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Rich and immersive, transporting and informative, good historical fiction is a sumptuous treat. See the past re-written with our Historical Fiction collection. Here to take you to another time without the cost of building a time machine.
November 2012 Guest Editor Kate Mosse on All Quiet On the Western Front... I write about war and the consequences of war, the way ordinary people are caught up in events larger than themselves. Written by a veteran of the First World War, to my mind this it the finest anti-war novel of them all. The story of a young German soldier in WWI, it lays bare the futility of war and with the most heart breaking closing paragraph. A 2011 World Book Night selection. One by one the boys begin to fall...In 1914, a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the 'glorious war'. With the fire and patriotism of youth, they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young 'unknown soldier' experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches. Our Editorial Guru, Sarah Broadhurst, has suggested others book and authors that would be perfect for you to read next or to pass on the recommendation - so your gift will keep on giving enjoyment. Her selections for this title are: Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks.
A world away from the Royal courts of Europe, this is set in and around the aftermath of the slave trade in Bristol. Gregory brings her unique combination of a vivid sense of history and inimitable storytelling skills to illuminate a complex period of our past, a past that unlike the American slave trade is much less well known but no less disgraceful. Riveting, heart-breaking, powerful, haunting, intensely disturbing, this is a novel of desire and shame, of individuals, of a society, and of a whole continent devastated by the greed of others.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize For the four fraught, mysterious days of her doomed maiden voyage in 1912, the Titanic sails towards New York, glittering with luxury, freighted with millionaires and hopefuls. In her labyrinthine passageways are played out the last, secret hours of a small group of passengers, their fate sealed in prose of startling, sublime beauty, as Beryl Bainbridge's haunting masterpiece moves inexorably to its known and terrible end.
March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Patrick O'Brian... Beginning with “Master and Commander” this beautifully-written series follows the fortunes of a most unlikely couple of companions: Jack Aubrey, a large, bluff and not overly-refined sea captain, and Stephen Maturin, a Catalan ship’s doctor and part-time spy. Their lives, their wives, their loves and tragedies are etched in loving and unforgettable detail.
One of the most admired of all Penelope Fitzgerald's books, The Blue Flower was chosen as Book of the Year more than any other in 1995. Her final book, it confirmed her reputation as one of the finest novelists of the century. A masterpiece. One of Joanna Trollope's favourite books. I had supper with her once, in the converted garage of her daughter’s house, where she was then living, and she was as warm and restrained and acute and beguiling as her books, of which my absolute favourite is The Blue Flower, the story of an extraordinary betrothal in eighteenth century Germany. If anyone needs a pattern of How To Write, Penelope Fitzgerald is IT. Click here to read Penelope Fitzgerald's son-in-law discuss her legacy to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth.
February 2012 Guest Editor Joanna Trollope on J.G. Farrell... He won the Lost Booker prize for Troubles and the real Booker – forever ago - for The Siege Of Krishnapur. I love the elegance of his writing, and the wit, and the sense of the absurd, and the way he can transport you to a whole crazy other world. He drowned, off the coast of Ireland, when he was only 44. A real loss. The Lovereading view... A new edition of the 1973 Booker Prize winning novel. A brilliant, dark humorous book about the decline of colonialism and an exploration of class, race and culture in general. Great stuff.
July 2011 Guest Editor Alexander McCall Smith on The Towers of Trebizond This is a humorous classic that is largely ignored today but which is still as amusing as it was when it was first published. It has a classic first line, never since equalled.
Winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize. An involving and interesting tale set in 1919 about a World War One veteran, Brendan Archer, who travels to Ireland to find the girl he rashly got engaged to three years earlier. When love appears to have been lost Brendan finds himself drawn in to the world of the Palm Court hotel just as Ireland faces it’s most dramatic political upheaval. A book of humour, pathos and politics. Totally absorbing and unputdownable.
January 2014 Guest Editor Jodi Picoult on Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I memorized huge passages when I was twelve and pretended to be both Rhett and Scarlett (hence I had no boyfriend till I was 15…). I loved that Margaret Mitchell had created a world out of words, and I wanted to do the same thing. The Lovereading view... First published in 1936, this book is a historical novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War. It tells the love story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. February 2011 Guest Editor Carmen Reid on Margaret Mitchell... Gone With The Wind must be the grandmammie of romantic novels. Yes it’s over 1000 pages long and you know the story already because you’ve watched the epic film over many a bank holiday. But February strikes me as the perfect month to turn the telly off, go to bed early and wade through this Southern Civil war blockbuster. Tighten your crinoline, practise saying: ‘Oh Ashley!’ And ‘No, no, Rhett!’ And vow to the skies that you will never, ever be poor again! Realise why it’s so terrifically good that Margaret snagged herself a Pulitzer Prize in 1937.
With authors like the two-time Man Booker Prize winning Hilary Mantel among its illuminati, it’s no wonder that Historical Fiction is arguably more popular than ever. Follow the lives, loves, betrayals, deaths, trials-and-tribulations of those that went before us.
Whether you follow Sebastian Faulks and P.S Duffy to the hell and displacement of the Front in WWI, Philippa Gregory to the intrigue, immorality and perils of the court of Henry VIII, or get rocked on the high seas of the King’s Navy in Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander, there is a wealth of exceptional storytelling to dive headfirst into. Where will you let our time machine take you today?