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.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
'A gorgeous book - rich, intelligent and dark in equal measure... Historical fiction at its most sumptuous.' Rory Clements LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I's control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country's fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain. When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London. Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a mysterious tavern keeper. As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas's choice seems impossible - to save Bianca, or save himself...
A feverishly seductive story, it whispers, cajoles, beckons from history until the past forcefully assaults the present. When Ruth’s estranged father dies she returns to Edinburgh and discovers the hidden diary of her ancestor Thomas Erskine. Fascinated by his story Ruth finds herself in extraordinary danger when she starts to delve into the past. The prologue offers a warning, while the first chapter thoroughly sets the scene in 1760 as 10 year old Thomas witnesses a murder and sees the shadow of the dead man as it leaves the body. Barbara Erskine has based the story on her own family history, she paints a picture with a beautiful delicate balance and inner strength as the drama starts to unfold. Ruth’s story stands resolute in this time, and with a delicious shiver of fear I let the story take me where it willed. I always knew where I was, even as the past pushed ever closer. Spellbinding and gorgeously readable, as all becomes clear The Ghost Tree really is the most perfect title - highly recommended.
Cloaking herself in Christie’s Poirot mantle for the third time, bestselling crime writer Sophie Hannah here presents Hercule Poirot with something of a peculiarly personal puzzle. Our loveable hero is left feeling somewhat perplexed when an agitated middle-aged woman - “a whirlwind most fierce” – demands to know why he sent her a letter accusing her of killing a certain Barnabas Pandy. And then a second person presents themselves, demanding to know the very same thing. Mon dieu! Poirot has no idea who Pandy is, or why someone is sending these letters in his name, and so a thrillingly unpredictable mystery unfolds. The writing is elegant, suffused with the spirit of, and reverence for, Poirot’s creator, and this makes for an entertainingly satisfying experience.
December 1348. With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries - living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last. John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on around them. The year 1546 brings no more comfort, and 1645 challenges them still further. It is not just that technology is changing: things they have taken for granted all their lives prove to be short-lived. As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the reader travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment and war. But their time is running out - can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up?
A new emotional and gritty drama from the bestselling author of The Throwaway Children. After her mother's death, twenty-year-old Sophie Ross is left orphaned, with only her erstwhile nursemaid and faithful friend, Hannah for company. Penniless and little chance of an income, she looks for work as a governess in London to avoid destitution. But unbeknown to Sophie, her mother instructed Hannah to post a letter to Trescadinnick House in Cornwall upon her death. The letter will be the catalyst that changes Sophie's life forever as she learns of her mother's doomed romance and family she left behind in Cornwall. The Penvarrow family welcomes Sophie into their fold, but the new life she's built is threatened by secrets and lies that soon come to light...
Keeping secrets is a dangerous game . . . 1995, London. When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core . . . Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist, assigned to cover the legendary actor's funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over seventy years. As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they'll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does. The Love Letter is a thrilling novel full of secrets, lies and unforgettable twists. from the internationally bestselling author, Lucinda Riley. *This title was originally published as Seeing Double.*
A completely glorious and captivating read, one where glamour and enchantment walk hand in hand alongside intrigue and mystery. Step into 1948 and meet Eve, she goes against her stuffy husband’s wishes and travels to the French Riviera to find out about a mystery inheritance. As Eve attempts to uncover the riddle of her benefactor, she discovers the glittering world she has walked into may have a very ugly core. This is such a beautifully easy book to read, I simply slid into the pages and swam in the silky mysterious depths. I found myself willing Eve on, I became more and more fond of her, completely invested in the storyline. The surrounding characters are simply delicious, the allure of the French Riviera was dazzling. Rachel Rhys writes with the elegance of the age, the words and story wrapped themselves around me. Intrigue sparks intrigue, and a whiff of dastardly turns more deadly as information floats free. ‘Fatal Inheritance’ is eloquently seductive, I highly recommend finding yourself a beautiful spot and slipping into this rewarding story.
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.
An emotionally tough read that tells a story which must not be forgotten. Based on the lives of two of the central characters, Sophia and Misha, it centres on an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War and of the work of Dr Janusz Korezak, the Good Doctor of the title. The story begins in 1937 when Poland is independent. The anti-Jewish bigotry festering in fascist Germany is slowly spreading throughout Central Europe but life is still pleasant in Warsaw. Misha and Sophia are in love. There is a charming chapter when, in July 1939, the children from Korezak’s orphanage are taken to the country for a month of games and fresh air; an idyllic time and a poignant contrast to the horror to come. I do not need to tell you what happens, just to mention the word Treblinka is enough. Getting there in August 1942 is harrowing yet compulsive reading as we follow the adventures of Misha and Sophia and indeed the wonderful Dr Korezak. There is a postscript about the site today where a large stone monolith commemorates the awful events carried out there. It is surrounded by smaller stones each representing a village, town or city from which the Jews and Romanies were taken. Only one stone has the one word, Korezak.
Historical Murder Mystery set at the birth of the New York stock market, where no one can be trusted. The birth of the American stock market, an intriguing time between the War of Independence and the Civil War. Slavery still exists but blacks are free in New York, warring with the immigrant Irish for work. The situation is exacerbated by the Ripper-like murders of black prostitutes and the suspicious deaths of Wall Street business men. Every character is part of a conspiracy or hiding a dark secret, everyone is lying and nothing is what it seems. As soon as one plot twist is resolved, along comes another, leaving the reader dizzy and begging for more. There is a helpful dictionary of Irish and slang terms at the back, but most of the unfamiliar words make sense in context. It’s blood-thirsty, gritty and enjoyably confusing, a proper novel of action, intrigue and suspense. The author is a noted historian who began this as a work of non-fiction about the founding of Wall Street but discovered that writing a murder mystery was much more fun! I look forward to more; perhaps a series to rival James McGee’s Hawkwood which began with Ratcatcher.
The second book in a stunning new series from Sunday Times bestseller, Dilly Court 1873. When Carrie Manning's father dies her mother, Esther, is heartbroken. Essie leaves London to convalesce with her good friend Lady Alice, and it is down to Carrie to look after her family and take charge of the shipping company that her father has left behind. But the company is in dire straits, forcing Carrie seek work as a companion to Maria Colville. When Carrie and Maria try to track down Maria's mother, they have no idea of the secrets that they will discover. Secrets that link the Colvilles, the Mannings and figures from the past who return to England. Carrie's journey is as unpredictable as the waters that link the rival shipping companies, but will her determination be enough to preserve the legacy of her family's name?
Once Upon a Time…
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?
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A selection of authors who will feature in this Lovereading category include: