During the last two months amidst the hectic activity of promoting Unravelled and running the 2013 historical fiction survey, I’ve done a lot of reading. Almost all of it historical fiction.
- A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
- Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant
- The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
- Sarah by Marek Halter
- The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough
- Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
- Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
- The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
- Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
- Brave Hearts by Carolyn Hart (to be reviewed for HNS)
Although some appealed to me more than others, all are enjoyable reads and will have their fans in the different sub-genres that constitute historical fiction. (For an interesting look at these sub-genres, check out Reading the Past for Sarah Johnson’s blog post and presentation.)
My personal favourites were: A Spear of Summer Grass (intriguing characters, taught romance and beautiful Africa), Life After Life (novel ‘what if’ concept and great writing), Blood & Beauty (Borgia Italy with all its passions, deceits and displays of power), The Painted Girls (Paris in the late 1800s, gritty and compelling), Rules of Civility (exposes the realities of making it in pre-WWII New York), and Letters from Skye (connecting both world wars, an epistolary novel done extremely well).
Reading historical fiction is a passion for me. I’m drawn to superb writing, strong, rule-breaking characters, stories with energy and events that unfold with intensity, believable romantic plot lines that aren’t formulaic or predictable, WWI and WWII timeframes and historical details that transport me to the time and place without being overdone.