So, with this week’s topic at The Broke and Bookish being Top Ten Favourite Book of X Genre, I decided to go with historical fiction that I have loved. So, in no particular order of preference the follow:
1. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Llew Wallace
Set in Jerusalem during the time of Christ. It’s a beautiful tale of a young man who is wrongly accused of a crime and is sent to die in the galleys. But he survives the harsh sentence when he saves a Roman commander, and he is finally given the opportunity to avenge his name and that of his family. However, we see a change in him as the people around him are stirred up by the hope that the Messiah has come and will finally overcome the Romans and set Israel in the seat of power.
2. A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (a brief review)
This story is set in Word War II Portugal and in the Portugal of the 1990s. Two different generations, each told with a different voice — one with a sense of a dark fairy tale, while the other is deeply rooted in the restless youthful voices of the ’90s. It’s a very well-told narrative.
3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (my thoughts)
This novel has three parts. It was the last one that clinched it for me. Set during the time of the French Revolution, Dickens brings out the underlying tension and currents of the time so powerfully (and historians say more accurately than is major resource material by Thomas Carlyle). The romance was typical Dickensian mush, and this book would have faded away from memory had it not been for Part 3.
4. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (my review)
Another story set during the French Revolution. It begins, “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” Quite the beginning, isn’t it? It’s a fantastic, swashbuckling tale.
5. Shadow of the Moon by M. M. Kaye
This is an epic love story set during the time of the Indian Sepoy Mutiny (now know as the First Indian War of Independence) of 1857. It’s an absolute favourite. While it’s been written by an English woman, it has obviously been written with love for the land and its people.
6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (a brief character analysis)
Beautifully epic! Scarlett and Melanie are such amazing, breath-taking women. And as I know close to nothing about American Civil War history, this was quite the novel experience.
7. Dance the Moon Down by R. L. Bertram (my review)
I will always be grateful that the author approached me with this book. It is set in England during World War 1 and tells the story of how the women left at home became the backbone of the country and managed to survive the running of things while their men were out fighting the war. Lyrical writing with strong female characters and a solid story line.
8. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
This one is set in the late 19th to early 20th century Japan. It follows the tale of Chiyo Sakamoto who is sold as a young girl and finds herself in training to be a Geisha. We plunged into a story of beautiful, unhappy women, and a secret longing with such picturesque language that brings out the history and the culture of the time this novel is based in.
9. Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini (my review)
This is a swashbuckling adventure of the high seas set during the mid-1600s. Peter Blood is a surgeon who is wrongfully accused of treason and is shipped off to the Indies to be a slave. He escapes and becomes a pirate. Jolly good fun with a nicely complex character in Peter Blood.
10. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (underrated; under-appreciated)
This one has its setting in Regency England when Napoleon Bonaparte was on a rampage. But the story is really about two magicians and their rivalry. One is a theoretical magician while the other is a practicing one, and there is much debate and contention over this fact. The novel is a thick volume of over 1000 pages, and is chockfull with footnotes on ‘magical’ history and the fae. Oh yes…there is a strong, eerie vein of the faery that runs through this novel.
11. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (a brief character sketch)
My first ever book on the French Revolution. I read it back in the 9th Grade and loved Percy Blakeney. It’s a swashbuckling romance, of course!