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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.
It’s 1950 and ten-year-old Michael is heading to Cape Cod for the summer. His train journey from Grand Central sets the tone, with the spectre of WWII looming large in a very real way as his memory streams images from train journeys he took in Germany, when it was essential to “keep your eyes shut and pretend you haven’t yet woken or that you’re already dead.” On arrival Michael stays with Richie and they strike up a bond with eccentric neighbour Edward Hooper, who’s depressed by his impotence as an artist, and his intellectually sharp wife Jo, who’s given to passionate, impetuous outbreaks. Personal loss, regrets, loneliness and hazy hopes are played out against a background of sweeping change (post-war transition; the beginning of the era of American consumerism) and the powerfully painted Cape Cod setting. In an era of quick digests and speedy swiping, this novel of depth and honesty stands as a testament to the potent value of taking one’s time.
A fascinating intricate storyline greets you in this dual time-frame novel. Lady Isabella Gerard, the owner of a stunning golden gown orders it destroyed, from that moment on lives linked to the gown are forever altered as it influences, and even possesses those who come into contact with it. I have to say that it is actually rather difficult to force-fit The Woman In The Lake into a genre as it spills into a number, including historical, relationship, mystery and it contains more than a whiff of supernatural too. Nicola Cornick has created characters with some, shall we say, undesirable traits (the reasons for which become clear), and I have to say that I enjoy a little wild and wicked! Seriously though, a character feels more well-rounded when you feel you can see them in their entirety. I just let myself go with a whoosh into this storyline, enjoying the supernatural edge, and would now love to visit Lydiard House to see the painted window. The Woman In The Lake is so deliciously easy to read and it’s highly entertaining.
A feverishly seductive story, it whispers, cajoles, beckons from history until the past forcefully assaults the present. When Ruth’s estranged father dies she returns to Edinburgh and discovers the hidden diary of her ancestor Thomas Erskine. Fascinated by his story Ruth finds herself in extraordinary danger when she starts to delve into the past. The prologue offers a warning, while the first chapter thoroughly sets the scene in 1760 as 10 year old Thomas witnesses a murder and sees the shadow of the dead man as it leaves the body. Barbara Erskine has based the story on her own family history, she paints a picture with a beautiful delicate balance and inner strength as the drama starts to unfold. Ruth’s story stands resolute in this time, and with a delicious shiver of fear I let the story take me where it willed. I always knew where I was, even as the past pushed ever closer. Spellbinding and gorgeously readable, as all becomes clear The Ghost Tree really is the most perfect title - highly recommended. Take a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Ghost Tree.
Annie Lang is a “fanciful child”. She tells it like it is, with much wisdom in her apparent naïveté and questioning of adults’ illogical rules, which doesn’t sit well with her strict religious upbringing. Following the untimely death of her mother, Annie’s worst fear comes to pass when her father marries their “old stick” punishment-wielding housekeeper. But some light shines in the form of Annie’s young Sunday School teacher, Millie Blessing, who arrives wearing beautiful blue high-heeled shoes and whose presence is a literal blessing to Annie. Then Millie vanishes, Annie goes to study in France, time moves on. But on her return, Annie is horrified to learn that her brother is in a mental hospital and, soon enough, ”unquiet ghosts from the past” are also raised. As the narrative shifts between the present-day (1932) and Annie’s childhood recollections and diaries, the novel is driven by her dedication to solving the mystery of Millie Blessing. While Annie’s distinctive voice and scrapes spark many smiles, this engrossing child’s perspective on adult misdemeanors also lays bare the rottenness of religious hypocrisy and male abuse of power. What an un-put-down-able tale this is.
* The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller * From the multi-million, number one bestselling author of Labyrinth and The Taxidermist's Daughter, comes The Burning Chambers: a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets, conspiracies and divided loyalties . . . Carcassonne 1562. Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father's bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou's help if he is to get out of La Cite alive . . . A thrilling adventure, and a heart-breaking love story, The Burning Chambers is a historical novel of excitement, conspiracy and danger like no other . . .
Abolitionism; farmer-turned-fugitive; shifting social and political sands - this companion to the author’s award-winning The Purchase is an epically-scaled feat of historical fiction. Virginia, 1855, and farmer John Dickinson’s fate and fortunes are on the downturn as the country shifts towards Civil War. John’s irresponsible brother has lost the family wealth, and now a Canadian outsider, “birdwatching abolitionist” Doctor Ross, is about to seal the dysfunctional family’s future. Ross, whose “desire to free slaves was about justice rather than virtue; he hated the slaver more than he loved the slave,” tells the farm’s slaves of “the glories of a country that is owned by England, where no fugitive law grabs you and sends you back down to bondage.” Ross also promises to “provide a compass and a knife and a map” and safety to those willing to take flight. Then, faced with cripplingly mounting debts and agitated slaves, and feeling “bedeviled by a sense of oncoming doom”, John and family are compelled to flee to the West aboard a wagon, enduring grave perils and personal demons as they journey in search of a new existence. Stylistically bold (no speech marks), meticulously detailed, and driven by a rich cast of characters (I particularly liked the folkloric story of young Martin and his bear companion), this novel calls for careful contemplation, and will reward readers who enjoy thoughtful historical epics.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly enjoyable 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 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. The Missing Sister is rich and expressive, it swept me up, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.
A captivating and absolutely thrilling historical tale that sits as a perfect sequel to the first in the series The Ashes of London. Please do start with the first book, it is a stunning read and sets the characters and scene so beautifully. After the Great Fire of London a court is established to judge the cases of discord between landlords and tenants. Suspicious deaths appear to link to the Fire Court, and as James and Cat attempt to find answers, their individual stories become more closely intertwined. After the drama and sheer visual spectacle of the first book, I did wonder how on earth the series would continue, and it is safe to say with great aplomb. The intricate plot immediately wormed its way into my head, slicing, enthralling, and sharply focused. There is one particularly unexpected and shocking moment that quite literally stopped my whole being, I sat in for a moment in silence before continuing, desperate to know more. Will you feel the same, will the words travel from the page, trap your feelings and hurl your thoughts in the air? This is a series that could run and run, The King’s Evil is already calling to me and quite simply can’t arrive quickly enough. The Fire Court has become part of a must-read series for me, it is highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous story, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started to gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall has created a beautifully eloquent tale. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
What if you weren't the hero? Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests - despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble's mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees, but he's marked by a demon, and his life will never be the same again. That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince's royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family's power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative's dangerous schemes but finds himself in far deeper waters. He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land. Kihrin also discovers the old tales lied about many things: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love - and the hero always winning. But maybe Kihrin isn't fated to save the empire. He's destined to
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?