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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.
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
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.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
A new Sherlock Holmes mystery and it's something to celebrate. Robert J Harris takes a fascinating step to the side and we experience London of 1942 where Crimson Jack is murdering women on the same dates as Jack the Ripper. This is very much a “tribute to the Universal Pictures Sherlock Holmes film series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, which brought Holmes and Watson to wartime London” and interestingly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself stated that placing the film in the modern setting “was a daring experiment which has succeeded admirably. Truly genius has no age”. A Study in Crimson (the title a lovely tribute to the original series) slides very nicely into the different time frame, feeling at once familiar and yet different enough to set it on its own path. Holmes and Watson are living together at Baker Street and the explanations as to the differences in time slot together. The mystery motivates Holmes, energises Watson, and leaves Lestrade hanging on their coattails. I thoroughly enjoyed this captivating start to a new series, felt completely at home and look forward to the next!
Inspiring, gorgeous, powerful. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a beautifully written story brimming with guts and determination. When Fred meets Chrissie in 1927 a love flickers into being, the memory of their time together remains with them through the challenging years ahead. This may be described as a love story between two people, it is also a love story about St Kilda, Scotland’s first World Heritage Site. Elisabeth Gifford has used fictional characters in a real setting, with the abandonment of St Kilda and the Second World War adding an incredibly vivid framework to the story. Taking place over forty years, the novel actually starts in 1940 with Fred as a prisoner of war, plotting escape. From here we move backwards and forwards in time, in such a way that the words continued to flow into my awareness and created an intricate patchwork of knowledge and understanding. This love feels real, there is an inner core of strength, hope, and resilience on offer that really spoke to me. I rather fell in love with The Lost Lights of St Kilda, it joins my Liz Robinson picks of the month and comes as highly recommended by me.
Be prepared for a reading maelstrom to suck you in whole when you open this LoveReading Star Book. Set in 1634 a boat leaves the East Indies with a detective duo on board. Although one is locked up and facing execution, their skills are very much needed when the voyage is beset by a terrible forewarning. Stuart Turton’s debut picked up the Costa First Novel Award Winner for 2018. The Devil and the Dark Water is just as fabulous and will be going straight onto my list of favourite books this year. It is the perfect novel to read as the nights are drawing in, the story built itself into a reality, I was there, bearing witness. Surprises wait in store, strange beings stalk the decks, and several locked room/ship mysteries just beg to be solved. My thoughts were broken open, and exploded one way then the other as I sought answers. All of the characters are fascinating in their own unique way and while I initially thought I was meeting a Holmes and Watson pair, I quickly realised they were very much their own men. The Devil and the Dark Water crosses genres in the most wonderfully entertaining way and sails straight onto my list of Liz Picks of the Month. I’ll be standing and applauding this one!
Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
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.
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.
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.
Based on the heart-breaking true story of Cilka Klein, Cilka's Journey is a million copy international bestseller and the sequel to the No.1 bestselling phenomenon, The Tattooist of Auschwitz 'She was the bravest person I ever met' Lale Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival. After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle. Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love. Cilka's Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman's fierce determination to survive, against all odds. Don't miss Heather Morris's next book, Stories of Hope. Coming September 2020.
'Sophisticated and moving...Powerful' Sunday Times A gripping historical novel about the men behind the invention of the Gutenberg Bible. Bringing tumultuous medieval Europe to life, GUTENBERG'S APPRENTICE is not to be missed by readers of Hilary Mantel, Peter Ackroyd and C. J. Sansom. Johann Gutenberg's first printed Bibles amazed and shocked medieval Europe. He had started a revolution that would one day put books in the hands of any man or woman who wanted them. The project was fraught with danger, for it threatened the power of politicians and the Catholic church. Who was this Gutenberg? In Alix Christie's evocative and compelling novel, he comes vividly to life - driven, caustic and ruthless. Behind him stands a brilliant young scribe, Peter Schoeffer, whose genius is to stay true to his artistic values in the cauldron of the printer's workshop. Caught between the old ways and the new, the two men struggle with one another and the world outside to prevail against overwhelming obstacles...and change history.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
In his first novel for five years, journalist and historian A.N. Wilson creates an epic novel, with an impressive cast of real and imagined characters. Set in the late 18th century, a time of industrialisation, revolution, slavery and colonialism. A commission from the Empress of Russia for a thousand-piece dinner service for her Frog Palace sets in train a series of events that will make Wedgewood a name and a dynasty, including Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, that will be remembered for generations. A fascinating look at the lives of important historical figures at a turning point in British history.
September 2012 Book of the Month. In his first novel for five years, journalist and historian A.N. Wilson creates an epic novel, with an impressive cast of real and imagined characters. Set in the late 18th century, a time of industrialisation, revolution, slavery and colonialism. A commission from the Empress of Russia for a thousand-piece dinner service for her Frog Palace sets in train a series of events that will make Wedgewood a name and a dynasty, including Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, that will be remembered for generations. A fascinating look at the lives of important historical figures at a turning point in British history.
Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize. A novel that tells the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.
A culture clash love, a turn-of-the-last-century scandal beautifully written as a semi-conscious English explorer is nursed by a spiky, argumentative Muslim. Itâ€™s a dense, captivating read.Similar this month: None.Comparison: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, V S Naipaul, Paul Theroux.
A fabulous and award-winning historical crime series set in India, starring Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee. Discover richly vivid, wonderful interplay between the characters and thought provoking storylines. This is a series to stick on the top of your to-be-read pile. Books in The Sam Wyndham Series: 1. A Rising Man 2. A Necessary Evil 3. Smoke and Ashes 4. Death in the East Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.
Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, are back for another rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s India. 1905, London. As a young constable, Sam Wyndham is on his usual East London beat when he comes across an old flame, Bessie Drummond, attacked in the streets. The next day, when Bessie is found brutally beaten in her own room, locked from the inside, Wyndham promises to get to the bottom of her murder. But the case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined. 1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London - a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again. Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain this figure from his past isn't here by coincidence. He is here for revenge . . .
Set in 1963, in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and the Ukraine, this initially appears to be a story about everyday life for a family who have not had an everyday existence. The author states that the background to this tale is true, and A.C. Michael immerses you in the past, in the scars of humanity, yet the addition of humour, thrills, and a corkscrewing plot ensure this is a thoroughly entertaining read. The larger than life characters hum (quite literally for one or two) with intensity and there are several surprises waiting in store. The Dancing Barber is a fiery, fascinating, and intriguing read. Step inside the pages and into another world.
Shortlisted for the inaugural Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2010. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2009. A fictionalised account of an asylum on the edge of Epping Forest where the poet John Clare spent some time. Tennyson visits the asylum adding that extra sense of reality but it is the story of the doctor Matthew Allen and his humane care for the patients in a time where such care was rare that makes this novel a pleasure to read.
Follow-up to Facing the Light â€“ how a bleak Yorkshire childhood was transformed into a career as a prima ballerina.
A dramatically absorbing and readable family drama, where between the covers prowl the social injustices and horror experienced during World War One. The author sets the two main characters apart, they may have some admirable and attractive qualities however she doesn't shy away from their less likeable traits, as such the writing encourages you to stay within the moment. Vivian is released while Howard is restricted by the onset of war which bullies its way into their lives and changes everything. The secondary characters are fascinating, they are given flesh and help to give this tale the feeling of a stirring saga. The background descriptive detailing, from the atmospheric ballroom to the bombardments of the trenches adds a vivid intensity. This thought provoking tale focuses on a love story, yet eloquently explores the social aspects existing behind the war to end all wars. ~ Liz Robinson June 2015 Book of the Month.
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?