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Ten great works of Historical Fiction

27th July 2021

Historical Fiction is one of the most popular searches on the TripFiction site. Here we list ten of our favourite books in this genre. Ten Great works of Historical Fiction.

Ten great works of Historical FictionA Brief Affair by Margaret Leroy (London)

The cups and saucers on the dresser begin to rattle faintly, as though a tremulous hand is holding them. The water in the washing-up bowl shivers all over its surface. There’s a distant droning, something at first more felt than heard, like the far-off thunder of some massive waterfall. Rapidly coming closer.

September 1940. England is a war once again and London has become an ever-fragile place for widowed Livia Ripley and her two young daughters, Polly and Eliza. When Livia meets charismatic publisher Hugo Ballantyne, she is hopeful that her life is about to change for the better. But as clouds gather in the clear autumn sky, the wail of the siren heralds the arrival of the Luftwaffe.

As the raids intensify, Livia volunteers to be a warden at the invitation of enigmatic Justin Connelly. Here she experiences the true reality and despair of war, a contrast to the world of comfort and cocktails provided in fleeting afternoons at the Balfour Hotel with Hugo. And ultimately, Livia discovers a strength she never knew she had that will give her the power to save those she loves. For when you don’t know what tomorrow may bring, there is no choice but to live for today.

Reminiscent of classic films like Brief Encounter and The End of the Affair, this is a stunningly captured story of a woman finding herself whilst the world is at war.

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela (Rome)

The year is 115 AD and Imperial Rome is at the height of its power. The reader wakes in a rich patrician home and discovers frescoes, opulent furnishings and richly appointed boudoirs. Strolling through the splendours of the Roman Forum, one overhears both learned opinions from intellectual orators and local dialogue and humour floating out from the public latrines. One meets the intense gazes of Roman matriarchs strolling the streets, looks on as a banquet is prepared, and is afforded a peek into the sexual habits and fetishes of Roman patricians and plebs.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Brooklyn)

Betty Smith’s debut novel is universally regarded as a modern classic. The sprawling tale of an immigrant family in early 20th-century Brooklyn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the great distinctively American novels.

The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity.

Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult – and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater (Alpes-Maritimes)

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara’s blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara’s own bid for freedom risks several lives . . .

Will her family make it through the summer together?
And can she hold onto the love she has found with Alain?

By turns poignant and atmospheric, this is the compelling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Carol Drinkwater about the power of first love and courage in our darkest hours.

Ten great works of Historical FictionAn Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney (London)

London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It’s a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror’s assistant, to celebrated courtesan at her stepmother’s Fairy House, the notorious house of ill-repute where decadent excess is a must…

Tully was once the talk of the town. Now, with the best seats at Newgate already sold in anticipation of her execution, her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows.

An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague (Tuscany)

Italy, 1937. Alessandra Durante is grieving the loss of her husband when she discovers she has inherited her ancestral family seat, Villa Durante, deep in the Tuscan Hills. Longing for a new start, she moves from her home in London to Italy with her daughter Diana and sets about rebuilding her life.

Under the threat of war, Alessandra’s house becomes first a home and then a shelter to all those who need it. Then Davide, a young man who is hiding the truth about who he is, arrives, and Diana starts to find her heart going where her head knows it must not.

Back home in Britain as war breaks out, Alessandra’s son Robert, signs up to be a pilot, determined to play his part in freeing Italy from the grip of Fascism. His bravery marks him out as an asset to the Allies, and soon he is being sent deep undercover and further into danger than ever before.

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (Paris)

IN THE HUNT FOR A SPY, HE EXPOSED A CONSPIRACY. The winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2014, this is a gripping historical thriller from Robert Harris – Sunday Times bestselling author of Fatherland and The Ghost.

Paris, 1895: an army officer, Georges Picquart, watches a convicted spy, Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of a baying crowd. Dreyfus is exiled for life to Devil’s Island; Picquart is promoted to run the intelligence unit that tracked him down. But when Picquart discovers that secrets are still being handed over to the Germans, he is drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of deceit and corruption that threatens not just his honour but his life…

Ten great works of Historical FictionBefore the Rains by Dinah Jefferies (Rajasthan)

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .

Born in the Purple by Dora Ilieva (Istanbul)

It is Anno Domini 1083. At the Blachernae Palace in Constantinople, a princess is born. What will her fate be? Will she be married off in order to create an advantageous political alliance? Or will she be sent to a monastery for showing disobedience? Anna Komnena refuses to follow the suffocating traditions of her time. Despised by some, admired by others, she decides to break the chains of subjugation and follow her heart. For the freedom of her mind and spirit, she will pay a heavy price.

Breaking the Tongue by Vyvyane Loh (Singapore)

On the eve of World War II, Claude Lim, a Chinese youth, uncertain of himself and his nationality, is being raised in a family that strongly identifies with the British colonists in Singapore. The family neither speaks nor understands Chinese and is proud of that fact. Their placid lives are disturbed by the hodgepodge of Asians, Eurasians, and British expatriates shifting in their roles and political sensibilities as the threat of invasion approaches. Prickly, pretentious Claude slowly metamorphoses into a young man with a budding Chinese identity and a wisdom wrought from the tortures and tragedies of war. His parents, Humphrey and Cynthia, cannot bring themselves to accept the changes all around them. Grandma Siok’s cultural ties offer the only practical survival skills for the family until Claude meets Ling-Li, a nurse with incredible acumen among the spies, fifth columnists, and nationalists struggling to position themselves in the social upheaval to come. Loh tells an incredibly powerful story of national upheaval, imperial decline, and a young man’s coming-of-age from the perspectives of several finely drawn characters.

Enjoy your trip into Historical Fiction! Have we missed any of your personal favourites? If so, please let us know in the Comments below.

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