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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.
This book is a collection of five short stories, each very different but with central theme of all of them desire and how it manifests itself in different ways. Each story is set in a different location and range in time from pre-second World War to the present day. Although I enjoyed all of the stories, there were a couple that stood out to me and I would have liked these to continue, so I could find out more about the characters and what they did next. Overall, this is a really enjoyable book and is nice and easy to dip in and out of, by reading a story at a time. I would really recommend this book. Nicola Coen, A LoveReading Ambassador
In the author’s alternate 1980s Britain (which he parallels with the current political climate), Britain has lost the Falklands War, Thatcher is fighting for her political life as Tony Benn’s socialism engenders feverish devotion from young voters, and the country is on the verge of leaving Europe. Alongside these tides of change Alan Turing has created a small quantity of expensive, advanced artificial humans called Adams and Eves. Enter our drifter protagonist, 32-year-old Charlie Friend, who blows most of his inheritance on an Adam. He and his younger girlfriend Miranda share in Adam’s co-creation, both of them having a hand in determining Adam’s personality. The first of many challenges come when Adam and Miranda have sex, which leaves Charlie angry and humiliated: “He was a bipedal vibrator and I was the very latest in cuckolds”. And then Adam betrays Miranda, revealing to Charlie that she’s been lying to him. Moral dilemmas and existential questions abound when it seems that Adam is in love with Miranda in a very human sense, a love that’s partly exhibited through his penning of thousands of heartfelt love haikus. Alongside the oft-explored questions around sentience and what it means to be human, this often entertaining novel provokes fresh thought through Miranda’s complicated, tragic past, the characters’ complex current love triangle, and the future she and Charlie might forge for themselves.
The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”. Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters. According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Confessions of Frannie Langton.
I’ll let you into a secret, I have a bit of a reading crush on Natasha Solomons as she writes such beautifully observed and engaging books. Each time I am transported, and her previous title ‘The Song Collector’ was one of my books of the year in 2015. I’m more than happy to announce that ‘House of Gold’ is another triumph. Set between 1911 and 1917 this is a story that reads on an epic scale. Europe sits at the forefront as World War One marches forwards, and for one particular family the Goldbaum’s, their whole existence is fractured and forever altered. In such a huge arena we meet Greta who is sent from Austria to England to marry a distant cousin, her thoughts and feelings create a touchable, emotionally rich and moving story. I felt her pain, the ache of loneliness, and her relationship with her husband and brother are exquisitely realised. I just sat and read from start to finish in one wonderful afternoon. ’House of Gold’ is an absolute treasure, it made me feel, it made me think, it made me realise the knife edge on which humanity sits is razor-sharp indeed.
Wakenhyrst is a glorious darkly gothic feast of a read, and I really had no option other than to choose it as one of my picks of the month. Folklore and superstition are bound up in the Fens, Maud Steame has grown up there, surrounded by gossip, rumours and terrible secrets, will releasing her story set her free? Michelle Paver excels in quietly setting fear loose and disquiet scurrying free. Simply and beautifully descriptive, words leave the page and settle together to gradually create an entire picture. I found myself hooked, then completely snared as Maud’s life unfolds over 60 years revealing the very essence of her being. I feel deeply connected to Maud, and she continues to exist in my thoughts. Wakenhyrst is a fascinating, deeply emotional, and surprisingly beautiful read, I highly recommend stepping inside and setting your feelings free to explore.
The Moon Sister is the fifth epic story in the Seven Sisters series by the international number one bestseller Lucinda Riley. After the death of her father - Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe - Tiggy D'Apliese , trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves; caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird. Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gipsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain . . . In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to `La Candela' the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation. From the Scottish Highlands and Spain, to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja she begins to embrace her own talent for healing. But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird, and Charlie . . . The Moon Sister follows The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister and The Pearl Sister.
For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice: this is the story of the smallest library in the world - and the most dangerous. 'It wasn't an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns...' Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezin ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the `living books' - prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be `borrowed' to educate the children in the camp. But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children's block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor...
From the No.1 bestselling author of The Ashes of London and The Fire Court comes the next book in the phenomenally successful series following James Marwood. A royal scandal that could change the face of England forever… London 1667. In the Court of Charles II, it’s a dangerous time to be alive – a wrong move may lead to disgrace, exile or death. The discovery of a body at Clarendon House, the palatial home of one of the highest courtiers in the land, could therefore have catastrophic consequences. James Marwood, a traitor’s son, is ordered to cover up the murder. But the dead man is Edward Alderley, the cousin of one of Marwood’s acquaintances. Cat Lovett had every reason to want her cousin dead. Since his murder, she has vanished, and all the evidence points to her as the killer. Marwood is determined to clear Cat’s name and discover who really killed Alderley. But time is running out for everyone. If he makes a mistake, it could threaten not only the government but the King himself…
The Song of Achilles was a beautiful and evocative retelling of a Greek myth which well deserved its praise and prize. It is possible that this second offering is even better. The language is poetic with not a word wasted, a real joy to read. I remember Circe was one of the challenges met by Odysseus, the one who turned men into pigs. The beautiful character who narrates this story is that same “wicked witch” but a far cry from how Homer portrayed her. She is lovely, misunderstood, wilful and brilliant, a strong woman slowly growing into her power. Many famous mythical figures pepper these pages; Jason, Prometheus, the Minator … but don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them all, this spellbinding story gives you all you need to know. If you are familiar with the myths you will find new life in them in this enchanting retelling. I really cannot praise it enough. It is a special book, bridging romance, fantasy, poetic literature and feminist writing to create a work of high standard with wide appeal. I loved it and I think you will too.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly readable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost close your eyes and take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear. I feel as though I could pick up a Dinah Jefferies book without knowing the author and would instinctively know it was hers, each book is completely individual yet the style of the author remains. The Missing Sister is richly and expressively eye-catching, it swept me up into the pages, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
I was completely and utterly consumed by this debut, it slowly took hold, crept into my thoughts, drew me in, and then refused to let me go. I really didn’t want to stop reading, and even now Cora Burns enters my mind and stops for a while. Cora Burns born in gaol and raised in a workhouse, finds herself in gaol once again before a scientist takes her on as a servant, just what exactly is his current experiment? The story starts in savage darkness, then spins forward in time before rolling between 1865, 1874 and 1885, slowly answering questions yet creating more. Carolyn Kirby has created the most deeply felt and amazing character in Cora (to me she isn’t a character but as real as real can be). There were times when I almost didn’t want to read her story, I wanted to shut my eyes, hum, and put my hands to my ears, and yet I simply couldn’t stop, the words haunted me, called to me, devoured me. The Conviction of Cora Burns enthralling, fascinating and so incredibly worthwhile, developed into the most unexpectedly fierce and beautiful read (I think you will understand if you step between the pages), and so just has to be one of my picks of the month.
A fascinating, intricate, provocative read, set in motion by events in 1942, and brilliantly highlighting human need and emotions. Ester escapes from Norway to Sweden after her family are deported to Auschwitz, involved in the resistance she is part of a plot that rears again 25 years later, and then in 2015 a link to the past finally begins to answer questions decades old. As I began to read, the words so clear, stark and powerful, painted an immediate moving picture in my mind. I've previously read and adored crime fiction by Kjell Ola Dahl, you are expected to keep up as he drives the plot forward and this is no different. Three time spans and intrigue galore could create an incredibly knotted labyrinth of a tale, yet this is told and translated so beautifully, each moment opens into the other as a series of doors that you just need to open and walk through. The Courier sent a shiver coursing through me, it is a truly eloquent and rewarding tale, and oh that ending!
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?