Newest Historical Fiction Reviews

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A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor Anstruther

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, 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

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Equator by Antonin Varenne and Sam Taylor (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, General 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 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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Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews 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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Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction, General 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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The Boy in a Turban by Joseph Hucknall

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews 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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In The Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, 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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The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Deep in the Tuscan countryside of fifteenth century Italy, Onoria survives a massacre that destroys her family and home. Alone in the forest, she meets a band of soldiers who, believing her to be a boy train and develop her – and the determined Onoria becomes a mercenary – desperate to avoid any situation in which she may feel vulnerable again. Along the way, she meets ex-soldier Celavini, whose journey to Florence sees him investigating two brutal murders. As he digs further and uncovers links to his own family history, Celavini must revisit the past he shares with Onoria, in the hope that they can lay the ghosts of their shared history to rest, before it's too late... Full Review

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Deviation by Luce d'Eramo and Anne Milano Appel (translator)

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Autobiography, Historical Fiction

For those of you who have read books of life in the Nazi camps – and of course, for those of you who have not – this can be considered a next step. It begins, after all, with someone escaping Dachau and fleeing her work assignment during a bombing raid, and you'd not blame her one minute, as her career was deemed to be cess-tank cleaner and sewage unblocker by the Germans. In Munich, she stumbles on help to get her to what seems to be a camp for non-native civilians to look for work, or company, or transport elsewhere, either official or otherwise. But then the next chapter sees her going back into the camp next to Dachau once more, and by then eyebrows are being raised. Full Review

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The Count of 9 by Erle Stanley Gardner

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Historical Fiction

The Count of 9 is a hardboiled detective story written in the 1950s. It revolves around the detective duo of Donald Lam and Bertha Cool as they attempt to solve the theft of priceless Bornean artefacts. However, their case quickly turns into something darker - an impossible murder. Full Review

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The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

When Barbara Hummel arrives, determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother's possessions, Dora and Joe find their worlds upended – and are swiftly forced to confront their pasts. Revisiting their time on the Channel Islands during World War II, Dora remembers a time when she concealed her Jewish identity, and Joe, a Catholic Priest, remembers a time when he hid something very different. In this story of love, loss and betrayal, it remains to be seen whether a speck of light can diffuse the darkest shadows of war… Full Review

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The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

At the beginning of 1349 there is a glimmer of a hope that the ravages of the Black Death might be passing. In Devilish in Dorset the population is well, because of Lady Anne's strict rules about quarantine, which are regarded as heresy as they go against the strict rules of the church, but their stores of food are dwindling and they know that when they are exhausted they will have no choice but to leave. What will they find on the outside? Are they the only survivors? Full Review

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Frieda by Annabel Abbs

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Married to English Professor Ernest Weekley, aristocrat Frieda Von Richtofen finds herself stifled by the confines of married life. Visiting family in Munich, she becomes captivated by the ideas of revolution and free love. Meeting the penniless writer D.H. Lawrence, she finds herself drawn into a passionate affair and a tempestuous relationship, changing the course of both their lives, and unleashing a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature forever. Full Review

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House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Clara suffered from Osteogenesis imperfecta: these days it would probably be called brittle bone disease and whilst there is still no cure, treatments have advanced. At the beginning of the twentieth century it meant that Clara was confined to her home, living life through a window and the tales her mother, Charlotte, brought home. Both became far too knowledgeable about bones and the sounds they made on breaking. Charlotte would list bones like continents. Clara would only escape the house after her mother's death - of a tumour at the age of thirty nine - and in her wanderings discovered Kew Gardens. Her growing knowledge of tropical plants led to the offer of a job stocking a newly-built glass house at Shadowbrook in Gloucestershire. Full Review

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Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

Flitting between the present day and mid 16thcentury, Bellewether tells the fascinating tale of the Wilde House and all its inhabitants. In the present tense aspects, the Wilde House is being turned into a museum due to the legacy left by Captain Benjamin Wilde. It is told from the perspective of Charley, the museum curator, who is intrigued by the ghost who haunts the house and their story; a tale that ends in tragedy involving Benjamin Wilde's sister, Lydia, and a French-Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Philippe who was sent to live there. The perspective of the book is continuously shifted between Charley, then Lydia and Jean-Philippe. The latter two tell the truth about what was happening during this chaotic time in history, just as Charley is beginning to unravel it herself. Full Review

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A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Thrillers, Historical Fiction

When Inspector Inès Picaut is called to investigate the horrific murder of a strikingly beautiful elderly lady, she's puzzled – whilst the identity of the woman has been erased, it's clear that she has been killed in the same way that traitors to the resistance were executed in World War Two. Solving the mystery will lead Inès deep into the history of this woman – and back to a time when the men and women of 1940s France were engaged in a desperate, brutal fight for survival against their Nazi oppressors. As more and more secrets come to light, Inès discovers that there are many in the present who would rather their past stay buried – and many who would kill to keep secrets safe… Full Review

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Murmuration by Robert Lock

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Murmuration follows the lives of a host of characters from 1863 to the present day. From a risqué comic to a fortune teller, we see the birth of Blackpool and its steadily fading glamour. There is a hint of mysticism to the tale, with the mesmerising dance of starlings over the pier acting as an anchor throughout the distinct narratives here, drawing together disparate stories of lives captivated by the sea. Full Review

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H Winthrop

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction

In an isolated Louisiana town, a young black prisoner sits in his dingy cell, staring at the shadow of the window bars cast onto the concrete wall by the evening's dying sun rays. At midnight, he will be dead; strapped to a chair and electrocuted for the rape of a white girl, who later committed suicide. He is resigned to his fate; it is futile to protest his innocence or to expect anyone to believe what really happened; after all, love between a black man and a white woman was never going to have a happy ending in a small town filled with small-minded people. Full Review

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A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Paranormal, Thrillers, Historical Fiction

Witchcraft, the supernatural and the will to survive at all costs collide in a story that never shies away from the darker side of human nature. The land is unhappy, the old spirits want revenge and famine is kindling a resurgence of the old faith. As fear rises, it is increasingly difficult for Prioress Johanne to ignore that something rotten has taken root. The sacred well is tainted, its healing waters run red with blood and strangers are blowing in on a wind of change. Full Review

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Mr Peacock's Possessions by Lydia Syson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Historical Fiction, General Fiction

On a remote volcanic island off the coast of New Zealand, a family of settlers struggle to make such an unforgiving place a home. When a ship appears, they feel that their wishes have been granted and their community reinvigorated – but high hopes are swiftly dashed when a vulnerable boy disappears. As both settlers and newcomers come together in the search for the child, they uncover far, far more than they were looking for – discovering dark secrets about both the island and those who inhabit it. Full Review

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The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Crime, Thrillers, Historical Fiction

Audrey, a complex mix of flights of fancy and seriousness, wanting, needing, to be more than what everyone expects of her, escapes from the straightjacket of her home. Where every action, every thought, every yearning is controlled by her father, who only once in his life threw caution to the wind and married way beneath him for love. Now a widower and remarried, he has rigorously returned to upholding what is right, what is proper, the bastion of doing what is expected. Full Review