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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.
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!
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
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.
What a remarkable novel this is. The life-affirming story of five young women who live in a Bangalore slum called Heaven. Their city used to be “more green than grey”, “a place where things grew,” and now “towering glass buildings sprouted in the grass where sheep used to graze”, and Heaven is about to be bulldozed. But not if this largely female community has anything to do with it. Indeed, they rise up as one, supporting each other, refusing to bow to the city government. The novel pivots around the lives of five friends. Dance-loving Deepa, who’s blind but whose friends support her passion. Banu, a political artist who “can do things that the rest of us can’t”. Transgender Joy, who was born to a mother who wished she was “unlucky enough to have a daughter.” Padma, “who knows all the ways a woman can be broken,” and is the only member of her family to receive an education. And queer Rukshana who wants “to be myself first.” Through poverty and injustice, the women remain strong and united, with each of their situations, hopes and desires painted with dynamic brushstrokes. Both their individual stories and their collective warrior spirit will move, inspire and enrich.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
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.
Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.
All they want is a place to call home.... 1860s London Orphaned at a young age, Rosa has always looked out for her younger sister, Grace, protecting her from the dangers and bullies of the workhouse. So when Grace is suddenly faced with a world without Rosa, she finds herself alone and forced to make difficult decisions about her future. Can she really walk away from everything she has built to protect the children Rosa has left behind? Returning to the gang-ruled streets of East London, Grace is determined to build a better future for herself and for the children of Bell Lane - no matter what the cost....
1952. Seven years since the end of World War II yet the country is still deeply affected by what happened and the after-effects. Frank is an itinerant casual worker, and stories about his war experiences vary. Reserved occupation? Conscientious objector? Deserter? Nobody seems sure, but one thing is clear – Frank is always looking over his shoulder and moving on at the first sign of trouble. A move to London finds him working in a bar where he falls for Grace, the unhappily married wife of the landlord, Dennis. So when Dennis is murdered, the police naturally assume it is a crime of passion. Maybe it is time for Frank to move on again? The book is described as a thriller, but to me, it didn’t have the fast-paced, edgy feel I would normally associate with the genre. Instead, it moves at an unhurried pace, allowing the reader to savour all the subtleties of the story. I thought the book was so beautifully written and the characters so rounded and well developed that trying to slot it into a genre mould like “thriller” really doesn’t do justice to it. A great story, a great read, a well-planned plot and a clever ending all add up to a very memorable book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Ellwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Ellwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Ellwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Ellwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Ellwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Ellwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
Twenty-year-old Jane Beacon is one of life’s mavericks - a young sea-woman who navigates her own life-course against convention, against the odds, against expectation. The setting is 1940 Dunkirk and Jane has risen from joining the Wren Cadets in 1939 to single-handedly skippering a naval cutter to rescue injured soldiers. From the opening pages Jane’s formidable spirit and wit is brought to the fore, as are the prejudices of the time: “Very largely the Navy has accepted us and they know that we Wren have done a huge amount of good work, But there is always a limit to male tolerance and if you cross it, as I have done frequently, the barriers can suddenly be very high.” Readers will no doubt be swept along by Jane’s rip-roaringly reckless exploits, her unwavering commitment to the war effort, and her disregard for doing things by the book (she’s a loveable rogue, of sorts, described by her female superintendent as having “the most lurid disciplinary record in the service…she doesn’t give a damn about authority”). Fascinating research and Jane’s intense personal coming-of-age story are interwoven into the adventure, making this a tightly-packed parcel of passion, action, humour and history.
Lauren Patterson, an American PhD student, makes a remarkable discovery and accidently finds the diaries of Leonardo da Vinci's assistant. Paulo del Rossi's diaries then lead us through love stories, drama, blackmail, murder and the aftermath of monumental deception. The modern day quest to uncover the historical truths are fantastically interesting. Immersive and intriguing, Paulo del Rossi and Lauren guide us through the Renaissance in Florence to Nazi Germany and into the local Costa coffee shop with ease. We even discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and follow a tender love story that spans across the years. A fantastic read.
David Downing’s superb series of novels first appeared in 2007 with the publication of Zoo Station and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy. My review of the time enthused “ A complex and edge-of the – seat thriller, think Robert Harris & Fatherland mixed with a dash of le Carre; it’s good, and there’s more to come”. I’ve had no reason to revise my opinion, through 6 novels; David Downing has evoked the feverish landscape of Germany and Europe in the Second World War period down to the last scrupulous detail. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Zoo Station a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'A book I couldn't put down. It's been a long time since I stayed awake all night to finish a book. This was one.' – Fiona Maclean. Scroll down to read more reviews. To read the Station titles in order: Zoo Station Silesian Station Stettin Station Potsdam Station Lehrter Station Masaryk Station
The British Army is withdrawing from Philadelphia, with George Washington in pursuit, and for the first time, it looks as if the rebels might actually win. But for Claire Fraser and her family, there are even more tumultuous revolutions that have to be accommodated. Her former husband, Jamie, has returned from the dead, demanding to know why in his absence she married his best friend, Lord John Grey. Lord John's son, the ninth Earl of Ellesmere, is no less shocked to discover that his real father is actually the newly resurrected Jamie Fraser, and Jamie's nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for the woman who has just agreed to marry him. And while Claire is terrified that one of her husbands may be about to murder the other, in the 20th century her descendants face even more desperate turns of events. Her daughter Brianna is trying to protect her son from a vicious criminal with murder on his mind, while her husband Roger has disappeared into the past...
It is June 1778, and the world seems to be turning upside-down. The British Army is withdrawing from Philadelphia, with George Washington in pursuit, and for the first time, it looks as if the rebels might actually win. But for Claire Fraser and her family, there are even more tumultuous revolutions that have to be accommodated. Her former husband, Jamie, has returned from the dead, demanding to know why in his absence she married his best friend, Lord John Grey. Lord John's son, the ninth Earl of Ellesmere, is no less shocked to discover that his real father is actually the newly resurrected Jamie Fraser, and Jamie's nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for the woman who has just agreed to marry him. And while Claire is terrified that one of her husbands may be about to murder the other, in the 20th century her descendants face even more desperate turns of events. Her daughter Brianna is trying to protect her son from a vicious criminal with murder on his mind, while her husband Roger has disappeared into the past...
Mary Blight, our unswervingly entertaining heroine, is a salty-talking, salty-acting woman. She picks over the corpses of those drowned off her craggy Cornish cove looking for treasures, such as the fine boots she pulls from a lady’s feet. And then she sees that the body’s earlobes are missing, leading to the national press reporting on the Porthmorvoren Cannibal, and someone saw blood around Mary’s mouth…But it’s Mary who takes in a washed-up stranger and nurses him back to health with the aid of Old Jinny’s curious cure. The man is a Methodist minister who decides to restore the cove to godliness and, observing Mary’s knowledge of the scriptures, he appoint her as Sunday School teacher, to the chagrin of the villagers who are familiar with Mary’s penchant for carnal pleasures. Mary throws herself into her new role but admits in typically honest fashion “I wanted Gideon to save me, but not so that I could kneel at the throne of King Jesus…I wanted him to help me flee the village so I could parade among all the smots in all my finery in a grand town”. As the villagers scheme against Mary, a nation-wide search for a thief gathers pace, and all the while the writing crackles with energy and atmosphere, making this an exhilarating read with something of a Dickensian spirit in the vibrant characterisation.
November 2017 Debut of the Month A gentle, yet powerful and stimulating novel about friendship and love. 15 year old Steffi who is being bullied at school, meets Alvar who lives in a retirement home, their shared loved of jazz creates a beautiful healing bond. The story is told in the present, and we also travel with Alvar through time to 1942, when he first discovers the jazz scene in Stockholm. Sara Lovestam writes with a lovely lyrical, light touch, yet effectively highlights the pain Steffi feels at the hands of her tormentors. I fell in love with both Steffi and Alvar, their friendship feels so real, you can reach out and touch it. There were sections where I felt an almost physical reaction to the bullying, yet the love and compassion continues to shine through. ‘Wonderful Feels Like This’ touched my heart, it is provocative yet hopeful, and an entirely captivating read indeed. ~ Liz Robinson
During her research to write the poignant Titanic Love Stories Gill Paul became so taken up in the stories she decided to create this engaging romantic story. The central character was inspired by a photograph of a handsome 1st class steward who sadly didn’t survive the sinking. The book is jammed full of authentic historic detail and any fan of Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs will be captivated.
ITALY, 1492. Five-year-old Mura is a strange and bewitching child. Daughter of a Nordic mother and Spanish father, she has been tutored in both Arabic learning and the ancient mythology of the north. But when her widower father is taken by the Inquisition, Mura is sold to a Genoese slaver. In the port of Savona, Mura's androgynous looks and unusual abilities fetch a high price. She is bought as a house slave for the powerful Medici, arriving in Florence as the city prepares for war against the French. When the family are forced to flee, Mura finds herself gifted to the notorious Lioness of Romagna, Countess Caterina Sforza. Beautiful, ruthless and intelligent, the Countess is fascinated by Mura's arcane knowledge. As the Lioness educates her further in the arts of alchemy, potions and poisons, Mura becomes a potent weapon in the Machiavellian intrigues of the Renaissance court...
Winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. One of our Books of the Year 2015. November 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome. ~ Sarah Broadhurst HWA Chair judge Andrew Taylor said: "The judges were unanimously impressed by Wolf Winter. Not only is it astonishingly accomplished for a first novel, but it plunges the reader into Swedish Lapland 300 years ago and plays havoc with your emotions. Dark, powerful and beautifully written, it's a worthy winner of the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown.
February 2015 Debut of the Month. The most impressive thing about this extraordinary book is its atmosphere. You can feel the cold and the desperation of the people trying to live through the ‘wolf winter’, a term used to describe the coldest of winters. We follow a family of new settlers. This is Swedish Lapland in 1717 where the church has a grip on the community but the Lapps still believe in the ancient spirits. When a body is found folk are quick to blame a bear for his death but the new settlers see signs of a knife wound, not a claw. This is very special, a ghostly feel of menace lies just beneath the surface in a long, complicated and gripping tale. Awesome.
Author of the magnificent ‘Emperor’ series on Julius Caesar now turns his considerable talent to the life of Genghis Khan and his descendants. Another tale of high adventure, brutal times and ambitious people. Wonderful stuff with a lot of human interest, a fascinating subject and loads of action.Comparison: Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, Valerio Massimo Manfredi. The Conqueror series1. Wolf of the Plains2. Lords of the Bow3. Bones of the Hills4. Empire of Silver5. Conqueror
This is an unabridged audiobook title. Winner of the inaugural Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction 2010. Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009. The subject of Henry VIII will always provide a rich source of historical, political and scandalous fodder and here Hilary Mantel concentrates on one of the most interesting times in his reign – the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and his split from the Church of Rome. Mantel breathes life in to every character and even if you feel you have heard this story a million times she brings an original and tantalising voice to the period. This is an Unabridged audiobook title, which includes every word that you would otherwise find in the printed edition. Don’t forget, if the story was meant to be shorter the author would have written less! Click here to take a peek at our selection of Unabridged audiobooks. You might be interested to know the abridged audiobook version runs to only 29% of the full length.
The greatest literary sensation of recent times - and now the inspiration for a major BBC series, starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis and directed by Peter Kosminsky. In this staggeringly brilliant novel, Hilary Mantel brings the opulent, brutal world of the Tudors to bloody, glittering life. It is the backdrop to the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell: lowborn boy, charmer, bully, master of deadly intrigue and, finally, most powerful of Henry VIII's courtiers. Both winners of the Man Booker Prize and already hugely successful stage plays, WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UP THE BODIES have now been transformed into a BBC television series starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, bringing history to life for a whole new audience.
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?