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Best Historical Fiction

Posted: by Emma on September 11, 2013

Best Historical Fiction

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I find that I am always seeking that next great book that will take me back in time, teach me something about history, and overall tell me a great story. 

I find that the best historical fiction is well-researched, and uses a historical period as an integral part of the story.  I find it fascinating to learn about a certain time in history, and enjoy books that provide just the right great blend of historical fact and fiction. 

Here is a list of my favourite historical fiction novels (in chronological order):

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

1800 and 1500 BC
The Red Tent is a  novel set in biblical times, that tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob.  A wonderfully written tale full of intrigue, lust and deceit. Everyone who I have recommended it to has loved it. Very popular with book clubs.

The Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman 

70 AD ancient Israel
One of my favourite books from 2012, Hoffman spent years researching this tale set in ancient Jerusalem, which follows the lives of four strong Jewish women, each with different backgrounds and each with a distinct story of their own.

The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett

12th century England
An amazing account of a cathedral being built in medieval times. The cathedral acts as a focal point for many different intersecting characters. Richly imagined, Follett is a wonderful writer. Don't let the size of this book intimidate you, by the time you start reading it, you will wish it would never end!

The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani

17th-century Persia
Tells the story of a poor village woman in 17th-century Iran who falls into destitution when her father passes away. She moves to the capital city and discovers a passion for knotting rugs. A great story about a young girl's journey from innocence to adulthood in a little known time and place.

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

17th Century Holland
This is a fictionalized account of the story behind the famous Vermeer painting, "Girl with a Pearl Earring". The protagonist is a young Dutch woman from a poor family who begins work as a maid in the Vermeer household. Her natural interest in art catches her master’s attention, and problems ensue. This book was also made into a wonderful movie, starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

Bride of New France - Suzanne Desrochers

1600s in New France (USA and Canada)
I found this book to be very interesting because it is set in North America. The story is about the “Filles du roi”  who were young, poor European women sent to New France to marry the colonists and expand the French population in the New World.

Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks

England 1666
This a wonderful read about a year in a small village in the Derbyshire countryside that is struck by the plague and forced into quarantine. The narrator is a young woman who begins as a maid but becomes the town healer, due to her knowledge of herbal remedies and midwifery. The story is wonderful and Brooks is a remarkable writer. I would actually recommend all of her books but this one is my favourite.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See

19th Century China
This book transports the reader to 19th century China, a tale of a female friendship between two young women who communicate over time through a secret language written on a fan to share their joys and sorrows of life.  Another book that is very popular with book clubs.

The Moonlit Cage - Linda Holeman

1850s Afghanistan
The Moonlit Cage is one of my favourite books of all time, maybe because it was so unexpectedly good.  Set in a time and place that I knew next to nothing about, this is an epic story of a young Afghan girl as she struggles against her patriarchal society and tries to find her place in the world. The book moves from Afghanistan to Colonial India to Victorian England.  Engrossing and well-written, a truly amazing read!

The Outlander - Gil Adamson

1900 Canadian West
Another Canadian author makes the list!  This book is different, in that we do not learn any of the characters' names. The protagonist is known as “the widow” and she is on the run from two brothers who are chasing her through the upper northwest Canadian Rockies, for murdering their brother...who was also her husband.

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

1930s Japan
For my final historical fiction select, I chose this amazing story about a poor, young rural girl in early 20th century Japan who is sold into slavery and over time becomes a famous geisha. Full of historical details, this was one of the best books I have ever read (and was also turned into a great movie!)

This short list of my favourite historical novels is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many great authors who write amazing histoical fiction (such as Philippa Gregory.) 

Any other historical fiction fans out there?  Did I miss any? What historical fiction would you recommend?




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