Best Historical Fiction Books

Review & Comparison, Last Update January 31, 2020
If reading is your hobby, you can agree that there is nothing better than spending an evening with an interesting book. Here, we've selected the most interesting historical fiction books that can keep you entertained. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2020
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
AUTHOR
GENRE
BOOK TYPE
PUBLISHER
NUMBER OF PAGES
 
PROS

The book gives an in-depth description of the real Pack Horse Library Project that was intended to decrease the level of unemployment and to enlighten a poorly educated population. It existed from 1935 to 1943.

CONS

The portrayal of mountain life isn't very realistic.

OUR VERDICT

The Giver of Stars is the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes that is likely to be appreciated by all historical fiction fans. It shows in detail all the fates, dreams and feelings of women who are fighting for their rights.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Jojo Moyes

GENRE

Novel, Historical, Home Fiction

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable and Audio CD version)

PUBLISHER

Random House Large Print

NUMBER OF PAGES

592 pages

PROS

Despite the pretty big number of pages (587), the book is written in a simple language. Hence, it will be easy and interesting to read. Even if you read it for long hours, you won't get bored with it.

CONS

Some historical facts are very distorted.

OUR VERDICT

Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell a story of Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of the 3rd president of the USA Thomas Jefferson. This novel depicts all the political aspects of those days (they still don't lose their relevance).

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie

GENRE

Novel, Historical, Biographical Fiction

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable and Audio CD version)

PUBLISHER

William Morrow Paperbacks

NUMBER OF PAGES

587 pages

PROS

The Story of Avery Stafford depicts the heroic action of a young hero who succeeded in his deeds. It makes this book very motivating. And the detailed description of events will allow you to completely dive in this book.

CONS

Some users consider the story predictable.

OUR VERDICT

Before We Were Yours is a sad story that touches a very sensitive topic of children's kidnapping and trafficking. You can follow two storylines that are 80 years apart with the first one starting back in 1939.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Lisa Wingate

GENRE

Novel, Historical, Home Fiction

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable and Audio CD version)

PUBLISHER

Ballantine Books

NUMBER OF PAGES

368 pages

PROS

The story tells us about two women who are very different in their nature, temper and life principles. Yet, their fates somehow intertwine. All the events take place against the background of occupied France.

CONS

The sex scenes sometimes are rather harrowing.

OUR VERDICT

The book is highly praised by critics thanks to a clever combination of a gripping novel, spy thriller, and historical events. It will fit the taste of those individuals who love stories about the Great War And World War II.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Kate Quinn

GENRE

Novel, Historical, Military Prose

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable and Audio CD version)

PUBLISHER

William Morrow Paperbacks

NUMBER OF PAGES

560 pages

PROS

The events in this book take place in the mountain region of Tuscany (Italy), a big part of the description is focused on food and landscapes. Yet, they are organically woven into the story, so they don't seem annoying or boring.

CONS

Some chapters seem too contrived.

OUR VERDICT

Rhys Bowen got a lot of prestigious literary awards in the past and now her new historical detective novel is appreciated by both critics and readers. If you're familiar with this author's works, you'll like this one.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Rhys Bowen

GENRE

Novel, Detective, Historical, Home Fiction

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable and Audio CD version)

PUBLISHER

Lake Union Publishing

NUMBER OF PAGES

351 pages

Jojo Moyes The Giver of Stars

Based on the Pack Horse Library Project

The author of such world-famous works like Me Before You, One Plus One and The Last Letter from Your Lover Jojo Moyes releases another New York Times bestseller. The book with a beautiful name The Giver of Stars tells not a less beautiful story of love, friendship, and female bravery.

The story is based on the real events that happened during the great depression in America. Established by Eleonore Rooswelt in 1935, the Pack Horse Library Project was an educational program aiming at fighting unemployment. It existed till 1943. The project suggested that librarians would travel on horses and mules with lots of books and make them more accessible to people who live remotely in the Appalachian mountains.

Since the book is considered historical fiction, the characters in this story aren’t real. Though, they may be loosely based on real people. The main character of this story is Alice Wright, a British woman who marries a wealthy son of the mine owner from Kentucky. She wants to escape the cage her family keeps her in. However, she quickly realizes that she simply changes one cage to another. That’s why when she hears about the new library initiative, she volunteers to become one of the book ladies that should deliver books to remote regions.

By joining the project, she meets Margery O’Hara, a smart and strong woman with a complicated fate. She is a local citizen and knows the area very well. She starts teaching Alice how to carry books and prepares her for all the challenges and struggles she may face on her way. The women are also joined by Izzi Brady (a daughter from one of the richest families in town who has a limp yet manages to tackle the hard task of carrying books), Beth Pinker (a young girl who dreams to see the world) and Sophia Kenworth (a librarian and a woman of color who still deals with racial prejudice).

Review of Jojo Moyes The Giver of Stars A Novel

Addresses the Issues That Are Still Relevant

The plot addresses the number of different issues. It depicts the generally accepted attitudes of the patriarchal family of the last century where hitting your wife (or in this case, daughter-in-law) was socially acceptable; a capitalistic economy that was aiming at the devastation of land resources while workers earned a pittance. The author also discusses racial and gender inequality. Books in this story serve as a source that helps people get more educated and realize their rights, so she encourages to never give up on reading.

The Giver of Stars is an exciting story that will take you to last-century Kentucky. We are sure it will be interesting not only for adult readers but also for kids and teens.

Jojo Moyes The Giver of Stars A Novel in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Stephanie Dray America's First Daughter

Biographical Novel About Thomas Jefferson's Daughter

Take a journey to the 18th century with America’s First Daughter, an outstanding novel that became New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Written by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, this book won’t leave anyone indifferent.

The main character of this historical fiction book is Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, the oldest daughter of the 3rd president of the United States Thomas Jefferson. At a young age, she received a very good education. She was very close to her father and was his helpmate and advisor. Together, they traveled a lot not only around America but also around Europe. To portray and pay a decent tribute to this strong and devoted woman, the authors thoroughly researched information from the letters written by Thomas Jefferson himself.

This historical novel gives an in-depth look at Patsy’s relationships with her father. Being not only the head of the family but also one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he was carrying huge responsibility on his shoulders. After losing his wife, Patsy became his biggest blessing.

The fiction story is centered on the untold events during the Jeffersons time in Europe. Between the age of 12 and 17, Patsy lived in France while her father worked as a Minister there. At the age of 15, she falls in love with William Short, Thomas Jefferson’s protege. Her relationships with her father get even more complicated when she learns about her father’s affair with one of his slaves, young woman Sally Hemmings. Patsy has to decide whether she wants to become a wife of the man she loves or stay with her father and protect their family secrets and his reputation.

Review of Stephanie Dray America's First Daughter A Novel

Includes Other Real People

This work of historical literature shows the struggles of a young woman who is torn between romantic feelings to a man and love for her family. What is more, the book also shows a lot of political aspects that stay relevant up to nowadays. You will be able to learn more about Washington, Monticello, Revolutionary America and meet such well-known historical figures as Marquis de Lafayette, Dolly Madison, and Abigail Adams.

Despite the pretty big number of pages (587 pages), the novel doesn’t feel slow or boring. So, if you want to learn more about one of the most notable families in American history, we highly recommend choosing America’s First Daughter. If you love biographies or romance, it should definitely be on your reading list.

Stephanie Dray America's First Daughter A Novel in the use

 

Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

Based on Horrific True Events

Before We Were Yours became a real sensation almost immediately after its publication in 2017. Apart from selling more than 2 million copies, it got a few prestigious awards, was highly praised by critics and is considered one of the best historical fiction books of all time according to Goodreads. It is written by Lisa Wingate, a former journalist, who was brave enough to touch such a sensitive topic as kidnapping and human trafficking.

As horrible as it may sound, the book is based on a true story. Back in the days, criminals used to kidnap children from poor families and sell them to wealthy people. In the 1950s, when these crimes went public, there was a huge scandal involving Georgia Tann, an owner of an illegal orphanage in Memphis, Tennessee. He committed numerous cases of adoption fraud and trafficking. And the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, kids were held in such horrible conditions that a major part of them died.

When it comes to this book, it is divided into 2 storylines. The first one takes place in 1939 in Memphis. It centers around Rill Foss, a girl that lives in a shanty boat on a Mississippi river with her loving parents and four younger siblings. One night, when her mother gets thick and the parents have to rush to the hospital, the children are left unsupervised and, later that night, kidnapped. They get to the orphanage we mentioned before and Rill soon realizes there is no chance they will see their family again.

The second storyline tells about Avery Stafford, a young woman from South Carolina that lives in the present days. She is the daughter of a senator, she hasn’t faced poverty and loss. But when she starts questioning her family’s history, she realizes that there are some horrible secrets her grandmother is trying to hide. In order to find the truth, she is willing to risk everything she has.

Review of Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours A Novel

Tragic and Touching Novel

In this tragic and touching novel, you may witness the brave actions of a child that has to walk a complicated life path. It depicts all the horror of the past events and puts an accent on the loss a lot of poor families suffered back in the days. Unfortunately, human and child trafficking remains an acute problem these days, and Lisa Wingate makes a brave move reviving this chapter of American history and speaking openly about the cruelty in our word.

The author brought us a sad story that may seem a bit predictable in some places, yet it is very well-written and can speak to the heart of every reader. We believe you will enjoy reading it.

Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours A Novel in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Kate Quinn The Alice Network

Engaging Spy Novel

Those who love war prose in all of its forms will definitely enjoy Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network. This book not only is a bestseller according to several magazines but it is also considered one of the best historical literature pieces of the year.

The book depicts real events that happened during World War II. The huge part of the story takes place in France and tells about women who were secret agents and were spying on the Germans during the war. One of the side characters in this story is a French woman Louise de Bettignies, also known under the pseudonym of Alice Dubois. She spoke 4 languages (French, German, Italian and English) and had been experienced in espionage since World War I. Known also as a queen of spies, she worked with Britain and their secret service MI6 and created so-called “Alice” network - a community that operated in and around the city of Lille.

This historical novel has two main characters. The first protagonist is Charlie St. Claire, an American 19-year old student who gets pregnant in the year 1947. Considered as a disgrace, she is sent to Britain by her family. There she decides to find her dearly beloved cousin Rose who got lost during the war. Her research brings her to Evelyn Gardiner who works in archive. Eve has to live with the weight of guilt for a betrayal that caused the fall of the Alice network. She leaves in a wrecked house, swears a lot and tries to find comfort in alcohol. However, she wasn’t always like that. We also have a chance to follow her story that started back in 1917 when she joined Alice Dubois and her team of spies in order to change the course of the war. Eve can see the resemblance with her past self in Charlie, so she agrees to help her.

Review of Kate Quinn The Alice Network A Novel

Describes the Real Horror of the War

The stories are very different yet they are both very engaging. The part that takes place during the war can be described as a dramatic detective story. It depicts all the horrors of the war and how a young girl willingly agrees to fight against them. The story that happens 30 years later is less harrowing and more sentimental. Two storylines collide in the finale, allowing readers to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and surely leaving them satisfied.

In conclusion, we think that The Alice Network is one of the most interesting historical fiction books for adults. It may be a bit too explicit sometimes, but it really captures that horror of war and the scary events secret agents were put through.

Kate Quinn The Alice Network A Novel in the use

 

Rhys Bowen The Tuscan Child

A Miraculous Salvation of Wounded Pilot

Rhys Bowen is a famous New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and a winner of numerous literary awards. A lot of her books were highly praised by critics and became very popular among readers of all ages. Her historical novel The Tuscan Child is another hit that tells a touching story of a family.

The book was published in 2018, but the events take place in the 20th century. The part of the story happens in 1944 in Europe when the major part of it is still controlled by Germans. The book starts with the British RAF pilot Hugo Langley and his co-pilot getting under fire of Germans in Italy. While the co-pilot is heavily wounded and has no chances to survive, Hugo escapes but takes a bullet in the leg. He passes out because of severe pain. He is found by Sofia Bartoli, an Italian woman from a local village of San Salvatore.

Fast forward almost 30 years ahead, we meet Joanna Langley, Hugo’s daughter who comes to England to organize her father’s funeral in 1973. She wasn’t too close with her father and is currently in a bad place in her life dealing with her personal problems. While preparing to sell her family estate and organizing her father’s property, she comes across the letters addressed to a woman named Sofia. In order to find out more about her father’s life, his life in Italy, and also to sort herself out, she decides to take a journey to a beautiful region of Tuscany. There she meets a bunch of new characters that are not less interesting than the protagonist. However, in Italy Joanna realizes that sometimes family secrets should be left behind for good.

Review of Rhys Bowen The Tuscan Child A Novel

Beautiful Descriptions of Food and Nature

Not to give away more information, we can only add that this book won’t allow you to put it aside until you finish it. It tells a dramatic yet very interesting story with lots of plot twists. The other thing we really like about it is the language it is written in. The characters are well-developed and the important part of the story is given to the descriptions. Since a major part of the story takes place in Italy, the author describes the beautiful landscapes of Tuscany and gives a detailed look at traditional cuisine.

To conclude, if you seek an interesting historical romance book that takes place in an unusual place far from the city fuzz and has smart characters and plot twists, this novel should fill the bill. The Tuscan Child is an amazing work by a talented author, which will certainly leave you entertained.

Rhys Bowen The Tuscan Child A Novel in the use

 

What Is a Historical Fiction Book?

Do you enjoy reading historical books? If so, historical fiction may also fit your taste. Historical fiction literature is one of the most popular genres up to date. You can find books in pretty much any form: from short stories and novellas to long novels with a few volumes (both prose and poems) to historical fiction picture books.

As the name suggests, such books usually describe events that occurred in the past, commonly against the background of some notable event or period (war, revolution, reigning of a particular historical figure). But unlike classic historical stories, these have a fiction element to them. They can tell you about made-up characters or places. Also, authors can share their personal fictionalized vision of the real events that have very little information preserved to our days.

Sometimes, writers can let their imagination run wild completely and change some well-known historical events or replace real people with new characters for the sake of the story. So, if historical accuracy doesn’t play a vital role to you and you can get past some inaccuracies here and there, we are sure you will really enjoy this selection of historical fiction books.

And if you are a fan of horror, we also recommend looking through our list of the best Stephen King books.

What Features to Compare

When selecting a new historical book to read, there are a few points to consider.

Author

First of all, if you have already read lots of historical fiction, don’t always go with your all-time favorite authors. Look up new authors if you are unfamiliar with their work. It is always good to try reading new authors’ works.

Luckily, there are tons of information you can find online including reviews of their works. Maybe, you will be able to find your new absolute favorite.

Series

Nowadays, many authors love writing series which may include from 2 to up to 10 books. While some people enjoy spending a lot of time with their beloved characters, other readers may want to switch to a different story with different characters. Note that books in series frequently end with a cliffhanger. So, if the book is a part of the series, you need to consider whether you are dedicated enough to read the whole series to find the end of the story.

However, there are also some series where every book tells different stories and the main characters from previous books may appear as minors or not appear at all. Then, you can safely start reading it as a stand-alone book.

Subgenre

When buying a new book, no matter what genre it is, it will also have a subgenre. When it comes to historical fiction literature, its subgenres can be alternative history, pirate fiction, historical fantasy, fictional biographies and many more. The two most popular subgenres nowadays are historical romance and family sagas. They gained popularity at the beginning of the 20th century and became even more beloved when Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was published.

Time Period and Place

Historical fiction depicts events that occurred throughout the whole history. The narrative can take place back in pre-historical times and up to the 21st century. So, you can choose the century you consider the most interesting of all.

Book Type

Even though some hardcore book lovers enjoy reading paperback books only, there are some reading aficionados that have busy lives and simply can’t find spare time to sit back with a book. That’s why audiobooks became so popular in recent years. With this type of book, you don’t even have to turn pages. By listening to audiobooks, you will be able to tackle more books in a shorter time. Plus, it prevents you from eye fatigue.

If you don’t want to carry a big and bulky book in your bag but like reading on the go, you can download an e-book to your smartphone, tablet or e-reader.

Total Number of Pages

As we've mentioned before, historical fiction books are available in any form, so the number of pages can drastically vary too. Speaking of novels, usually, they consist of approximately 300-600 pages. Note that more doesn't always mean better. Even a book with minimum pages can be packed with a lot of interesting plot twists and adventures.

Did you know?

The History of a Genre

A pretty common misconception about historical fiction literature is the thoughts that it is a relatively young genre. Actually, its elements can be found in such famous old works as Illiad. There are also various Eastern novels that can be considered historical fiction.

As for Europe, the first work in this genre is The Princess of Cleves which was written in the 17th century presumably by Madame de La Fayette. However, scientists still struggle to precisely define the genre of this classical piece of literature since it combines the elements of many genres (historical, historical fiction and even psychological novel).

The Rise in Popularity

The huge rise of the genre happened indeed in the Late Modern Period. Starting as a part of Enlightenment, it later moved into Romanticism. From the end of the 18th and to the middle of the 19th century, the works of historical fiction emerged in France and England.

The most notable historical fiction books of that period include The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Vanity Fair by William Thackeray and Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. There were also a few Russian and Italian extraordinary works that became the classic of the world literature (War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni).

As for American historical fiction during the 18th and 19th century, there is a number of prominent novels as well. The Last of Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne were widely popular among not only English-speaking people but readers all over the world. What is more, these works still stay interesting and have been even adapted to movies. Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage is the other great example of American historical fiction that is considered a classic piece of work.

Still Going Strong

At the beginning of the 20th century, the genre spread all over Europe. German author Thomas Mann brought us Buddenbrooks. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet was written in the 1980s. It was a huge hit back in the days and became even more popular in the 2010s when it was adapted to the TV show. But of course, the person that takes the biggest credit for contributing to this literary genre is Georgette Heyer. Inspired by Jane Austen’s novels which were concentrated more on sensitivity and the heroine’s feelings, the author saved her style but also added accurate historical facts and events as a background of her stories. She is considered to be the mother of Regency romance (which is a subgenre of historical fiction).

In the 21st century, the public interest in historical fiction is promoted thanks to a number of movies, TV shows, and theater plays. Films and series (Braveheart, The Tudors, Downton Abbey to name a few) make people more interested in the particular time periods. But since people prefer to read a fictionalized yet more excitingly-written story with the author’s conjectures rather than plain historical facts, the genre stays on top.

In the end, remember that a book is like a garden carried in the pocket, so don't be afraid to open up to new stories and find new genres.

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Publish Date: 2020-01-31 08:50:24