Historical fiction is a genre that has received attention from both the public and critics lately. It focuses on events and people that took place in the past. These novels often have a fantasy element, with characters who are either time-travelers or are from an alternate time or place.
Historical fiction is one of those things that sounds like it should be easy to write. After all, writing is all about telling a story, and there is a pretty good chance that the story you are going to tell is a historical one. But it includes lots of research and time to come up with a fictional element in it.
Let us wander through the past with these historical fiction books:
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
Story setting: 1939-1945, Second World War, Nazi Germany.
The book gives the phase of the victims of the holocaust – genocide of European Jews during the second world war.
The death – collector of souls himself narrates the story of a ten-year-old girl named Liesel Meminger. En route to her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Huberman, she loses her brother. She befriends other characters and learns the power of words and the value of kindness.
These are the horrendous times with grief, violence, and cruelty. Amidst all the hardships, people finding happiness in small corners is heart-warming.
Zusak made an amazing blender of first and third-person narrative, making death a tangible thing.
This novel is not for someone who is looking for a fast read. It is something like a resplendent stage-play allowing you to savor every word and offers an emotional punch through every character.
2. All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr:
Story setting: 1934-1940, Second World War, and France and Germany.
Marie is a young blind girl whose father works at the Natural History Museum in Paris. He helps Marie increase her other senses and sharpen her mind by gifting her intricately designed crafts and a braille copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The father-daughter duo escapes the capital to find refuge in Saint-Malo when the Nazis invade France.
The parallel story is of an orphaned boy, Werner Pfennig, along with his younger sister, who lives in the town of Zollverein in Germany. The boy discovers his knack for circuits and is eager for knowledge.
The invisible arc between these two stories connects during the precarious times.
The words – spectacular, emotional, gripping, magnificent are not enough to describe this book.
Doerr’s ability to weave words together in an artistic way is impressive.
3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Story setting: Mid 1600s, Boston, Massachusetts.
The book chronicles the life of Hester Prynne and her illegitimate child. As a conviction for adultery during her husband’s long absence, the townspeople punish her for her sinful act by banishment.
The circumstances do not deter Hester and live life on her own terms with her daughter, Pearl.
Everyone believes that Hester’s husband is lost at sea, and she refuses to reveal the father of Pearl, which remains a mystery till the end.
Hester’s husband seems to make a comeback after seven years and tries to unravel the puzzle.
This short, turbulent story is of sin, tragedy, guilt, and redemption.
The author paints a great picture of the morality and hypocrisy of early America, where women are considered inferior to men.
The story always has something new to read as Hawthorn’s way of using symbolism is striking.
4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:
Story setting: 1800s, Pre-Civil War.
The Underground railroad chronicles the life of a teenage slave, Cora, on the cotton plantation in Georgia.
Her odyssey begins as a fugitive slave when she learns about an underground railroad (a passage by anti-slavery – both blacks and whites, to assist runaways) from her fellow slave, Ceaser.
On her adventures of a breakout from the bondage, she encounters grotesque horrors that drive her to unpleasant realizations. But freedom seems to be above her reach. Reshaping the factual history, Whitehead narrates the prose beautifully from different viewpoints.
The book reignites the concept of slavery and brings out the disturbing truths of American history.
It is an alternative history with a pretty dark story of brutality, violence, and inhumanity. But that does not make this book an immaterial read.
The prose is delicate, vivid, and moving. It hooks you from the start and keeps you engrossing till the end.
5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:
Story setting: 1700s, Scotland, Time-travel.
The Outlander is a series of eight epic books.
The female protagonist, Claire Randall – a combat nurse, returns from WWII and reunites with her husband for their second honeymoon in 1945.
She transports to 1743 when she walks through a boulder in Scottish Highlands. These are the dangerous times between English and Scots where she becomes a Sassenach – an outlander amidst lairds and spies.
While prancing through the past, she meets Jamie Fraser, a young Scot Warrior who she has to marry for her survival.
It is an alternate history genre of a dark story with brutality, violence, and inhumanity.
The author describes the main characters beautifully, and their devotion, respect, and passion for each other are awe-inspiring.
The novel is meticulously researched and written with rich details. Romance, adventure, drama, history, fantasy – this book got everything.
Pick up this book if you like historical fiction, time travel, fantasy, or romance.
Historical fiction is an enjoyable, informative, and captivating genre. The joy and inspiration of history are accessible for everyone. So, do not hesitate to grab one of these books and traverse into antiquity.
Check out my other posts for more recommendations here – TWR.