Historical Fiction

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich

The Ojibwa trappers had come to trade with the villagers on Spirit Island, but what they saw caused them to turn their boats around and head for home as quickly as they could.  The entire island seemed empty of life. Smallpox, the terrible illness for which the Native Americans had little immunity, had wiped out everyone. Well, almost everyone. Still alive and crawling through the ruins was a baby girl, all alone.

Omakayas, or Little Frog, was soon adopted into another Ojibwa family on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island.  Her life is as rich and full as that of another beloved book character, Laura Ingalls, and there are many similarities between the stories, including the children’s delight in nature and wild creatures.. Omakayas’ family’s everyday activities and celebrations and tragedies are carefully set down, from season to season.  The Birchbark House is foremost a very well-written story with believable, lovable and intriguing characters, including Omakayas’ annoyingly greedy little brother and beautiful but sometimes cold-hearted big sister.  Older generations are also well-represented.  The grandmother, a gifted healer, shares stories of long-ago, and her dreams are filled with omens of things to come and solutions to real-life problems given by the spirit world.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife

I admit that I have not read this book, but one of my customers just called to say that he enjoyed The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin, so much that he couldn’t put it down. It is the story of Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  I was given Gift From the Sea, by Ann Morrow Lindbergh, as a Christmas present and was struck by the beauty of this wonderful, little book. I was immediately impressed by the tremendous intelligence and fierce independence of this famous woman. How could anyone not admire such an incredible woman who struggled to maintain her own identity with such a famous husband?

Roman Blood by Steven Saylor

Roman Blood by Steven Saylor

In Steven Saylor’s debut hard-boiled historical mystery, Roman Blood, Gordianus the Finder is an intrepid soul, living in a seedy section of long-ago Rome. All roads lead here and all the up-and-coming politicians--along with displaced, often enslaved people from war-torn lands--make for a sea of trouble in an atmosphere that is by turns torrid, glittering, and dangerous.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

It is fascinating to trace the domino effect caused by something so seemingly small and insignificant as a bolt of cloth. In Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks, this bolt spreads misery in the form of the bubonic plague from London to a small, remote English village in 1666. Anna Frith, a young widow who has already seen her share of misfortune, is spared the fatal boils while all around her, family, friends, and neighbors succumb to the terrible disease.

If you like Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: "A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier: Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas rangers--partners and friends--who have shared hardship and danger without ever quite understanding each other. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women. Call is driven and demanding, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. The two could hardly be more different, but both are tough, redoubtable fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else." 

If you enjoyed this western epic and are looking for similar novels, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Fictional reminiscences of an 111-year-old man telling of his checkered career as plainsman, Indian scout, and squaw man and of his colorful acquaintances. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
 A cowboy is unable to prevent three wandering travellers from being unjustly lynched for murder. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

In When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka uses a sparse, lyrical writing style to illuminate the psychological effects of one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. The novel opens with a portrait of an ordinary woman going about her daily chores in Berkeley, California. While en route to her local library, she sees something troubling: Evacuation Order No. 19. After reading the notice, she abandons her errands and begins preparing for life in an unfamiliar locale.

At first, the sequence of events feels dystopian or apocalyptic – the world is ending and a family is forced to prepare to face the unknown. But this narrative is a dramatization of history, not a speculative tale of the future. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government began to suspect that American citizens of Japanese ancestry might harbor allegiance to Japan. In 1942, these paranoid fantasies lead to the forcible internment of Japanese-Americans announced in Evacuation Order No. 19.  

If you like Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold: "Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century San Francisco during the heyday of such legendary illusionists and escape artists as Harry Houdini, this thoroughly entertaining debut by an amateur magician with an M.F.A. in creative writing is a fanciful pastiche of history, fantasy and romance." (Publisher's Weekly).

If you liked this book's use of historical setting, humor, and interconnected plots, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat, smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book.  (worldcat.org)

 

 

 


 

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Their friendship compromised by the belief systems of the racially charged 1970s, Dylan Ebdus and Mungus Rude share a series of misadventures based on their mutual obsession with comic book heroes. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

In its first chapters, Sweet Tooth begins like Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Serena Frome (rhymes with Plume) tells of her unremarkable childhood and how she ends up working as a spy for Britain’s MI5. With her blonde and beautiful looks, she is a bit of a Bond Girl and wreaks havoc on the men around her.

A good all-around student, Serena devours novels and wants to do an English degree in a small university, but her housewife mother, in an uncharacteristic fit of feminism, tells her she has a chance of making something of herself by going to Cambridge and doing “maths.” 

If you like Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett: Follows the fates of five interrelated families--American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh--as they move through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

If you enjoyed the use of different character perspectives and tumultuous historical change over a period of time, here are some other novels you may enjoy:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
A tale of love and war early this century. The protagonists are Stephen Wraysford, a British businessman, and Isabelle Azaire, a married Frenchwoman. They meet in 1910, she elopes with him, gives birth to his child, then remorse sends her back to her husband. But World War I will bring them together when he returns to France as an officer in the British army. (worldcat.org)
 

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The story of a farm family's Depression-era journey from the Dustbowl of Oklahoma to the California migrant labor camps in search of a better life. (worldcat.org)

 

 

The English Monster or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd Shepherd

The English Monster or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd S

The English Monster, by Lloyd Shepherd, blends two stories of horror—one short, sharp, and bloody while the other is a slow unraveling of a man’s conscience.

October, 1564: A handsome young man, just married and very much in love, travels a dangerous path to the port of Plymouth, England, where he hopes to find a berth on a ship bound for adventure, but more importantly, riches to make their new life together secure. It is try and succeed or fail and never return for William Ablass. His letter of introduction earns him a place on board Captain Hawkins’ vessel where he becomes shipmates and friends with Francis Drake, later “El Draco,” the terror of the Spanish fleet.  Their adventures succeed in turning a golden profit but at a very dark cost.