Well, hello, hello! In case anyone doesn’t remember (or know) tonight is Bonfire Night in the UK. The night to celebrate when the gunpowder plot was foiled and parliament wasn’t blown up (so we set off fireworks and burn things… yeahhh the logic in that is weird…). Given the historic significance, I thought it would be fun to talk about some *EXPLOSIVE* historical fiction. I wanted to keep this to 5, for symmetry’s sake, but this topic was such *dynamite* I had to do more! I did try to cover a broad spectrum of (mostly British) time periods though…
The Last Kingdom– there are many things to love about Cornwell’s Saxon Stories– the plot and protagonist alone are to die for! But what made me especially excited by this story was how it explores the Norman and Viking period- a part of history often overlooked in British schools- which is a crying shame cos it’s FASCINATING!
At the Sign of the Sugar Plum– speaking of more random parts of English history- although this one does come up in high school- this is a YA historical fiction about the plague. Yup, there’s a cheerful topic for you… sooo don’t go into this looking for all sunshine and rainbows- even if this is set in a London sweet shop. Also, the sequel is about the Great Fire of London, if I haven’t scared you off with the Black Death 😉
King’s General– while not my favourite of Du Maurier’s books, I do really like this take on the English Civil War. Romantic and poignant, this not only tells the story of lost love, what I remember most about this book is the powerful way it captured the country’s divided loyalties and how it felt to be caught in the middle of conflict.
Homegoing– this is one of the most unusual books on the list, because it spans a huge amount of time. Each chapter is a different member of the family, this story spans centuries, exploring the true horror of the slave trade and its impact. It’s remarkable how well this works and how heart-breaking it manages to be with this structure.
Birdsong– I had to really think which Sebastian Faulks book to choose and ultimately went with his story set in WWI. This wasn’t perfect- frankly I wasn’t a fan of the flashforwards to present day- but this wonderfully written story does do a great job of spanning before, during and after the war.
Private Peaceful– sticking to WWI, nothing punches me in the gut emotionally more than this. Even though it’s a children’s book, it doesn’t hold back.
Salt to the Sea– exploring the fate of the Wilhelm Gustoff in World War II, this is not your normal war story. It isn’t about great battles or the people fighting, it’s about the people stuck in the middle. This is a YA historical fiction that will truly have an impact.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society- moving slightly ahead in the timeline, Guernsey does explore the issues of WWII, yet in an epistolary, retrospective way. Set in the aftermath of the Guernsey occupation, this is about uncovering the mystery. Be prepared for some *explosive* revelation, *unbelievable* characters who will touch your heart and, of course, all the *feels*.
Sweet Clarinet– thinking more about WWII, it’s kind of amazing to note that I’ve never mentioned this book on my blog before, even though it had a profound effect on me. Set during the blitz and exploring the consequences of wartime wounds, this poignant tale tells of trauma and recovery. Most notably, it explores the idea of music as therapy.
Daisy Jones and the Six– and finally, darting across the pond for the last book, I thought I’d end with a book that is THE BOMB for totally different reasons! Like Sweet Clarinet, this is about music. Daisy Jones and the Six explores the 70s rock scene- which is an utterly unique part of history for a book and I am DOWN for it! Unfortunately for us all, they’re not a real band, but if you read this, you’ll wish they were as much as I did!
So, do you like any of my choices? And do you have any other *highly charged* historical fiction you think I was mad to miss? Let me know in the comments!