Historical Fiction

01/09/2013 - 3:31am
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.” 

12/21/2012 - 3:33am
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)

 

 

11/01/2012 - 3:33am
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.

10/11/2012 - 9:09am
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The year is 1912, and the Torrington family is caught on the cusp between a graceful if dying and class-conscious era and the fast-paced, more egalitarian and sometimes brutishness of the coming modern world. And for all that it is Emerald Torrington’s birthday on her family’s grand English estate, she was finding it terribly soothing that morning to pull uselessly at weeds and try to not cry, grown-up and beautiful young woman as she was.  There would be a party in the evening—chocolate cake with green spun-sugar roses in her honor—and it would be the carefully-planned, best effort her lovely mother and their devoted housekeeper could put together, for all that her world—and everyone’s—seems to be ending. And then The Uninvited Guests show up.

10/05/2012 - 9:15am

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.

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd: "...Rutherfurd's sweeping saga of the area surrounding Stonehenge and Salisbury, England, covers 10,000 years and includes many generations of five families. Each family has one or more characteristic types who appear in successive centuries: the round-headed balding man who is good with his hands; the blue-eyed blonde woman who insists on having her independence; the dark, narrow-faced fisher of river waters and secrets. Their fortunes rise and fall both economically and politically, but the land triumphs over the passage of time and the ravages of humans." (Library Journal Review)
 
Byzantium by Michael Ennis
Haraldr Siguardson, a dispossesed Viking prince, journeys to the cosmopolitation court of eleventh-century Constantinople, in an evocative rendering of the opulence, complexity, and colorful people of the Byzantine Empire (Google Books description)
 
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
Having worked to establish laws that protect the interests of the crown in 1537, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar-general, enlists fellow reformer and lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate a commissioner's murder, which may be tied to an impending rebellion. (worldcat.org)


 
 
10/01/2012 - 3:30am
An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

In the closing months of World War II, the Allies are bombing German cities. As Dresden prepares for the inevitable, Lizzie’s family gains an unlikely extra member. Lizzie’s mother works at the Dresden zoo. When the zoo director orders that in the event of a bombing raid, the animals must be shot to prevent them escaping and causing havoc in the city, Lizzie’s mother convinces him to let her take the young orphaned elephant, Marlene, home. And so Marlene moves into the shed in the garden behind Lizzie’s house.

When the bombing of Dresden finally happens, the destruction is worse than anyone imagined. With the Soviet Army approaching from the East, Lizzie’s family flees to the West through bitter winter weather with Marlene in tow. An Elephant in the Garden is not only a story of the horrors of World War II from the perspective of German civilians, it is a tale of an unlikely group of people drawn together by circumstances and an elephant, struggling to survive war, hunger, and winter hardship and to escape to safety behind Allied lines.

09/26/2012 - 12:47pm
The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb

This is a work of fiction that is actually closer to the truth than not. Sharyn McCrumb’s careful research has resulted in an exciting and informative book about the well-known story of Tom Dooley. You may remember The Kingston Trio's hit song called Hang  Down Your Head, Tom Dooley.  His actual name was Tom Dula, pronounced Dooley in the local dialect of the North Carolina mountain residents of the 1860s. Many of us know the story--or think we do, but Sharyn McCrumb’s research has revealed a slightly different story, well-backed up by her evidence. This in itself makes The Ballad of Tom Dooley worth a read.

08/03/2012 - 3:31am
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

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.

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel: "A vivid evocation of prehistory in which an orphaned child finds refuge with a tribe of prehistoric humans who regard her as a deformed oddity rather than as a step up the evolutionary ladder."

If you enjoyed the attention to anthropological detail and history in Clan of the Cave Bear, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Reindeer Moon by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Yanan, the headstrong heroine living near Woman Lake in Siberia twenty thousand years ago, recounts her life and her spirit journeys where she takes on the form of an animal. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

People of the River by Kathleen O'Neal Gear
With the corn crop failing and the Cahokia Chief's lust for tribute growing, a war chief and the warrior woman he loves look to the gods for a sign of hope for their people. (worldcat.org)
 

 

 

07/25/2012 - 3:31am
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Train Dreams, Denis Johnson constructs a melancholy portrait of the U.S. frontier. Instead of focusing on the raw potential and opportunity most associate with the Western expansion, Johnson elucidates the isolation and stasis involved in “taming” a wild place. Johnson artfully constructs a non-linear account of Robert Grainier’s life on the frontier. Through Grainier’s perspective, we witness the rapid transformation of America – from railroad construction to the proliferation of sleek highways; from influenza epidemics to a random encounter with Elvis Presley. Despite the changes going on around him, Grainier remains a lonely outsider, observing the world’s expedited evolution from a distance.

Fittingly, Grainier’s first memory is of an iconic symbol of movement and progress: a train. As a child, he was sent to Idaho on the Great Northern Railroad to live with his cousins. The experience of locomotion erased all memory of his origins, leaving him with a vague and malleable sense of self: “The whole adventure made him forget things as soon as they happened, and he very soon misplaced this earliest part of his life entirely.

07/07/2015 - 2:23pm
March by Geraldine Brooks

“If war can ever be said to be just, then this war is so; it is action for a moral cause, with the most rigorous of intellectual underpinnings. And yet everywhere I turn, I see injustice done in the waging of it. “ - March

In Louisa Alcott’s Little Women, Mr. March’s largest role in the narrative is that his daughters are perpetually waiting for his letters home. In March, Geraldine Brooks traces his story as he enlists to become a Union chaplain, experiences many horrors of war, and eventually finds himself tutoring freed slaves (“contraband”) on a destitute cotton plantation. His cheerful letters home to Marmee contrast with the terrible details he confides to the reader but does not write home about: the pervasive racism; cruelty; and suffering that he encounters in a number of different encounters.

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