Historical fiction can be a little hit or miss for me, but there have been a few that I have enjoyed. Most of these are novels that were written recently but take place in the past, two are set in the past were written contemporary to their setting, and the last two are a little bit of both as they were written many years ago about events that took place even further in the past.
Regardless, if your book club likes/loves historical fiction or fiction set in historical times, they should definitely check out these ten books if they haven’t already.
I get that not everyone who reads historical fiction likes for that fiction to be messed with, but this was fun. It’s a steampunk story about a spy school that masquerades as a finishing school for girls in England in the 1800’s. Though the book gets beat up a bit on Goodreads, I found it incredibly fun. I get that the plot was a bit weak but I’m the kind of reader that could read about interesting characters go out to tea and have just as good a time, so just keep that in mind. Great for discussing the lessons and whether they should/could be applied today. Reviews: Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny.
I‘d read this one before the Finishing School series, not necessarily after. I read it much after, having only recently read it. That said, Carriger’s books were still on my mind as I listened to it, but I didn’t have a bad expectation set up. This is a delightful middle grade read with characters of similar disposition but no steampunk or espionage. It’s more of a story for a lover of traditional Victorian stories. I’m not usually a fan of that era but this and the one above are special exceptions. Great for discussing childhood experiences, covering things up with siblings and general wicked fun. My Review
Set in Afghanistan, this one strides two eras. There is a contemporary story taking place in this book alongside the historical one, which is about 100 years ago. The author is able to use culture and customs and practices from both eras to put the protagonists in similar positions at the outset and let their times show how the same beginning brings them to vastly different places in life before their stories conclude. It was a fascinating book. Great for discussing the differences between generations, but also the similarities and how we make choices based on that. My Review
This one is again about the English but the era is changed. We enter the 1930’s and get to go on an anthropology expedition. It’s inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, but isn’t biographical in any way. The story itself focuses on three anthropologists researching native tribes in New Guinea and paints a beautiful picture of the place while telling a bit of a haunting tale about the characters. Great for discussing and looking at the way we explore and sometimes pervert the cultures of others. My Review
I’ve only recently read some fiction set around WWII. Normally my experience of WWII stories are movies and of course, Band of Brothers. Since before this blog, I’ve been reading mostly women but this title was irresistible. The story totally lives up to the gorgeous title, it does a beautiful job of giving perspective to the reader. Great for a WWII discussion because of the depth it gives to the lead male and the way the museum looked at Nazi Germany. My Review.
If you read the last one, definitely follow it with this. This book is about the life of a survivor of Auschwitz. It’s about the things that happen after Auschwitz, the strange morbid humor, the way life always looks different afterward, the way memories can come in and haunt you, and the way that nothing is ever really frightening afterward. It has a strange ending that was almost disappointing. It felt disappointing when I first read it but it has stayed with me so far and I like it more every time I think about it. There is a choice, and it’s one we make every day. This also goes to great lengths to humanize survivors, but doesn’t neglect to do this for those who worked the camp. It peaks at their consciences and their motivations for what they did in their “playground of murder”. Great for discussing survivor guilt, PTSD, living with someone with PTSD, and making the “right” choices for you and your life. My Review
I know this isn’t the most popular of Austen’s books, but it’s my favorite. It’s Anne’s character arc that makes it great for me and Captain Wentworth is perfect on a totally different level from Mr. Darcy. When I read Pride and Prejudice it was fun because I could never say those things or be that way but the scary thing about Anne is that I was raised to be her. We almost shared fates and her story reminded me of how close I had come to letting people talk me out of what I wanted for myself.
Sadly, I don’t have a review for this one as I read it well before starting the blog. But it’s a great book set in a period far removed from our own, even though it doesn’t perfectly fit into “historical fiction”. Great for discussing the choices we make in our personal lives and who influenced them or influenced us to make bad choices.
Yes, this one doesn’t quite fit either. It’s historical and fiction but not quite historical fiction. Still, it’s a feminist classic and for good reason. I had read it for the Read Harder challenge, but I wish someone had given it to me long before that. I wish I had it in college or high school so I could sympathize for a minute with the plights of women in that time, see behind that ugly curtain, if you will. Great for discussing the way things have changed for women who suffer from mental health issues, specifically post-partum depression. My Review
This book begins in Russia and migrates to several countries, including Palestine in a time before Israel got their own homeland back. It’s a beautiful story that sweeps through a long stretch of time but covers the progress and pitfalls of a single family. It sees them through migrating out of Russia in the early part of the twentieth century and through two world wars. I loved it and the main character, Chavala. Great for discussing the lengths we go to for our families, or even the historical circumstances that surrounded the formation of Israel. My Review
Historical fiction but quite old in it’s own right. A classic that gets torn down a lot because it was also written in a time when there was less concern for the presentation of diverse characters and writers thought quite a bit less of writing other ethnicities with much authenticity or thought to their plight. Yes, I know all the problems with this book.
At the same time, it was the first book that taught me to buck the system and that every obstacle had a way around it that I maybe didn’t notice. Despite that I genuinely hated some of Scarlett’s tactics, most of her worst behavior was in the interest of saving her home and feeding quite a bit more than her family. I feel like even the skewed representation of the men going after the “shanty town” is educational in its own way. I think it grows more important to read in book club type circles so that the problems within it can be discussed and meted out. It’s a perfect example of how one’s own privilege can blind them to the problems that other face and it could be interesting to analyze the issues with the background character who are slaves at first and as they transition out of slavery and read this alongside a book about this process for a fully picture of the time. Mostly, it still serves to understand privilege. I read this as middle schooler, so I don’t have a review for it posted. I might reread it one do and do so, but not for now.
That’s my top ten books to read if you’re book club loves historical/period fiction! Check out the Broke and Bookish for other TTT posts!