Top Ten Historical Novels of 2010

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We love a bit of historical fiction here at Bookbag. It's a wide genre, ranging from a bit of escapist reading to serious social comment. And the past often has a great deal to tell us about the present, so it can be instructive too. Here are our favourite historical novels from 2010. Why not tell us about yours?


The Master of Bruges by Terence Morgan

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elgium, the fifteenth century. Hans is apprenticed to a master painter in the city of Brussels, until the old curmudgeon dies, and his studio falls apart. Luckily for Hans, a mistakenly drawn sketch, and a bizarre rescue from the gallows gives him a major boost - patronage, for both portraits and many religious images. With what might seem to be a patchy diary - some years have five pages only, concerning but one month - we see his startling life journey, covering beguiling models, ghostly war scenes, and even the biggest intrigues of English royal court. Full review...

Corrag by Susan Fletcher

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A retelling of the Glencoe massacre and so much more... a sociological study of the time, a geographical study of the area, a reflection of our current pre-occupations, but mostly just a beautifully written tale. Full review...

The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric

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This wonderfully vivid novel set in eighteenth century Venice and Peru is both utterly addictive and utterly strange. It's witty and wise and horrific and clever. Awesomely researched and with some of the clearest fictional voices we've heard in a long time, this one is highly recommended. Full review...

Day After Night by Anita Diamant

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A fine and very readable novel set in a Palestinian detention centre at the end of the Second World War. Holocaust survivors wait for papers, flashback to the horrors of their own war, and start to come to terms with an unknown future. That is, until events overtake them. Full review...

To Defy A King by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Set in the reign of the tyrannical King John, we follow the fortunes of two of the most powerful Baron families in the land, the Marshals and Bigods. Mahelt, daughter of the Marshal, the King’s right hand man, is sent in marriage to the Bigod family - and what started as a politically expedient move for both families, turns into a true love match. Full review...

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

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In a story that takes us from the elegance of Paris, through the streets of Budapest and on into the Hungarian countryside and the Ukraine this is an epic tale, masterfully told. It is 1937 and Andras Levi, a young Hungarian Jewish student, is about to leave his brother Tibor to go and study architecture in Paris. Andras' story unfolds first amongst the beautiful buildings of Paris, the theatres and the bars, as he struggles in his studies and falls in love with a beautiful ballerina who has a terrible secret to hide. Full review...

The Complete Brigadier Gerard Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Ok, a slight cheat as the stories aren't new, but this is a sensational collection of short stories which even eclipses Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories in some ways. Witty, clever, and ultimately moving. Full review...

The Road to Rome (Forgotten Legion Chronicles) by Ben Kane

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Once again, Kane combines the rush of battle and the twists of politics and revenge in Ancient Rome absolutely perfectly. This trilogy has been so good it's a shame to see it end, but what a way to finish. Full review...

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

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Funny, captivating snapshot of Jamaica at the time of the Baptist Wars and as seen through the eyes of a mischievous, resilient, original woman you won't forget in a hurry. Booker-shortlisted, and deservedly so. Full review...

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

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Chilling ghost story set in the stark, desolate environment of the Arctic just before the outbreak of World War 2. Subtle and evocative, it's an absorbing and intelligent read. Full review...

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