No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
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.
An absolutely fascinating and beautifully intimate tale set in Greece, covering the Second World War, Greek Civil War and beyond, from 1930 through to 1999. Themis looks back on her life with two of her grandchildren, as she grows up in a family split with opposing political views. Her beliefs take her into the Communist army after the Second World War, where Greek fights fellow Greek. While this novel is set around a hugely complex event in history, Victoria Hislop opens it up with skill. By concentrating on one woman, we enter a family tale told with a matter-of-factly simplicity, so the impact of what comes, hits with huge power. This compelling novel, which brings a slice of history so vividly to life, is a stark warning of what could yet come in our future. It is also a reminder that we never truly know the life someone has lived, as what is presented on the outside, could be very different to what has been lived inside. Warm yet chilling and disturbing, uncomplicated yet involved and detailed, Those Who Are Loved is a tale full of emotional impact.
A thoughtful, stirring, and compassionate historical novel set during World War Two. Simone, the daughter of a Belgian First World War hero is best friends with Hava from a devout Jewish family, together they flee the advancing Nazi army in 1940. Inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members in Belgium, this is essentially a tale of what should be an uncomplicated friendship sitting within one of the most complex and horrifying times in world history. Author Christopher de Vinck introduced the reasons behind this book before Simone’s prologue slammed into my contemplations. Each chapter epigraph includes excerpts and memories that really do spread chills. It is interesting to note that those unattributed are from the author’s grandfather who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery and was in the Belgian Resistance before being captured. Christopher de Vinck brings the girls to vibrant life by noting the small things that make each of us unique. He doesn’t sit in judgement, he releases the horror and emotion of the full story, with lost innocence spearing awareness and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.
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.
From the detailed domestic scenes dappled with loss, love, hardship and hanging on, to sweeping waves of war, the rare power of Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King creeps up on you, catches you unaware, becomes compulsive in the manner of complex classics of the ancient world. It’s 1935 in Ethiopia and newly-orphaned Hirut is employed as a maid by an officer in Emperor Hailie Selassie’s army. In her previous life, Hirut’s father taught her to use a gun: “This, he says, you do not touch unless you are prepared. Prepared for what, she asks. He slips the bullet back into his pocket. Prepared to be something you are not.” And this is what Hirut is prepared for when Ethiopia is invaded by Mussolini’s vengeful army. Not content to merely care for the wounded, she devises a plan and rouses women to rise up and fight. As they shift from being housewives, to nurses, to warriors, their stories are haunting, harrowing and stirring, and this novel confirms Mengiste’s status as a writer blessed with lyrical bravery and unique vision. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books.
This is such a lovely, charmingly heartfelt debut. When grief-stricken Florence discovers tantalising information about unknown relation Nancy Moon, she sets off to follow the path Nancy took through Europe in the 1960’s. I adore this premise, we travel with Florence and Nancy in two timelines, and vintage dress patterns create a vibrant link between the pair. I was able to just sink straight into the story as the intimacy and warmth of the writing from Sarah Steele created a cocoon around me. The two timelines hold equal interest, particularly as they begin to gently entwine. I was completely invested in each woman, their friends, relations, and love interests also sparking my interest and making my thoughts whirl. While I would describe this novel as uplifting, there is intrigue and heartbreak to be found along the way. Ultimately though, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a story full of love, friendship and hope and it gave me the most enormous emotional hug.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
An old adage says there are really only two stories: a man goes on a voyage, and a stranger arrives in town. This is the third: a woman breaks the rules . . . Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it? A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite. Stained by these sins, she is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town. Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, only concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries. It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors. Set in a thinly disguised sixteenth-century England, Megan Campisi's The Sin Eater is a wonderfully rich story of treason and treachery; of women, of power, and the strange freedom that comes from being an outcast – because, as May learns, being a nobody sometimes counts for everything . . .
'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?