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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 heart-rending historical romance, and a glimpse into the life of a writer Poet, atheist and communist, New Yorker Joy Davidman is an unconventional woman - and an unlikely partner for an English academic and theologian. And when she starts a correspondence with Narnia author C. S. Lewis, she isn't looking for love. Her own marriage crumbling, she seeks refuge in her work, and guidance from a writer she admires. But in Joy's letters Lewis discovers a kindred spirit, and an intellect to equal his own. Bonding over a shared love of literature and ideas, a deep connection is forged between the two. Embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, Joy travels from America to England and back again. Facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, against all the odds, the couple struggle to secure a love that will endure forever.
The start of a war. The end of a dynasty. VIENNA, 1911. Greta Goldbaum has always dreamed of being free to choose her own life's path, but the Goldbaum family, one of the wealthiest in the world, has different expectations. United across Europe, Goldbaum men are bankers, while Goldbaum women marry Goldbaum men to produce Goldbaum children. So when Greta is sent to England to marry Albert, a distant cousin she has never met, the two form an instant dislike for one another. Defiant and lonely, Greta longs for a connection and a place to call her own. When Albert's mother gives Greta a garden, things begin to change. But just as she begins to taste an unexpected happiness, the Great War breaks out, threatening to tear everything away. For the first time in two hundred years, the family will find themselves on opposing sides. How will Greta choose between the family she's created and the one she was forced to leave behind?
The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”. Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters. According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink.
A fascinating, intricate, provocative read, set in motion by events in 1942, and brilliantly highlighting human need and emotions. Ester escapes from Norway to Sweden after her family are deported to Auschwitz, involved in the resistance she is part of a plot that rears again 25 years later, and then in 2015 a link to the past finally begins to answer questions decades old. As I began to read, the words so clear, stark and powerful, painted an immediate moving picture in my mind. I've previously read and adored crime fiction by Kjell Ola Dahl, you are expected to keep up as he drives the plot forward and this is no different. Three time spans and intrigue galore could create an incredibly knotted labyrinth of a tale, yet this is told and translated so beautifully, each moment opens into the other as a series of doors that you just need to open and walk through. The Courier sent a shiver coursing through me, it is a truly eloquent and rewarding tale, and oh that ending!
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly readable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost close your eyes and take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear. Each book is completely individual yet the style of the author remains, I feel as though I could pick up a Dinah Jefferies book without knowing the author and would instinctively know it was hers. The Missing Sister is richly and expressively eye-catching, it swept me up into the pages, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
It’s 1950 and ten-year-old Michael is heading to Cape Cod for the summer. His train journey from Grand Central sets the tone, with the spectre of WWII looming large in a very real way as his memory streams images from train journeys he took in Germany, when it was essential to “keep your eyes shut and pretend you haven’t yet woken or that you’re already dead.” On arrival Michael stays with Richie and they strike up a bond with eccentric neighbour Edward Hooper, who’s depressed by his impotence as an artist, and his intellectually sharp wife Jo, who’s given to passionate, impetuous outbreaks. Personal loss, regrets, loneliness and hazy hopes are played out against a background of sweeping change (post-war transition; the beginning of the era of American consumerism) and the powerfully painted Cape Cod setting. In an era of quick digests and speedy swiping, this novel of depth and honesty stands as a testament to the potent value of taking one’s time.
What if you weren't the hero? Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests - despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble's mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees, but he's marked by a demon, and his life will never be the same again. That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince's royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family's power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative's dangerous schemes but finds himself in far deeper waters. He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land. Kihrin also discovers the old tales lied about many things: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love - and the hero always winning. But maybe Kihrin isn't fated to save the empire. He's destined to
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.
A captivating and absolutely thrilling historical tale that sits as a perfect sequel to the first in the series The Ashes of London. Please do start with the first book, it is a stunning read and sets the characters and scene so beautifully. After the Great Fire of London a court is established to judge the cases of discord between landlords and tenants. Suspicious deaths appear to link to the Fire Court, and as James and Cat attempt to find answers, their individual stories become more closely intertwined. After the drama and sheer visual spectacle of the first book, I did wonder how on earth the series would continue, and it is safe to say with great aplomb. The intricate plot immediately wormed its way into my head, slicing, enthralling, and sharply focused. There is one particularly unexpected and shocking moment that quite literally stopped my whole being, I sat in for a moment in silence before continuing, desperate to know more. Will you feel the same, will the words travel from the page, trap your feelings and hurl your thoughts in the air? This is a series that could run and run, The King’s Evil is already calling to me and quite simply can’t arrive quickly enough. The Fire Court has become part of a must-read series for me, it is highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
Blood & Sugar is the thrilling debut historical crime novel from Laura Shepherd-Robinson. June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark. Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . . To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him. And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .
An absolutely exquisite moment in reading time, and one to cherish. Concentrating on Leo and Lottie, from the world at war in 1916 to survival beyond, this is the last in the ‘West Country Trilogy’, however, The Redeemed can easily be read as standalone as I’ve stepped straight into the final book and adored it. I will admit that I do desperately want to read the first two now, and believe I will be able to do so without feeling as though I have missed out on the reading journey. Tim Pears writes with wonderful clarity, small details create a fully painted picture, every word matters and is perfectly placed. Life on board the battlecruiser came to stark realistic life while back in the West Country the farming community committed to the cycle of life. Leo and Lottie live in their moment, in their time, yet their story feels gracefully ageless and everlasting. With joy and heartache waiting to be discovered The Redeemed is an eloquent, gorgeous and fully satisfying read, it is quite simply, beautiful.
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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