Historical Fiction: Reading Across Time & Around The World

Historical Fiction: Reading Across Time & Around The World

Historical fiction is a genre that I believe more people should read. Not only does this genre tackle the difficult task of successfully blending fact with fiction, but it can also transport the reader to different time periods and different places. The best kind of historical fiction can teach an important history lesson in an engaging, and often emotional, manner.

In this post, I’m going to shine the spotlight on ten historical fiction novels that I’ve personally read and believe to be excellent books overall. As well, I wanted to showcase a sampling of books that demonstrate how a reader can explore the world and different time periods by simply picking up a historical fiction novel. This is by no means a comprehensive list and does reflect my own personal reading tastes.

1. THE KITE RUNNER – KHALED HOSSEINI

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TIME:

1963-1981; 2001

PLACE:

Afghanistan, United States, Pakistan

SUMMARY:

This is the emotional and powerful story of two young boys from completely different backgrounds: Amir is born into a wealthy family, while Hassan is his servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers… until they get ripped apart. Taking place primarily in Afghanistan and moving throughout the years, this book provides insight on a multitude of topics.

2. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE – ANTHONY DOERR

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TIME:

1934-1945; 2014

PLACE:

France, Germany

SUMMARY:

Pulitzer Prize winner, this story offers powerful glimpses into both France and Germany leading up to, as well as during, World War II. Marie-Laure, a young French girl who is also blind, flees German-occupied Paris with her father. Werner, a young German boy with a talent for mechanics, is raised to be one of Germany’s weapons in the war effort. Both of their stories are told and end up intertwining in this in-depth look into World War II.

3. THE SONG OF ACHILLES – MADELINE MILLER

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TIME:

Approx. 12th – 13th century, BC.

PLACE:

Greece

SUMMARY:

Set in Ancient Greece, this story follows Patroclus, a shamed and weak prince, as he crosses paths with the talented Achilles, who is well on his way to becoming a legendary hero. As Achilles becomes more and more well-known, the epic Trojan War breaks out and both characters head towards the heart of the action. Filled with excellent originality, this is a great take on both the hero that is Achilles as well as the Trojan War.

 4. PACHINKO – MIN JIN LEE

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TIME:

20th century

PLACE:

Korea, Japan

SUMMARY:

A sweeping saga that follows one Korean family through the decades, with the reader acting as a witness to many hardships and tragedies. Moving to Japan in the early 1900’s, the family faces discrimination and struggles to find their place in society. This book showcases the difficulty of being Korean in Japan, as well as the strained dynamic between family and social class.

5. REBEL QUEEN – MICHELLE MORAN

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TIME:

Mid-19th century

PLACE:

India

SUMMARY:

This book tells the story of Rani Lakshmi, the queen of Jhansi, as well as her elite group of all-female guards that protect her. When the British come to invade Jhansi, one of the kingdoms that make up India, she raises armies to fight for her kingdom.  This novel showcases an endlessly interesting look inside the kingdoms of India and the eventual British invasion.

 6. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD – COLSON WHITEHEAD

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TIME:

Early 19th century

PLACE:

United States

SUMMARY:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book tells the story of Cora, a slave in Georgia who wishes to escape her life of servitude. By utilizing the underground railroad – which is an actual train system in the novel – Cora encounters towns scattered across the South that all showcase a different level of racism. To make this journey even more terrifying, she is being ruthlessly hunted as she tries to reach the North and her freedom.

7. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA – ARTHUR GOLDEN

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TIME:

1930s-1940s

PLACE:

Japan

SUMMARY:

This story chronicles how a poor Japanese peasant girl named Chiyo becomes one of the most famous geishas in all of Japan. Chiyo’s eventual rise to fame is not easy or simple, and her struggles and victories are documented throughout the story. This novel also notably offers a tantalizing glimpse into the complicated and mysterious world of geisha culture.

8. THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO – MARGARET GEORGE

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TIME:

37-64 AD

PLACE:

Roman Empire

SUMMARY:

The story of the infamous Emperor Nero is told in this book. This novel chronicles his early life up to the beginning years of his reign as Emperor of Rome. By starting from the very beginning of life, it is interesting to see how Nero’s surroundings influenced him to become the twisted and all-around bad ruler we remember today. However, this novel also shows Nero’s humanity and sheds light on him and his decisions.

9. SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN – LISA SEE

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TIME:

19th century

PLACE:

China

SUMMARY:

The main focus of this book is the long and complicated friendship between two girls: Lily and Snow Flower. Though separated by distance, the girls build a deep bond through sending each other secret messages hidden on fans. However, a misunderstanding eventually threatens this powerful friendship. The book follows the girls as they go through adolescence (including foot binding), marriage, and motherhood, and all of the sorrows and joys in between.

10. THE DOVEKEEPERS – ALICE HOFFMAN

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TIME:

70 C.E.

PLACE:

Israel

SUMMARY:

This book tells the stories of four different women as they, along with nine hundred fellow Jews, attempt to survive against the invading Roman armies by residing on a mountain in the Judean desert named Masada. Based off of real historical events, the strong characters weave an emotional tale of hardship, survival, and hope.

 

This is only a brief glimpse into what the world of historical fiction can offer. No matter which time period or place most captures your imagination, there is definitely an excellent historical fiction novel out there covering your interests. Instead of heading towards the Young Adult section for the hundredth time or sticking only with fantasy novels, try reading a historical fiction novel next time.

Our staff here at Sheepshead Review just had our extended deadline yesterday, meaning that submissions for the Spring 2018 issue are currently closed. Our staff is currently hard at work selecting the best possible content to appear in the journal. Make sure to keep up to date on all things Sheepshead Review by checking out our website and following us on social media, including FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.



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