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Recommendations from Friends: Great Historical Fiction

My lovely, thoughtful, fiercely insightful agent, Bryony Woods, has been on at me for a while to write a historical novel based on the life of my German grandparents. I won’t give too much away at this stage but  throw together the the second world war, a plot to assassinate Hitler, a friendship with a Jewish psychic who advised the Nazi party, a little magic realism and an enthralling love story, and you do have some pretty potent ingredients for a story. For a number of reasons, both personal and creative, the project scares me. But here I am, at a slight crossroads in my writing, so I’m going to be brave and to go for it. My response to fear (personal and creative) is always much the same: read up!

Facebook is criticised for many ills but I’ve found it to be a wonderful resource for friendship, advice and the ability to connect with people from around the world. I wrote a post asking friends to share their favourite historical novels and I was inundated (in the best possible way) with recommendations. So much so that I realised what a hunger and love there is out there for good historical fiction. I put the recommendations on my own reading list but also wanted to share them with you.  I love the range from high brown literary fiction to bodice rippers to YA and children’s books. I’ve thrown in a few of my favourites too.

I’d love to have your thoughts on books you’ve read on the list; any that you pick up and enjoy as a result of this post; any others you’d add.

So here they are. Thank you to everyone who contributed and happy reading!

In alphabetical order by author:

  1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  2. The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  4. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
  6. City of Thieves by David Benioff
  7. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernier
  8. Lovely War by Julie Berry
  9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  10. People of the Book; The Secret Chord; Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brookes
  11. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  12. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  13. The Children’s Book by AS Byatt
  14. The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
  15. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
  16. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  17. The Lymond Chronicles (especially Checkmate) by Dorothy Dunnett
  18. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  19. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  20. The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett
  21. Anne Frank
  22. Cold Moutain by Charles Frazier
  23. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
  24. The Hunters by Kat Gordon
  25. The Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Greene
  26. The Tudor Court Series by Philippa Gregory
  27. The Nightingale; The Great Alone; Winter Garden; Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
  28. An Officer and a Spy Robert Harris
  29. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
  30. The Iliad by Homer
  31. Elizabeth Hoyt novels (bodice rippers, apparently!)
  32. Land Girls by Angela Hutch
  33. Young Bess, Elizabeth Captive Princess etc. by Margaret Irwin
  34. The Outcast by Sadie Jones
  35. Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger
  36. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  37. Burial Rites Hannah Kent
  38. The Heretic’s Daughter; The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
  39. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  40. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Peter Lontzek
  41. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  42. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
  43. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  44. The Song of Achilles Madeleine Miller
  45. The English Patient; A Cat’s Table; Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  46. Arundel; Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts
  47. Shardlake Series by C J Sansom
  48. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn
  49. Eagle of the Ninth; Warrior Scarlet by Rosemary Sutcliffe
  50. Elijah Chronicles; Zion Chronicles etc. by Bodie Thoene
  51. A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles
  52. The Little Stranger; Fingersmith; The Night Watch etc. by Sarah Waters
  53. Six Tudor Queens Series by Alison Weir
  54. Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis
  55. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak