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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.
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 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER AND WOMAN & HOME BEST BOOKS OF SUMMER Betty is running for her life. When Betty's husband returns from the war broken and haunted, she knows her marriage is doomed. Taking a fleeting chance to escape, she goes on the run armed with a new identity. Yet penniless and alone, Betty quickly finds that starting again is much harder than she thought. And she never imagined it could end in murder . . . But sometimes you have to keep running if you want to survive.
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...
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.
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. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
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
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?