Newest Historical Fiction Reviews

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Review of

Kokoschka's Doll by Afonso Cruz and Rahul Bery (translator)

2.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Well, this looked very much like a book I could love from the get-go, which is why I picked my review copy up and flipped pages over several times before actually reading any of it. I found things to potentially delight me each time – a weird section in the middle on darker stock paper, a chapter whose number was in the 20,000s, letters used as narrative form, and so on. It intrigued with the subterranean voice a man hears in wartorn Dresden that what little I knew of it mentioned, too. But you've seen the star rating that comes with this review, and can tell that if love was on these pages, it was not actually caused by them. So what happened? Full Review

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Review of

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

4.5star.jpg Teens

Christina Hammonds Reed's debut novel is set against the backdrop of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, a reaction to the absolution of four police officers for beating a black man, Rodney King, nearly to death. Told from the perspective of Ashley Bennett, the novel follows her evolution from a silent bystander when confronted with matters of race, to a woman finding her voice and embracing her heritage. Full Review

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Review of

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

1918 and a young man is arrested in Durham Cathedral. He refuses to give a name, no matter how hard they push he will not say who he is. Eventually they determine this isn't wilful obstinance, he doesn't answer because he doesn't know. He remembers being on the road for a long time, and being frightened, and some of the faces from the road, but other than that – everything that came before has gone. They need a name for the forms and so they call him Adam and, because he was found in the Galilee Chapel, it becomes Adam Galilee. A fanciful name for a tired young man in a dishevelled uniform who doesn't know who he is, where he is or how he got there. Full Review

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Review of

The Glass House by Eve Chase

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Rita lost both her parents in a car crash when she was just six years old: since then she's always craved a family. She'd lived with her grandmother in Torquay until she got a job as a nanny with the Harrington family in London. Soon her engagement to Fred, a Torquay butcher, fell through and the Harringtons became her family. In 1971, after a fire at the London house, Jeannie Harrington, her children, 13-year-old Hera and 6-year-old Teddy, along with Rita went to the family's house in the Forest of Dean. It wasn't quite dilapidated, but it certainly wasn't the same standard as the London house had been before the fire. Full Review

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Review of

The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

There is a legend that God came to visit Adam & Eve in the Garden. Eve had not finished bathing her children and ashamed of those still not cleansed, she attempted to hide them from the eyes of God, denying that she had more children than those, already bathed, that she willing paraded for him. God was not to be deceived, however, and decreed that what was sought to be hidden from the eyes of God would henceforth be hidden from the eyes of man, and so the Elves were born: the hidden folk. They can see man, but man can only see them if they so choose. Full Review

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Review of

From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

After the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden, many Scottish estates were given to English lords. They were not kind to their crofting tenants. Many on the mainland were cleared and while this did not happen much on the islands such as Shetland, the new exploitative conditions led many Shetlanders to leave - to port cities on the mainland, to North America and even to Australia and New Zealand. Full Review

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Review of

Six Tudor Queens: Katheryn Howard The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Katheryn was seven when her mother died, thus we are thrust into this tumultuous time in young Katheryn's life, trying to find a home, both figuratively and literally, where she can grow and grieve. Unfortunately, Katheryn is followed by bad luck and she learns an important lesson, she is too young, too poor and too unimportant to be of any value to anyone, but she is beautiful and surely, that will count for something in the end, won't it? Full Review

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Review of

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

It's long been known that Cassandra Austen burned most of the letters which she and other members of the extensive Austen family had exchanged with or about her sister Jane. What is not known is why she did this and at this stage - more than two hundred years after Jane's death - a definitive answer is unlikely to forthcoming. Gill Hornby has provided us with some possible answers in a book that proved to be far more emotionally complex than I was expecting. Full Review

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Review of

Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

May 1921. Edie receives a photograph through the post. There is no letter or note with it. There is nothing written on the back of the photograph. It is a picture of her husband, Francis. Francis has been missing for four years. Technically, he has been "missing, believed killed" but that is not something that a young widow can believe. She hangs on the word 'missing', disbelieving the word killed. Full Review

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Review of

The Man Who Killed Hitler by Andre Pronovost

3star.jpg Historical Fiction

Germany is split. Some of her is in favour of Hitler and the Nazis, but much isn't. Some of her is stuck to the east fighting the Soviets, but some will soon have to be on the other front, against the Americans coming into the continent to put things right as they see it. Finding out that the war to the east isn't working, due to Hitler's tactical ineptitude and inability to heed advice, some people reckon Stalin is five seasons away from being in Berlin. The only way to shore things up, and repair the splits, is to kill Hitler, and luckily Baron Nicholas is the man to do it. He's aristocratic enough, he knows enough people in industry, society and other circles of power, so once he's succeeded he might be able to keep a German presence in Europe. But will he still be able to keep the "predatory American capitalists" and the blatantly communist Soviets from meeting in the middle? Full Review

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Review of

Just Another Girl on the Road by S Kensington

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

When Sergeant Farr and Corporal Valentine first encountered Katrinka Badeau she was just eighteen years old and fleeing from a farmhouse and a group of German deserters who had raped her. Despite being outnumbered she was giving just about as good as she got when Farr and Valentine intervened and finished the group off. It was 1944 and Farr and Valentine were part of the Jedburgh unit, EDMOND, lead by Major Willoughby Nye. Nye recognised Katrinka immediately - he'd worked on her father's merchant ship and Katrinka had once had a crush on Nye. When he offered her a job with his unit, she accepted Full Review

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Review of

The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

3star.jpg Historical Fiction

Berlin, 1989. Miriam is in the middle of a city freshly united, with the Wall newly broken down and people able to cross at liberty for the first time in decades. She is in the middle of such euphoria, but cannot feel it, for she has not left her father's apartment in weeks, nursing him as he lies dying. One standard bed-bath, however, is very different, when he gasps the name Frieda that she does not recognise – and she sees for the first time ever a tattoo for his camp inmate identity under his watch. One bombshell outside, then, and two inside. And inside her father, Henryk, what is going on, as he has a first-person narrative alternating with her story? What will we find happened, as he remembers back to the real Frieda, a young woman that shook him to the core when he was her literature professor? That's right, more bombshells… Full Review

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Review of

The Long Flight Home by A L Hlad

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

September 1940 - as WWII rages on, bombs rain down on Britain, destroying the homes and lives of a people on the edge. In Epping Forest, Susan Shepherd and her grandfather Bertie live together raising homing pigeons with the birds proving a comfort for Susan following the loss of her parents. These pigeons are more than just birds to Susan though – in each one, and especially in Duchess, she sees a distinct personality and forms a close bond. Meanwhile, young pilot Ollie Evans leaves Maine to head to Britain and join the Royal Air Force. Working with the National Pigeon Service, he soon meets Susan and is tasked with air-dropping hundreds of homing pigeons into German-occupied France, where many will not survive. As the mission is planned, the bond between Ollie and Susan grows stronger, but when Ollie's plane is downed behind enemy lines, it may be Duchess who provides an unexpected lifeline and ensures that hope of a reunion for Susan and Ollie remains… Full Review

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Review of

Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Robin Hood is gone – denouncing both his former life and his love Marian, and retreating to a monastery – although no-one knows quite what led him to abandon all that he had built. Marion's life since has been relatively quiet - but when her friends start dying, Marion is tasked by Father Tuck to break the curse surrounding them and to save their lives. Setting off with a soldier, a Fey Lord and a sullen Robin Hood, she becomes tangled in a maze of betrayals, complicated relationships, and a vicious struggle for the throne… Full Review

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Review of

A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Enid Campbell was a woman who, on the face of it, had everything. Leading the life of an aristocrat – full of inherited wealth and splendour, glamourous locales and high expectations. Only Enid's life has been plagued by mental illness – undiagnosed, untreated and threatening both Enid and those close to her. After losing custody of her children, Enid sells her son to her sister for £500 – but is this an act of greed, or an act of desperation? Exploring the true story of her own grandmother, Eleanor Anstruther has found the perfect subject for an explosive, moving and beautifully well-written debut. Full Review Full Review

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Review of

Equator by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

3.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

It strikes me that nobody can speak well of the Wild West outside the walls of a theme park. Our agent to see how bad it was here is Pete Ferguson, who bristles at the indignity of the white man against Native 'Indian', who spends days being physically sick while indulging in a buffalo hunt, and who hates the way man – and woman, of course – can turn against fellow man at the bat of an eyelid. But this book is about so much more than the 1870s USA, and the attendant problems with gold rushes, pioneer spirits and racial genocide. He finds himself trying to find this book's version of Utopia, namely the Equator, where everything is upside down, people walk on their heads with rocks in their pockets to keep them on the ground to counter the anti-gravity, and where, who knows, things might actually be better. But that equator is a long way away – and there's a whole adventure full of Mexico and Latin America between him and it… Full Review

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Review of

Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

Poor, frumpy Anne of Cleaves always gets a raw deal by history, of all the wives of Henry VIII she is the one who is known for being rejected. Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard were the sexy ones, Jane the dutiful one who delivered a son, Katherine of Aragon clung on to her crown and Katharine Parr clung on to her life but poor frumpy Anne of Cleaves just rolled over and moved along. Not any more! Alison Weir presents us with a different view of this young woman who saw the opportunity to live an independent life and took it. Full Review

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Review of

Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

In an alternate 1952, Soviet Troops control British Streets. After D-Day goes horribly wrong, Britain is first occupied by Nazi Germany – only to be rescued by Russian soldiers from the East, and Americans from the west. Dividing the nation between them, London soon finds itself split in two, a wall running through it like a scar. When Jane Cawson's husband is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Jane is determined to clear his name. In doing so, Jane follows a trail of corruption that leads her right to the highest levels of the state – and soon finds herself desperate to stay one step ahead of the murderous secret police… Full Review

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Review of

The Boy in a Turban by Joseph Hucknall

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

You might not think that Georgian London contained many black people. But it contained more than you think. You may have heard of Francis Barber, the black African slave who became the friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson and was a beneficiary of his will. The Boy in a Turban tells the story of a fictional black character, James, in Georgian London. James, then Quaccoe, is brought to the capital from a Jamaican plantation by a ship captain who wanted a servant for his two daughters. Full Review

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Review of

In The Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark

5star.jpg Historical Fiction

In 1930's Berlin, three people obsessed with art find themselves swept up into a scandal. Emmeline, a wayward young student, Julius, an anxious middle-aged art expert, and Rachmann, a mysterious art dealer, live in the politically turbulent Weimar Berlin, and soon find themselves whipped up into excitement over the surprise discovery of thirty-two previously unknown paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Based on a true story and unfolding through the subsequent rise of Hitler and the Nazis, the discovery of the art allows these characters to explore authenticity, vanity and self-delusion. Full Review

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