Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Favourite Historical Fiction Books

I've recently began enjoying the historical fiction genre and I decided this week's Top Ten Tuesday (Rewind!) to list them. I'm not sure how long this list is going to be, hence the title is favourite historical fiction books rather than top ten.

Historical fiction, as I understand it anyway, is a fictionalized account of something that actually happened in history (like a retelling) or a novel with a historically accurate setting but fictional characters or a book which presents an alternate history. I may be wrong, but this is what this list includes, books which I loved for that fascinating, at time eerie feeling I had a thought, that even some of this might have actually happened. I have never been good at remembering dates, so whatever I do know of the world history, it's through reading fiction.

Here are the books, in no particular order:

- The Crucible by Arthur Miller: This was the first full-length play I read and I enjoyed it immensely. I was looking for a book that best described the Salem Witch Trials and this drama does it. It has been argued (a lot) whether this play is historically accurate, though the characters are based on the real people, who were in the town of Salem when it all went down and the atmosphere of hysteria is portrayed most convincingly. For me, it gives a basic idea about the witch trials, not to mention tells a whole lot more about Miller's views on McCarthyism. Not to go too much into the details, let me just say, this is definitely a fascinating piece of fiction.

- 11/22/63 by Stephen King: Could I just say, I loved this book? This is the story of the man who goes back in time to prevent JFK's assassination in '63 and instead finds a home for himself in the past. I loved the characters and the he has made the time travel seem so believable. I recently found out that King had the idea for this book a while before he published his first novel, Carrie, and has now released it almost forty years later. Isn't that kind of amazing?

- The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore: I read this last month (or this month not sure) but if you scroll down  just a bit you'll find a long review! This book is about, as you can tell by the title, a werewolf in Paris. The story is set in France, where the War of 1870 and the fall of the Paris Commune form the perfect backdrop for a gruesome tale of a boy, who cannot control his inner monster.

- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: This book is just something else. It is an alternate history of the 19th Century England during the Napoleonic Wars, based on the premise that magic once existed. And, in this tale, the two eponymous magicians bring magic to back to England. The author has created a wonderful sense of the past and the English and even the war with her precise imagery. I loved the parts when the Jonathan Strange, probably my favourite fictional character, invented tricks to win the war or to confuse the enemy like magically creating roads and moving entire towns, thus rendering any maps useless.  And how can you miss the fact that he helped defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo?

Honourable mentions: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt, Perfume by Patrick Sueskind and This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson.

I might have missed some, but I do love all these and I also do welcome recommendations!

6 comments:

Bookworm Belle said...

Technically, The Three Musketeers could be counted as historical fiction, in that Dumas had set it decades before his own time and involved real characters (King Louis XIV, Cardinal Richelieu). That would have to be my favorite, if it could be counted in that category. I'm so happy so see Stephen King included, I loved 11/22/63 as well! Great post, I'll have to add a few to my never-ending to-read list :)

Shelver506 said...

The Book Thief! Siiiiiiiigh. I also suggest Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery.

My TTT: http://shelversanon.blogspot.com/2012/10/top-10-tuesday-rewind-top-ten-bookish.html

Delia D said...

I've read most of the books on your list and absolutely loved The Book Thief. I have to read The Children's Book by Byatt, I hope to get to it one day soon.
The Werewolf of Paris sounds good, too.

Priya said...

Delia - Your comment on my new post made me realize that I haven't, in fact, listed ten books, so I made the edit in that post!
The Book Thief was awesome when I first read it; later all the hype over it and the many conflicting reviews made me curious - I reread it in preparation for the movie and it was still beautiful! I never did see the movie, though, have you seen it?
The Children's Book is a long long story, but Byatt as you know has a way with sprawling histories. :)

Delia D said...

I have seen the movie and I cried the whole time, I don't know why. Probably because I remembered how beautiful the book was. The movie was but a pale representation of the book - the action felt too rushed, the actors' performance nothing remarkable except for Geoffrey Rush, he was amazing in the role of "Papa".

Priya said...

Delia - I must see it then, even if it isn't as good (they rarely are!)

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