he dies.  When WWII breaks out, her husband hide the art so that it won't be stolen by Nazis, but fails to tell Lisette where it is before he goes off to war.  Lisette vows not to return to Paris until she finds all of the missing art, in the process learning about the countryside and the resilience of the people.”

  • Luncheon of the Boating Party

    Luncheon of the Boating Partyby Susan Vreeland. "France. Historical novel that chronicles the backdrop to this famous Renoir painting. A fun read for those who liked Girl With A Pearl Earring or Madame X (of the same ilk as this book)." Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir’s future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War.

  • Madonnas of Leningrad

    The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. "Historical fictiony book about a women sliding into Alzheimers whose most vivid memories are those from her time hunkered down in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad during WWII."

  • Many Lives and Secret Sorrows

    The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland.  "This is the first in a series of three historical fiction novels about Josephine Bonaparte. Very interesting, good historical details, lots of fun."  Gulland was on the early side of the historical fiction trend, one that really got rolling with The Other Boleyn Girl a couple of years later.

  • March

    March By Geraldine Brooks. “Sort of the male version of Little Women and it's not too long."

  • Metropolis

    Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney: "Historical fiction set in NYC during building of Brooklyn Bridge."  From Amazon: "On a freezing night in the middle of winter, Gaffney’s nameless hero is suddenly awakened by a fire in P. T. Barnum’s stable, where he works and sleeps, and soon finds himself at the center of a citywide arson investigation.  Determined to clear his name and realize the dreams that inspired his hazardous voyage across the Atlantic, he will change his identity many times, find himself mixed up with one of the city’s toughest and most enterprising gangs, and fall in love with a smart, headstrong, and beautiful young woman. Buffeted by the forces of fate, hate, luck, and passion, our hero struggles to build a life–just to stay alive–in a country that at first held so much promise for him." 

  • Murder as a Fine Art

    Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell.  “Gaslit London is brought to its knees in David Morrell’s brilliant historical thriller.”  A brutal murder that took place in 1811 is being recreated in 1854 London, causing panic.

  • Museum of Extraordinary Things

    Museum of Extraordinary Things From Amazon: "Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s 'museum,' alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

    “The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie... 

    "With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding."

  • My Dream of You

    My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain. “This book intertwines the stories of two women, an Irish travel writer living in present-day London, and a British landowner's wife during the 19th century potato famine, who was convicted of committing adultery with an Irish groom. This book has gotten lots of great reviews."

  • Nightwatch

    The Nightwatchby Sarah Waters. "This is a mesmerizing story of young people in Britain during the Second World War. Ingeniously told backward, it takes characters where they are and answers the most intriguing of questions: How did they get here? Satisfying to the last line, Nightwatch jolts the reader with domestic front reality and all that women did while men—most of them—were fighting. Waters is known as a lesbian writer, but this does her a great disservice (shame on me for letting the label slip out again). She ranks among the greatest of stylists, and her use of historical detail is beautiful."

  • Norwegian by Night

    Norwegian By Nightby Derek B. Miller.  Evidently this novel has been a big hit in Europe. "I found it a little slow at first, and then I was taken on a great ride.  It is a well written novel that has many aspects to it.  It is hard to put it in one category. It is a thriller.  There is a historical piece, that I really enjoyed.   There is plenty of humor, and yet, it is very touching.  It has been awhile since I read a book that I didn’t want to put down, and didn’t want to end.  All the members of my book group thoroughly enjoyed it." "The protagonist Sheldon Horowitz, is a wise 82-year-old who carries the weight of many losses - his wife, his son (Vietnam), his friends. Then a woman upstairs is murdered in while he is hiding in the closet with the woman's young boy. Afraid the killer and his gang will return for the boy, Sheldon runs off with him, and an adventure ensues, with Sheldon's many memories woven through.  Sheldon's wonderful character emerges throughout the novel. It's just magnificent."

  • Orphan Train

    Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. “Troubled foster teen Molly, a Penobscot Indian, takes on a 'community service' job of helping 91-year-old widow Vivian Daly clean out her attic. While she initially thinks she and this wealthy widow have nothing in common, the treasures locked away in the attic tell the story of Vivian’s life, from Ireland to New York to the orphan train, a fictional story in this case, but an actual train that carried orphans from East to West for 75 years. A ride on the orphan train was a crapshoot as to whether a child would end up with a good family or as an indentured servant. Vivan was abused by two different families before finding a decent life, one that ultimately was marred by great loss. Molly and Vivian come to be friends and to help support each other, and this is one of those rare books that truly feels like it ends too soon.”

  • Other Boleyn Girl

    The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.  This is the #1 bestseller that really put Gregory on the map and launched a thousand imitators (not to mention a movie).  Trashy and fun, it is set against the backdrop of the intrigue of the tudor court of Henry VIII.  The Other Boleyn girl is Anne's sister Mary.  Everyone in the court is utterly ruthless, including Anne's own parents.  It's a fascinating page-turner.  some people fussed (as they always do with this genre) about historical accuracy.  She took liberties.  Enjoy the book, soak up the atmosphere, but don't try to cite it in a history paper.

  • Out Stealing Horses

    Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. “Sparse and powerful.” From Amazon:  We were going out stealing horses. That was what he said, standing at the door to the cabin where I was spending the summer with my father. I was fifteen. It was 1948 and one of the first days of July. Trond’s friend Jon often appeared at his doorstep with an adventure in mind for the two of them. But this morning was different. What began as a joy ride on “borrowed” horses ends with Jon falling into a strange trance of grief. Trond soon learns what befell Jon earlier that day—an incident that marks the beginning of a series of vital losses for both boys. Set in the easternmost region of Norway, Out Stealing Horsesbegins with an ending. Sixty-seven-year-old Trond has settled into a rustic cabin in an isolated area to live the rest of his life with a quiet deliberation. A meeting with his only neighbor, however, forces him to reflect on that fateful summer.

  • Pachinko

    Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. "A sweeping novel of 4 generations of Koreans in Japan during WWII.  It is a story of love, war, and family.  Difficult to sum up, but an interesting read".

  • Paris Wife

    The Paris Wife by Paula McClain. I think I might be the only one who has not yet read (and loved) this novel, so this may be a review in service of just me. In fact, it got so many recommendations that I had to winnow down the comments (which I did at random): "A simple, but nicely told story of Hemingway and his first wife during their time in Paris. The story comes across very real the entire time, you feel for Hadley, know that it all will not end well - and so does she pretty much, but totally understand her choices and her acceptance of the consequences. The writing is kind of lyrical.” …. “Interesting from two perspectives: historical and a love story. Liked because Hemingway is such a fascinating person. His huge self-confidence and adventure seeking persona are intriguing.” … “You'll want to reread Moveable Feast when you finish.”

  • People of the Book

    People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: This one also got a few votes. "I just finished this. One of the most interesting, well-written books I've read in a long time. She's a masterful writer and tells a terrific story." And: "I am in the middle of Brook’s latest and am totally captivated. As she has in her other books, the characters are quickly real to you and important. But this one is a mystery, really, about tracing the history of an ancient book. So far I love it, but I have always loved her books!"