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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.
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
From the bestselling author Ken Follett, The Evening and the Morning is a historical epic that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins. A TIME OF CONFLICT It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and those with power wield it harshly, bending justice according to their will - often in conflict with the king. With his grip on the country fragile and with no clear rule of law, chaos and bloodshed reign. THREE LIVES INTERTWINED Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe. THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE Now, with England at the dawn of the Middle Ages, these three people will each come into dangerous conflict with a ruthless bishop, who will do anything to increase his wealth and power, in an epic tale of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, and love and hate. Thirty years ago we were introduced to Kingsbridge in The Pillars of the Earth, and now in this masterful prequel international bestseller Ken Follett will take us on a journey into a rich past, which will end where his masterpiece begins.
East London, 1865 Eighteen-year-old Irene Angel lives with her parents in a tiny room above the shop where her mother ekes out a living selling pickles and sauces while her father Billy gambles away their earnings. It is all Irene can do to keep the family together. Billy's addiction soon leads him into trouble. Despite having been brought up by her father to fear and distrust the police, Irene finds herself forced to collaborate with them to save him from ruin. But Billy's errant ways finally catch up with him and he is imprisoned in Newgate jail. With her mother away from home, Irene has little choice but to seek help from Inspector Edward Kent - her sworn enemy. Only she can clear her father's name and unite the family once more...
At once a passionate portrait of a scientifically seminal young woman, and a fascinating account of the lives of well-to-women in the early 19th-century, I Ada lays bare the many faces of Ada Lovelace. Ada the inquisitive. Ada the adventuress. Ada the visionary genius who defied convention to become the world’s first computer programmer, the seeds of which are sown in this portrayal of her early life. Driven by drama and a spirit of affection, this is as lively as it is informative. Fathered by flamboyant, notorious Lord Byron, it’s perhaps no wonder how easily Ada slips “into the unbordered realms of the imagination” as a child living on her grandparents’ country estate. Ada thinks of him often, and wonders why her mother speaks little of him. But then, Ada’s relationship with her strict, distant mother is often strained. Ada’s flighty tendencies jar with Lady Byron’s more rigid intellectual outlook. But they’re both inspired by their Grand Tour of Europe - Lady Byron seizes an opportunity to research ideas for her progressive school, while Ada’s mind is opened to a world of possibilities. Back in England, Ada’s desires are constrained by societal conventions, though female thinkers and mathematicians are among her circle, and then she meets a revolutionary inventor whose work chimes with her own innovative scientific ideas…
I challenge any reader, young or old, not to want to devour this book in one delicious sitting. Once started upon the story of Lotti and Ben, two orphans living in the aftermath of World War 1 and who could not be more different in temperament or background, it is impossible to put down. Initially and understandably wary, they gradually become each other’s best friend and staunch allies in their respective quests for family and a safe haven for an increasing number of dogs. Their odyssey takes them, in the faithful old narrowboat which has been Ben’s home, across the stormy channel to France, with a vengeful, deceitful uncle and a steadfast policeman hot on their heels. But there is nothing far fetched in their survival, they do need and even eventually welcome the support of friendly adults on both sides of the channel and they learn to work together and to counteract each other’s failings. They never lose hope in even the darkest moments and neither does the reader, despite some heart-stopping tension. These are characters who will dwell long in your memory and indeed leave you wanting to know more, including about some of the fascinating minor characters. The authentic period detail and dialogue captures the spirit of an age where children may seem, to a modern audience, to have a thrilling level of agency and independence, but only because they are largely ignored or neglected rather than protected by society. A standalone, middle grade adventure that is as well written as this, is pure gold dust with which to captivate young readers and a perfect class read. But be warned, they may not want to go home!
Enthralling, chilling, challenging, and wonderfully readable, this story winds itself around a moment in history. In 1942 a fire started at Seacliff, classed as a lunatic asylum in New Zealand, and all but two of the patients in a female ward perished. C. D. Major uses the fire as a focus and begins the tale there. Edith was five years old when she arrived at the asylum, after the fire she is questioned and a new doctor begins to doubt the reasons for her being shut away from the outside world. Covering the years between 1927 and the 1940’s I found myself either fully immersed in ‘now’ or consumed by ‘before’. The plot itself twists, schemes, provokes, and ensures that this novel can’t be pigeon-holed by genre. The asylum sits brooding, biding its time, while the occupants become entangled and caught in the treatment and rules. Tension sweeps through the tale, and I found myself searching, questioning, hoping. Edith is a fascinating character, she is written with compassion and evoked so many emotions. The powerful ending made me exclaim, it truly spoke to me and has stayed in my thoughts. The author’s debut The Silent Hours was another emotional and impressive read and also comes as highly recommended. I have chosen The Other Girl as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, it has a haunting quality that ensures a compelling read.
For ages 9 to 90 ‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
Fate by Design has an interesting plot, a historical fiction focusing on the challenges of a single mother in a small 1950s mining town after her husband disappears. The reader is brought up to speed quickly as we first meet Cassie Gallagher in an interview room and context is easily provided. I think Fate by design was incredibly well-researched and that this would be a brilliant book for fans of modern history, whether that’s fiction or fact. The challenges faced by Cassie the vulnerability of her position endeared me to her throughout. I loved that this book focused on a small community and the author's writing really brought the people and the setting to life as I read. I am aware of some aspects of mining communities and I was fascinated to learn more about how changes throughout the 50s and 60s had an impact on the towns and the people. I found Fate by Design an insightful read and I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a book about history or, community and self-development.
Unto This Last is a historical fiction centred around John Ruskin the Victorian era art critic amongst many other things. Before reading this book I had perhaps heard of Ruskin but didn’t know too much about him. Despite this lack of previous knowledge I found Unto This Last a detailed and interesting depiction of Ruskin’s connection to Rose La Touche. I found that this book was very well written, it seemed to me to be written in the style of a period novel while also managing to maintain a degree of self awareness that I thought allowed for a more critical eye on a range of topics such as mental health and Victorian attitudes in reference to women. I think the relationship between Ruskin and La Touche is quite delicately handled, with Ruskin coming across as almost naïve to me early in the story. I also particularly liked the additional literary nods throughout the book. The title itself is taken from one of Ruskin’s works and the chapter heading “State of Denmark” as a nod to Shakespeare's Hamlet are great examples that I noticed. I think that this book has been very well-researched and written with real insight. I think that anyone who enjoys period novels would enjoy this book without needing to know a great deal about the main character beforehand. The book covers an extended period and also fills in details about Ruskin’s early years and first marriage. I also think this is perhaps a great starting point for any interested reader to do more research on John Ruskin’s life. I would say that Unto This Last is a substantial and yet fascinating read that provides a considered look at the life and work of John Ruskin.
This moving, thoughtful, and expressive historical novel walked into my heart with deep empathy, and more than a hint of fantasy. Set during the Second World War, between 1941 and 1944, The World We Knew explores the nature of war, anti-Semitism, and what people can become when faced with the hardest of choices. When Hanni Kohn approaches her rabbi to help save her 12 year old daughter from the Nazi regime, assistance comes from the least likely of places. The first chapter, stark, urgent, and compelling was so intense I almost stopped breathing. As the chapter came to a close I sat for a moment in contemplative silence. I simply adored how Alice Hoffman balances the fantasy element of the novel, it feels as though a truth has been sent free. I disappeared into the words, and took to my heart that survival isn’t just a matter of life or death. One word of advice, you may need to have tissues close to hand, I cried at the beauty of the ending. The World That We Knew is not only one of my picks of the month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.
Shot-through with a vital message about the importance of giving voice and rightful representation to women who’ve been silenced by centuries of patriarchy, this smart novel melds an intriguing art history mystery with Parisian amour. While Khayyam is clear about what she wants to do with her life - become a respected art historian - her identity is more complex. She’s “French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith.” As such, “Others look at me and try to shove me into their own narrative to define who and what I am. But I’m not a blank page that everyone else gets to write on. I have my own voice.” This statement weaves through the whole novel, which sees Khayyam in Paris for the summer, still reeling from a relationship gone awry back home in Chicago, and from her Young Scholar Prize essay being dismissed as “the work of a dilettante, not a future art historian”. When she happens to run into a cute Parisian boy, who happens to be a descendent of bi-racial French writer Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam and said cute boy (also called Alexandre) embark on an intellectual voyage that leads them to Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman connected to Dumas and Byron. Leila’s forgotten life and silenced voice is revealed through her letters, with Khayyam frequently asserting her desire to right the wrong of “the entire world dehumanizing and erasing this woman who had a life, who mattered.” Through Khayyam the novel also addresses issues around representation and cultural appropriation as she wrestles with determining who has the right to tell Leila’s story, including herself. As Khayyam’s findings hot up, so too does her love life. First there’s the spark between her and Alexandre, then there’s the simmering presence of her Chicagoan ex. With Paris vibrantly evoked as her stage - its history, architecture, secret gardens and food - Leila’s personal life and intellectual prowess combine to create a life-changing summer. This comes hugely commended - and recommended - for its portrayal of an intelligent young woman who refuses to bow to expectations, and who’s determined to give voice to the voiceless. Like Khayyam, it’s smart, thoughtful and inspirational.
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?