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Reading Guides: Historical Fiction

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Historical Fiction Books

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Pre-Historic & Ancient  |  Middle Ages to 1700  |  North America  |  World


Pre-Historic & Ancient

Smith, Jill Eileen / Sarai: A Novel (Biblical) --- PS3619.M58838 S27 2012
When Abram requests Sarai's hand in marriage, he promises never to take another wife and in return Sarai promises to give Abram a son, but as the years go by and Sarai's womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain

Tibn, Coln / The Testament of Mary (Biblical) --- PR6070.O455 T47 2012
A provocative imagining of the later years of the mother of Jesus finds her living a solitary existence in Ephesus years after her son's crucifixion and struggling with guilt, anger, and feelings that her son is not the son of God and that his sacrifice was not for a worthy cause.

Miller, Madeline / The Song of Achilles (Ancient Greece) --- PS3613.I5445 S65 2012
Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.

Hoffman, Alice / The Dovekeepers: A Novel (Biblical) --- PS3558.O3447 D68 2011
A tale inspired by the tragic first-century massacre of hundreds of Jewish people at Masada presents the stories of a hated daughter, a baker's wife, a girl disguised as a warrior, and a medicine woman who keep doves and secrets while Roman soldiers draw near.

Middle Ages to 1700

Forsyth, Kate / Bitter Greens: A Novel (Italy) --- PR9619.3.F59 B58 2014
After Margherita's father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition. Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does

Gregory, Phillipa / The Kingmaker’s Daughter (British Isles) --- PR6057.R386 K56 2012
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the "Kingmaker," Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England.

Wier, Alison / A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower (British Isles) --- PR6123.E36 D36 2012
A tale inspired by the life of Lady Jane Gray's younger sister, Katherine, interweaves the tragic story of her imprisonment in the Tower of London with the fates of three other innocent political prisoners including Kate Plantagenet and boy princes Edward and Richard.

Mantel, Hilary / Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel (British Isles) --- PR6063.A438 B75 2012
In this follow-up to Wolf Hall, Mantel tackles the tempestuous relationship between King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn; winner of the Mann Booker Prize.

North America

Lawrence, Margaret / Roanoke (U.S. Colonial) --- PS3562 .A9133 R63 2009
In the spring of 1585, seven English ships sailed around Cape Fear and up the windswept coast of Florida. Their mission was to gain a foothold in the Americas. But within 10 years, the vibrant new colony had vanished without a trace.

Kent, Kathleen / The Heretic’s Daughter: A Novel (Colonial) --- PS3611.E674 H47 2008
Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Morrison, Toni / A Mercy (African-American) --- PS3563.O8749 M47 2008
In exchange for a bad debt, an Anglo-Dutch trader takes on Florens, a young slave girl, who feels abandoned by her slave mother and who searches for love—first from an older servant woman at her master's new home, and then from a handsome free blacksmith.

Whitehead, Colson / The Underground Railroad (American South) --- PS3573.H4768 U53 2016
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground
Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being

Shaara, Jeff / A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh (Civil War) --- PS3569.H18 B57 2012
A fictional account of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, told from the perspectives of participants on both sides, recreates the April 1862 surprise attack by Confederate forces on the Union Army at Shiloh.

Hempinstall, Kathy / Blue Asylum: A Novel (Civil War) --- PS3558.E577 B58 2012
This novel is the story of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the call of freedom.

Brown, Taylor / Fallen Land (Civil War) --- PS3602.R722894 F35 2016
Set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward.

Carter, Stephen / The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (Civil War) --- PS3603.A78 I47 2012
In an alternate history novel, Lincoln escapes assassination by John Wilkes Booth only to face impeachment, and Abigail Canner, a young black woman involved in his defense, helps investigate the murder of the president's counsel.

Harrigan, Stephen / A Friend of Mr. Lincoln (Civil War) --- PS3558.A626 F75 2016
The life and political rise of Abraham Lincoln are told through the eyes of his friend a fictional poet, Cage Weatherby.

O'Brien, Timothy L. / The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel (Civil War) --- PS3615.B79 L56 2012
A nation shattered by its president's murder; Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy; A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him. From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O'Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

Allen, Jeffery Renard / Song of the Shank (Post Civil War) --- PS3551.L393815 S66 2014
Story of Tom Wiggins, who was born a slave but became an internationally famous piano player.

McKinney Whetstone, Diane / Lazaretto (Post Civil War) --- PS3563.C3825 L39 2016
Takes place in Lazaretto, the first quarantine hospital for entering immigrants.

Coover, Robert / Huck Out West (Western United States, 19th Century) --- PS3553.O633 H83 2017
Huck Out West, [is] also "wrote by Huck," the boys escape "sivilization" and "light out for the Territory, riding for the famous but short-lived Pony Express, then working as scouts for both sides in the war. They are suddenly separated when Tom decides he'd rather own civilization than leave it, returning east with his new wife, Becky Thatcher, to learn the law from her father. Huck, abandoned and "dreadful lonely," hires himself out to "whosoever."

See, Lisa / Shanghai Girls (Depression) --- PS3569.E3334 S53 2009
Two sisters leave Shanghai to find new lives in 1930s Los Angeles in this fresh, fascinating adventure.

Ford, Jamie / Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (World War II) --- PS3606.O737 H68 2009
Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.

Allende, Isabel / The Japanese Lover: A Novel (World War II) --- PQ8098.1.L54 A67513 2015 
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener…  Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom.

McFadden, Bernice / Gathering of Waters (Civil Rights Movement) --- PS3563.C3622 G38 2012
The story is narrated by the town of Money, Mississippi. Tass Hilson and Emmett Till were young and in love when Emmett was murdered in 1955. Anxious to escape the town, Tass marries Maximillian May and relocates to Detroit. Forty years later, after the death of her husband, Tass returns to Money and fantasy takes flesh when Emmett Till's spirit is finally released from the waters of the Tallahatchie River and the two lovers are reunited.

Stockett, Kathryn / The Help (Civil Rights Movement) --- PS3619 .T636 H45 2009
In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women—black and white, mothers and daughters—view one another.

Rabe, David / Girl By the Road at Night: A Novel of Vietnam (Vietnam War) --- PS3568.A23 G57 2010
Private Joseph Whitaker, with his Vietnam deployment papers in hand, spends his last weekend trying to find anyone who will acknowledge what he is about to do matters. In Saigon a prostitute, Quach Ngoc Lan, spends her days haggling and submitting to physical mortification. Their chance encounter in Saigon forges a surprising connection.

Krivak, Andrew / The Signal Flame: A Novel (Vietnam War) --- PS3561.R569 S57 2017
[A] heartbreaking, captivating story about a family awaiting the return of their youngest son from the Vietnam War.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh / The Refugees (Vietnamese American refugees, 20th Century) --- PS3614.G97 A6 2017
In The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between  two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

Gattis, Ryan / All Involved (1990s) --- PS3607.A885 A77 2015
Recreates this turbulent and terrifying time during the LA Rodney King Riots, through the stories of six interconnected lives caught up in extraordinary circumstances.


Ward, Katie / Girl Reading: A Novel (Multiple Times/Locations) --- PR6123 .A72 G57 2012
A kaleidoscopic tale follows the experiences of seven women models from different historical periods, the artists for whom they sit, the factors that shape the creations of their portraits, and the ties that connect them to each other.

Rosnay, Tatiana de / The House I Loved (France) --- PR9105.9.R6 H68 2012
From the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept comes an absorbing new novel about one woman's resistance during an époque that shook Paris to its very core.

Giardina, Denise / Emily's Ghost: A Novel (England) --- PS3557.I136 E45 2009
Emily Brontë refuses to bow to the conventions of her day. She is distrustful of marriage, prefers freedom above all else, and walks alone at night on the moors above the isolated rural village of Haworth. But Emily's life, along with the rest of the Brontë family, is turned upside down with the arrival of an idealistic clergyman named Willam Weightman. An improbable friendship between Weightman and Emily develops into something deeper, and when tragedy strikes, the relationship continues.

Rees, Tracy / Amy Snow (Britain) --- PR6118.E575 A59 2016
It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home. But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know.

Case, Alison A. / Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights (Britain) --- PS3603.A8378 N45 2016
In a reimagining of life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws' loyal servant, young Nelly Dean suffers  heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most   and discovers what it is to know true sacrifice after a new heir is born.

Pratchett, Terry / Dodger (England) --- PZ7.P8865 Dod 2012
In an alternative version of Victorian London, a seventeen-year-old Dodger, a cunning and cheeky street urchin, unexpectedly rises in life when he saves a mysterious girl, meets Charles Dickens, and unintentionally puts a stop to the murders of Sweeny Todd.

Lee, Min Jin / Pachinko (Korea/Japan) --- PS3612.E346 P33 2017
In early 1900s Korea, Sunja is the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family. Her unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. Caught in the indifferent arc of history, through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, Sunja's family members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Galgut, Damon / Arctic Summer (India) -- PR9369.3.G28 A73 2014
The story of E.M. Forster writing "A Passage to India"

Lebra-Chapman, Joyce / The Scent of Sake (Japan) --- PR9499.3.L43 S34 2009
The sole heir to the House of Omura, a venerable family of Kobe sake brewers, nineteen-year-old Rie hears but cannot heed her mother’s advice: that in nineteenth-century Japan, a woman must "kill the self" or her life will be too difficult to bear.

Tan, Twan Eng / The Gift of Rain (China) ---PR9530.9.E54 G54 2008
Takes the readers from the final days of the Chinese emperors to the dying era of the British Empire, with a young man's perilous journey through the betrayals of war and into manhood.

Peeble, Frances de Pontes / The Seamstress (Brazil) --- PS3636.E32 S43 2008
In 1930s Brazil, a vigilante gang invades the home of two seamstresses, kidnapping one of them.

Landau, Alexis / The Empire of the Senses (Germany) --- PS3612.A547495 E47 2014
Explores the complex questions of loyalty and ethnic identity in its depiction of a mixed-faith family living through social change during WWI and 1920s Berlin.

Cleave, Chris / Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Britain) --- PR6103.L43 E94 2016
London, 1939. The day war is declared, Mary North goes to the War Office, signs up—and is assigned to be a teacher to a class evacuated to the countryside. Tom Shaw ignores the war until his roommate Alistair Heath has enlisted. The three meet, and become tested in ways they could not have imagined, entangling their lives in violence and passion, shaping their hopes and dreams.

Kelly, Martha Hall / Lilac Girls: A Novel (France 1939) --- PS3611.E452 L55 2016
Caroline Ferriday is consumed by her efforts to secure the perfect boutonniere for an important French diplomat and resisting the romantic advances of a married actor. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish Catholic teenager, is nervously anticipating the changes that are sure to come since Germany has declared war on Poland.

Binet, Laurent / HHhH (Holocaust) --- PQ2702.I57 H4413 2012
Imagines the story of two Czechoslovakian partisans responsible for assassinating the "Butcher of Prague" Reinhard Heydrich, traces their escape from the Nazis and recruitment by the British secret service.

Doerr, Anthony / All the Light We Cannot See (World War II) --- PS3604.O34 A77 2014
The lives of a blind girl in France and a member of the Hitler youth assigned to track the Resistance through their radios converge during World War II.

Belfer, Lauren / And After the Fire: A Novel (Europe and America) --- PS3552.E467A85 2016
In the ruins of Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II, American soldier Henry Sachs takes a souvenir, an old music manuscript, from a seemingly deserted mansion and mistakenly kills the girl who tries to stop him. In America in 2010, Henry's niece, Susanna Kessler, struggles to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden music manuscript. She becomes determined to discover what it is and to return it to its rightful owner, a journey that will challenge her preconceptions about herself and her family's history--and also offer her an opportunity to finally make peace with the past.

Barry, Sebastian / The Secret Scripture: A Novel (Europe) --- PR6052.A729 S43 2008
Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy, and a vivid reminder of the strangle-hold that the Catholic Church had on individual lives throughout much of the twentieth century.

Diamant, Anita / Day After Night: A Novel (Holocaust / Israel) --- PS3554.I227 D39 2009
Four young women haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.

Kertes, Joseph / The Afterlife of Stars (Hungarian Revolution) --- PR9199.3.K4275 A38 2017
When Russian tanks roll into the public squares of Budapest to crush the Hungarian Revolution, brothers Robert and Attila Beck flee with  their family to the Paris townhouse of their great-aunt Hermina. The year is 1956 and as their country changes forever, these two boys transform as well, confronting danger and wonders previously unknown.

Naidoo, Beverley / Burn My Heart (Kenya) --- PZ7 .N1384 Bu 2009
Two boys—one white, one black—share an uneasy friendship in Kenya in the 1950s, a country shaken by a rebellion of Africans against white landowners, but suspicions and accusations are escalating, and an act of betrayal could change everything.

Acevedo, Chantel / The Distant Marvels (Cuban Revolution) --- PS3601.C47 D57 2015
The elderly Maria Sirena has lived through and, as a young girl, participated in the Cuban war for independence; now, in 1963, at the dawn of Castro’s new Cuba, with Hurricane Flora on the way, she is evacuated with other women to a historic mansion for shelter, where she entertains her fellow refugees with personal and richly imagined stories.

O’Brien, Edna / The Little Red Chairs: A Novel (Ireland) --- R6065.B7 L58 2016
When a wanted war criminal from the Balkans, masquerading as a faith healer, settles in a small west coast Irish village, the community are in thrall.

Chiziane, Paulina / The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy (Mozambique) --- PQ9939.C45 N5513 2016
After 20 years of marriage, Rami discovers that her husband has been living a double—or rather, a quintuple—life. After Tony is forced to marry the four other women—as well as an additional lover—according to polygamist custom, the rival lovers join together to declare their voices and demand their rights.

Ackerman, Elliot / Dark at the Crossing (Syria) --- PS3601.C5456 D37 2017
Haris Abadi is a man in search of a cause. An Arab American with a conflicted past, he is now in Turkey, attempting to cross into Syria and join the fight against Bashar al-Assad's regime. But he is robbed before he can make it, and is taken in by Amir, a charismatic Syrian refugee and former revolutionary, and Amir's wife, Daphne, a sophisticated beauty haunted by grief. As it becomes clear that Daphne is also desperate to return to Syria, Haris's choices become ever more wrenching: Whose side is he really on?

Last Updated: April 2017

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