In high school, I read Ivanhoe, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, The Good Earth, and The Grapes of Wrath. All became favorites. (We also read The Sound and the Fury, which is most definitely not on my favorites list.)
Then I met the works of the prolific Jean Plaidy, and avidly followed her stories of the kings and queens (or those who would take their places) of England. I gained quite an appreciation for English history, as well as the history of Europe.
What I loved about these books was how the long-dead people came to life, and I gained a sense of how they lived and what they strove for, for good or for evil. History became more than names and dates; instead, it became a high-stakes drama that taught me much about the world we live in now.
Love of this genre still shapes my taste in fiction, pushing me toward Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Leo Tolstoy, feeding my love of earlier days when manners were more important and people thought more of others’ feelings than demanding a right to not be offended, no matter what they say.
Two of my all-time favorite books are historical novels:
Ali and Nino by Kurban Said is a Romeo and Juliet kind of tale, set in Azerbaijan just before the onset of World War I. Ali, a Muslim, loves Nino, a Christian. That they are doomed from the start doesn’t detract from this novel’s charm, which gives rich detail of the life and culture in Baku, all through Ali’s eyes.
We the Living by Ayn Rand shows the struggle of one woman against the relentless Communist state in the days following the Revolution. Where this novel shines is leading the reader through the emotions of the people caught up in the dramatic events, their hopes, losses, and shattered dreams.
Now I’m in search of more in this genre to add to my reading list.
Two that look intriguing:
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Time and Again by Deborah Heal
And then there’s this website, which lists over 5000 historical novels.
Plenty to keep me reading for a long time!
Are there any other lovers of historical fiction out there? What are some of your favorites, or books on your to-read list?