Main image
20th May
written by

If you enjoy historical fiction, then these novels may appeal to you:

Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian

This epistolary novel takes place in three different time periods, the 1930s, the 1950s, and the 1970s. Even though the 1930s and 50s are narrated through letters, they come alive and feel as real and present as the 1970s. This book imagines what if…Vlad the impaler really was the vampire of legend? What would that mean? How would that affect history? Or the present? This vividly imagined book inspired me to become a librarian!

Emma Donoghue: Slammerkin

Taking the smallest of historical details, Ms. Donoghue wonders what might have driven an 18th century girl first to prostitution, and then tomurder? What might one do for want of…a ribbon? Vividly realized, this novel makes you feel sympathy and anguish for the circumstances of a woman who wants the finer things in life, but is trapped in poverty. The title, Slammerkin, refers to the loose dress worn by prostitutes.

Geraldine Brooks: Year of Wonders

This one is recommended…with a caveat: the novel was beautifully written throughout, but the ending was abrupt and ill-fitting. This is the tale of a (real) town that shut out the world when they faced the plague in the 17th century. The fear and anguish of the plague is realized beautifully. I would have said that this was one of my favourite novels ever, had it not been for the ending.

Emma Donoghue: Life Mask

I cannot help but put another novel by Ms. Donoghue on this list – Life Mask takes the very real lives of late-18th century actress Eliza Farren, her suitor Lord Derby, and widowed artist Anne Damer, who has been rumoured to be a “Sapphist”. This novel explores both the politics, and sexual politics of the era, fleshing out the characters fully until you feel as though you know them personally. The French Revolution plays a role as well. Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply