Quintessential Historical Fiction
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I'm new to this genre and am curious what you long-time readers would think is the quintessential historical novel.
One caveat, I'd like something published within the last 2 years or so.
I intend to go back and do more thorough reading, but I want to start with more "current" historical fiction.
Also, what are some of your recently published favorites in various time-periods, etc.?
I think the question you have to ask first is what time period are you looking to read? AND with whom do your sympathies lie? because with such a general statement that could yield any number of books. . .but for my favorite period, which is the War of the Roses, particularly focusing on Richard III, the quintessential book for me is definitely The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman
Well, I had an enormous list until I saw that caveat! I can't help thinking that by limiting yourself to the last couple of years, you are going to be missing some of the best books in the genre including The Crimson Petal and the White, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Name of the Rose, An Instance of the Fingerpost etc, etc, etc . . .
Ah well, but you asked for the recent stuff. As RSN says, a lot hangs on what period/s interest you and also what counts (to you) as history. For me, that includes anything about the second world war and before but that's just my somewhat arbitrary marker. Anyway, here are (IMO) some of the best of the past couple of years:
Alone in Berlin/Every Man Dies Alone (WWII)
Remarkable Creatures (Victorian England)
The House of Special Purpose (Revolutionary Russia)
Stealing Athena (Modern day intertwined with 5th C (BC) Athens)
Company of Liars (14th Century England/Plague)
The Island (Greek leper colony in the early 20th C)
Loving Frank (Frank Lloyd Wright, early 20th C)
And a couple of series that started several years ago but are still in progress now would be those of Diana Gabaldon (18th C Scotland_ and C J Sansom (murder in Tudor England).
I hope those give you a few to be going on with!
(Ed for typo)
RSN called it with SKP - ANYTHING written by her is brilliant, I've got all of them. If you're interested in Wales and the period prior to and during the reign of King John (of Magna Carta fame), set during 1100's, the Here Be Dragons trilogy is awesome. Tells the story of one of John's illegitimate children, Joanna and her marriage to Llywelyn the Great, last great ruler of a free Wales. Sunne in Splendour is wonderful as is When Christ and His Saints Slept. She's a brilliant historical fiction writer.
Another writer I enjoy is Kate Mosse. She writes each book with two stories running concurrently - one in the past and one in the present. I really like that method. She also writes about SW France and the Cathars/Albigensians around Toulouse, Carcassonne and the Languedoc region of France. Quite engaging stories - The Labyrinth, The Sepulchre, The Winter Ghosts - all very good.
Booksloth is right on the Diana Gabaldon series. She doesn't have a cult-like following for nothin'! Her books are large and there are now 7 of them (not counting the Outlandish Companion book). Again, 2 times running somwehat concurrently involving time travel, 1700's Scotland, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and romps through the court at Versailles, the Caribbean, Cape Fear and early US history moving onto the American Revolution. The characters are bright and the dialogue is smart and lively. I enjoyed books 1 (The Outlander) & 2 (Dragonfly in Amber" the best - she goes into much about herbs and healing which I'm interested in. However I have every one of her books in this series b/c I can't give up on Claire and Jamie ~
SO many books, SO little time :0) Enjoy!
I have read both Wolf Hall and The Children's Book (#5) and can confirm they are both brillian, but word of warning, don't read the blurb for The Children's Book and think 'ahhh Edwardian childrens author and her idyllic bohemian family' seriously dark at times, not a light read.
IMHO you have limited yourself greatly by only wanting something written in the last two years:
The Eden Hunter by Skip Horack
Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
These are not what I call "10's", anywhere between 7-8's, but they are written in the last two years.
I have become a huge fan of David Liss after getting one of his books The Whiskey Rebels through the LT Early Reviewer program. Although a couple of his books are in the relatively esoteric genre of historical financial fiction, they are a fascinating look at the 17th The Coffee Trader and 18th The Devil's Company and A Conspiracy of Paper centuries. The Benjamin Weaver books are especially highly recommended for anyone who loves historical fiction!
Margaret George has just published her latest about Elizabeth I, which is being well received and I'm looking forward to. Can't seem to make a touchstone for it, but here's the link: http://www.librarything.com/work/10239081
Have to say the C.J. Sansom Shardlake series has been very good, murder and mysterious goings on in Tudor England
Good historical fiction from the past couple of years?
Well, for starters, you cannot go past Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. A deserved Booker Prize winner, it's perhaps the best novel I've read in ten years; quite a statement. Absolutely wonderful. A word of warning though; many folks find the construction of the novel (written in the third person singular) challenging at first. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.
Another popular recent historical novel is Sea of Poppies, the fist of a mooted trilogy. Set in India just prior to the Opium Wars, it is primarily based on a single sea vessel and deals with many characters and their stories. Well regarded for its wonderful use of language and dialect.
Other excellent historical novels include the most recent works by Alan Furst (if you like WWII espionage novels, you cannot go past Furst), such as Spies of Warsaw or Spies of the Balkans.
Robert Harris has published two titles in his excellent Roman historical series based on the life of Cicero. The first, Imperium is about five or six years old, but the second Lustrum only came out in 2009 (so should count). We eagerly await the third and final instalment.
I could go on and on. To be perfectly honest mate, the list is almost endless. :)
I loved Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland. Hadn't realized woman played such an important part in the Tiffany company or that Tiffany was so supportive of woman workers.
If you insist on something from the last couple of years (which is a little arbitrary, especially for this genre IMO), I second the call for Wolf Hall - a truly excellent book.
I'm naturally wary of what's top of the charts, as I have been disappointed too many times, and I approached this with some prejudice, having delayed reading it until someone actually forced it into my hands.
I'm glad they did. It's written in present tense, which I am normally allergic too, but the way she uses it is fascinating. The character of Thomas Cromwell is one of the more memorable I have come across.
You really get the sense reading it that this is a writer at the top of her game. Can't wait for the next one.
Another vote for Wolf Hall. Best historical fiction I have read in a while, and one of my all-time favorites.
New to this site...so glad I stumbled upon it while searching for yet another list of historical fiction books.
The last two years is very limiting and none of these are in my top 50, but Fall Of Giants by Follett, Wench by Perkins, and Paris Wife by McClain are all good reads. I would recommend you read Hemmingway's A Moveable Feast before you dive into Paris Wife.
If you are willing to go a little farther back then read anthing by Anya Seton: Green Darkness, Katherine, The Winthrop Woman, or Devil Water..absolutely amazing story teller. Her stories were written 60 years ago but they are still some of the best historical fiction I've read.
There is some good recently written historical fiction out there. I very highly recommend anything by Robert Low. The Whale Road, The Wolf Sea, The White Raven, and The Prow Beast make up his excellent Oathsworn series about the "Viking age'. The Lion Wakes is the first of his current series about Robert the Bruce. (I haven't read The Lion Wakes because what I am currently writing about is just too similar)
Glad I came across this thread as it's nice to see other people's opinions. I agree with the others that it's too hard to limit it to last 2 years so I'll just add my vote to the Sharon Penman groupies :)
She's fantastic and her Here Be Dragons books is my no2 fav of all time.(She's on LT and Facebook)
If you like HF with a bit of twist I'd recommend Barbara Erskine (although still havent read her latest ones) Her books have a supernatural twist to them but are historical. The Lady of Hay by her is just brilliant.
I'm stretching your 'in the last couple of years' slightly, but I'd recommend Rosina Lippi's (aka Sara Donati) Into The Wilderness series, the final book The Endless Forest was published at the end of last year. The whole series is fantastic and one of my all time favourites, but you need to read them from the start.
I liked A Kingdom's Cost by J. R. Tomlin about Scotland. You can see my review, and others, on LT. I received this book from LT and the author.
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