Historical Fiction That Stayed With Me

I used to think I wasn’t a fan of historical fiction and that I never could become one (largely I blame Phillippa Gregory’s ridiculous books). BUT then I realised there was so much astounding historical fiction out there that I was really doing it a disservice and limiting myself far too much. In the last few years, the number of historical fiction books I’ve read has skyrocketed and I’ve discovered some shiny new favourites. Today, I wanted to share with you just some of the most memorable historical fiction I’ve read in recent years:

Code Name Verity– this female-led WW2 novel is guaranteed to shoot you down and hit you in the *FEELS*!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky– the imagery in this WW2 historical fiction (based on real events) is so strong I can’t get them out of my head! There are so many scenes that I have replaying in my head. It is a story that cannot be forgotten. 

The Nightingale– considering I don’t read a lot of WW2 books, this list is full of them! But Hannah’s take on the French resistance and occupation is one of the most powerful portrayal’s I’ve ever picked up and well worth checking out (if you haven’t done so already!)

What the Wind Knows– I’m not always one for time-traveling books, but this one set in Ireland during the troubles swept me away. I lost myself in this unusual stand-out romance and can happily recommend you do the same!

Kindred– speaking of books that blend time travel with history, I would be remiss not to mention Butler’s brilliant novel on the American slave trade. Insightful and harrowing, it’s an unforgettable read.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo– one of the things I admire most about Reid’s new books is her sense of time and place. And a big bonus is her unusual choice of time periods and characters- like in this showstopping historical fic set in the golden age of Hollywood. 

The Familiars– if you really want to forget the familiar, then getting lost in Halls’ witchy historical fiction could be for you. With more heart than I was expecting, this gets to the heart of witch trials in the darkest corners of Northern England.

Wolf Hall– okay yes, the Tudors have been done to death… but what about a take on Cromwell plotting all those deaths?! Mantel’s masterful series

The Huntress– it’s hard to choose between this and Quinn’s Alice Network (following female spies in WW1)- but I had to go with this cross between a thriller and historical fiction because this post WW2 Nazi hunt kept me on the edge of my seat for every turn of the page.

Alias Grace– and for something a bit different, this historic murder mystery is a slightly supernatural thriller that will take you on a very unexpected journey. Crossing continents and into deadly realms, you may get more than you bargain for if you pick this up 😉

And that’s all I’ve got… for now! I definitely want to build on this list- so what books do you recommend?? What are your favourite historical fiction novels? Let me know in the comments!

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17 thoughts on “Historical Fiction That Stayed With Me

  1. Isn’t it nice when a whole other genre takes your interest and a whole swathe of books are now “interesting”? I’m finding that with the mystery genre in the past couple of years. Still hit or miss depending on the author, but I’m not outright dismissing it like I used to 😀

    I have zero recommendations for this genre. I’m firmly in the camp of it should either be fiction or it should be history, and nary the twain shall meet 😉

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  2. For WWII, I recommend The Sixth Lamentation, which moves back and forth between the French resistance in Paris, and the same people (and their children) a generation later, in England.

    I am draw to older time periods … ancient up to medieval. However, it can be difficult to find historicals in these time periods that accurately reflect what the inner life, and values, of people were likely to be at the time. This is especially true for the medieval period. Now that I think about it, we moderns have a really hard time relating to and appreciating the medievals (even if we are happy to use their material culture, like swords and castles, in our fantasy books).

    Anyway, one author who does this beautifully is Ellis Peters (the pen name for Edith Pargeter). I know I’ve recommended her Brother Cadfael mysteries before. They are set in and around Shrewsbury, near the border of Wales, in the 1100s. Her research is outstanding. The best part is, if you should get hooked, it’s quite a long series.

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  3. P.S. If you are interested in historical fiction set so far in the past that it crosses into the speculative, I recommend Jean M. Auel, Michael and Kathleen Gear, Jacqui Murray, and Jennifer Mugrage.

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  4. I’m not sure how far back you’re thinking of, but I really like Candace’s Robbs mysteries for her depictions of medieval England! For something a bit more recent, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf is a deeply moving book based on the 13 May 1969 riots in Malaysia! I love that book so much!!

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  5. I’m with you on a few of these, especially Code Name Verity. Still gives me chills just thinking about it! I read a different book by Amy Harmon earlier this year, and loved it — Where the Lost Wander. So powerful — it’ll definitely stay with me a long time.

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  6. Recommend ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ – Iain Pears. Set around a murder in Restoration-era Oxford with four unreliable narrators.

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