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Patricia Puentes

2021’s New Surefire Bestseller Fiction Books

recent historical fiction books

One could argue reading is the quintessential socially distanced activity. And it looks like 2021 will be yet another year that’s perfect for shattering all of your reading challenge records on every bookworm’s favorite social network Goodreads. But because we know finding the perfect read can be a little bit tricky sometimes, we’ve put together a list of 2021’s most highly anticipated new book releases from bestselling authors.

And since sometimes what you need to escape from reality is an international thriller, but there are also weeks when nothing will do but a swooning romance, we made sure to include a diverse array of genres. Now, let’s get reading.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Author Angie Thomas revisits the universe and characters of The Hate U Give (2017) setting Concrete Rose 17 years before her debut novel. Concrete explores Black boyhood and tells the story of Maverick Carter — Starr’s dad in The Hate U Give — and how he became a father at just 17.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: January 12, 2021.

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Vietnamese-American author Viet Thanh Nguyen won a Pulitzer Prize with his 2015 novel The Sympathizer and sold over a million copies of it worldwide . His new work of historical fiction, an account of his narrator and “man of two minds” as he arrives in Paris as a refugee, is a sequel to that award-winning story.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: March 2, 2021.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Japan-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro pivots from the historical fiction genre he captured in The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans to take his first plunge into science fiction since Never Let Me Go . Klara and the Sun is the author’s first book after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017 and tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend hoping for someone to choose her soon.

recent historical fiction books

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, Behold the Dreamers , was an Oprah’s Book Club selection and New York Times bestseller. In How Beautiful We Were , the Cameroon native and New York transplant takes us to the fictional African village of Kosawa to tell the story of its collision with an American oil company degrading the environment.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: March 9, 2021.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

From Japanese Magical Realism master Haruki Murakami ( Norwegian Wood , 1Q84 ) comes this compilation of eight short stories told in the first person. The stories touch on love and solitude, childhood and memory, and blur the lines between fiction and memoir.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: April 6, 2021.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

If you saw Kaley Cuoco’s engrossing and very bingeable HBO Max show The Flight Attendant you might be intrigued by the author of the series’ source material. In his new title, Chris Bohjalian narrates the life of a 24-year-old woman living in 1662 Boston who’s trying to escape an abusive husband — all while hoping she doesn’t end up as more prey for the witch hunt.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: April 20, 2021.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

One of the biggest names on this list — not everyone gets his first published novel, The Martian , which was made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott — dives into science fiction yet again with Project Hail Mary . In it, the partially amnesiac astronaut Ryland Grace is the only survivor in a mission to save Earth. There’s no doubt that Andy Weir will science the sh-t out of this book too.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: May 4, 2021.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Emily Henry’s previous novel’s title said it all: Beach Read . The contemporary romance was a breezy page-turner with the right amount of romantic angst and humor. Now comes People We Meet on Vacation , a story about two best friends who find their way back to each other while on a trip together.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: May 11, 2021.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & The Six won the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards in the Historical Fiction category and the Book of the Month’s Book of the Year award. And her 2017 novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo , was a finalist for the Book of the Year recognition. With Malibu Rising she bets yet again on historical fiction. The book is set in 1983 and tells the story of four famous siblings throwing one over-the-top party before the end of the summer.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: June 1, 2021.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

British Cypriot author Alex Michaelides is another name with Book of the Month and Goodreads Choice Awards credentials, all thanks to his 2019 debut mystery novel The Silent Patient . In his new book, The Maidens , the writer untangles the story of a secret society of female students at Cambridge University and the woman focused on uncovering the mystery behind it.

recent historical fiction books

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Even though The Other Black Girl is Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, we’ve included it in this list because the book has already secured a contract with Hulu and was in a bidding war among publishing houses that ended in a seven-figure deal for Harris. The author knew the editorial world firsthand after having worked at Knopf/Doubleday for three years. In The Other Black Girl, she tells the story of a young editorial assistant who, for a while, is the only Black employee at publisher Wagner Books.

recent historical fiction books

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue author Casey McQuiston opts again for the romantic comedy formula with this girl meets girl story. In One Last Stop , August has just moved to New York and is not completely charmed by the city. But then she meets Jane on her commute and ends up developing more than just a subway crush.

recent historical fiction books

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Confessed shy person and author Helen Hoang has a new romantic proposal about misconceptions and right matches: The Heart Principle . Her bestselling debut novel The Kiss Quotient was inspired by her Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. It told the story of a successful algorithm expert who hired an escort to make up for her lack of sexual experience.

recent historical fiction books

Publication Date: August 17, 2021.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The spooky thriller Mexican Gothic was one of 2020’s literary revelations. This year the Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a new story to tell. In Velvet Was the Night , Moreno-Garcia writes about Maite, a secretary living in 1970s Mexico City. Maite is obsessed with romance stories and her beautiful neighbor Leonora. When Leonora disappears, Maite starts looking for her — but she isn’t the only one.

recent historical fiction books

Publication date: August 17, 2021.

And Many More Reads

And the list of new book releases in 2021 goes on. There are follow-up novels from fantasy franchises, thrillers co-penned by former US presidents, a new entry from the master of horror himself and a few mysteries with a twist.

recent historical fiction books

Here are a few more titles scheduled for publication this year:

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins, author of Hex Hall .

Publication date: January 5, 2021.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Minds .

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner, author of Alone .

Publication date: January 19, 2021.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale .

Publication date: February 2, 2021.

A Court of Silver Flames ( A Court of Thorns and Roses #4 ) by Sarah J. Maas.

Publication date: February 16, 2021.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars .

Later by Stephen King, author of The Shining and It.

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls .

Publication date: March 30, 2021.

The Crown of Gilded Bones ( Blood and Ash #3 ) by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda .

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake .

Publication date: April 27, 2021.

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren, author of The Honeymooners.

Publication date: May 18, 2021.

The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, co-authors of The President is Missing .

Publication date: June 7, 2021.

Any Way the Wind Blows ( Simon Snow #3 ) by Rainbow Rowell.

Publication date: July 6, 2021.


recent historical fiction books


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Historical Fiction

The Best Historical Fiction of 2023

It’s been a roller coaster of a year. Thankfully, we’ve had novels to whisk us to days gone by, even if those eras had their own highs and lows.

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In this kaleidoscopic illustration, pocket watches, white pillars and a ship's wheel are layered over a circle of open books with robin's egg blue covers.

By Alida Becker

Alida Becker was an editor at the Book Review for 30 years. She was the first winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for excellence in reviewing.

This year, there have been dozens of first-rate historical novels — so many that choosing even the 25 best would have been a chore. Which makes it that much harder to whittle the list down to 10. After much regretful tossing, here’s my roster, arranged alphabetically.

ABSOLUTION, by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 336 pp., $28). You don’t expect to find a McDermott heroine — a woman steeped in the Irish Catholicism of New York and its suburbs — in a place as foreign as Southeast Asia. But you do expect to find her assessing the intricacies of guilt and responsibility wherever she might be. And among the wives of American expatriates in 1963 Saigon, watching the Vietnam hostilities intensify, there’s quite a lot to assess — particularly when it comes to the complicated and compromised leader of this group of women.

THE FRAUD, by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, 454 pp., $29). Smith’s title refers to a bizarre, long-drawn-out inheritance trial that captivated late-19th-century Britain and incited much argument about honesty and class loyalty. It’s also a sly dig at William Ainsworth, a once-popular, real-life novelist (swiftly eclipsed by his friend Charles Dickens) whose tartly observant, aspiring novelist housekeeper, Eliza Touchet, is drawn to the trial’s key witness. Formerly enslaved on a Jamaican plantation, Andrew Bogle is now a resolute defender of the clearly fraudulent plaintiff.

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE, by James McBride (Riverhead, 385 pp., $28). A chorus of rambunctious voices pulls McBride’s readers back to a down-at-the-heels community of African Americans and immigrant Jews living together in the mid-1950s in Chicken Hill, a neighborhood on the fringes of a small Pennsylvania town whose intolerant citizens barely acknowledge their existence. A bighearted Jewish shopkeeper’s suspicious death and a hard-working Black child’s brush with the law are the pivots for a deeply engaging plot. Looming on the horizon is Pennhurst, a once-feared asylum with conditions so dreadful it was called “the shame of Pennsylvania.”

THE HOUSE OF DOORS, by Tan Twan Eng (Bloomsbury, 320 pp., $28.99). Inspired by W. Somerset Maugham’s sojourn in 1920s Malaya, Eng’s narrative sets the secrets and subterfuges of his hosts, a married couple firmly entrenched in the gossip-prone European colony on the island of Penang, against the esteemed British writer’s desperate attempt to salvage his dwindling finances by writing about a scandalous murder case. Background tension is provided by the political maneuverings of the local Chinese, many of whom have clandestinely supported Sun Yat-sen’s independence movement.

KANTIKA, by Elizabeth Graver (Metropolitan, 287 pp., $27.99). This account of one extended family’s tumultuous exile is a fictional riff on the life of the author’s maternal grandmother. The novel begins among the Sephardic elite of early-20th-century Istanbul, whose sense of security (not to mention their fortune) vanishes with the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, and it finishes in the 1950s in the polyglot neighborhoods of Queens, where some of them have finally found refuge. Along the way, there are stops amid the precarious bustle of émigré enclaves in 1930s Barcelona and Havana.

NORTH WOODS, by Daniel Mason (Random House, 372 pp., $28). An inventive pastiche of history and fabulation set on a densely forested property in western Massachusetts. The land remains true to itself, but as the centuries pass its inhabitants are a diverse and ever-changing lot: a pair of lovers escaping the Puritan colony, a Revolutionary-era soldier-turned-apple-grower, twin sisters locked in a deadly rivalry, a sexually thwarted painter. Enhanced by poems, ballads, letters, real estate listings and even medical case notes, the narrative progresses up to the present. Yet the natural world — embodied by a wild creature that may or may not be a ghostly catamount — continues to withhold crucial mysteries from the people who seek to tame it.

RIVER SPIRIT, by Leila Aboulela (Grove, 311 pp., $27). The hypocrisies of colonialism and religious fanaticism are explored from many perspectives in this kaleidoscopic portrait of late-19th-century Sudan. When a charismatic leader claiming to be the Mahdi, prophesied as the redeemer of Islam, rallies an army of malcontents and true believers that rampages throughout the countryside, old bonds and old certainties are imperiled, and then smashed to bits. The intrepid young woman at the center of the story is caught up in the resultant turmoil, sold into slavery yet determined to be reunited in Khartoum with the scholar she has come to see as her personal savior.

SOUTH, by Mario Fortunato. Translated by Julia MacGibbon (Other Press, 384 pp., paper, $18.99). The forces of both world wars and Italy’s seemingly endless political turmoil buffet the members of two eccentric bourgeois clans in Fortunato’s archly observed family saga. The novel’s very different small-town Calabrian patriarchs (known only as the Notary and the Pharmacist) preside over a teeming cast in which the servants and hangers-on often vie for center stage. It is, as Fortunato’s omniscient narrator observes, “like a page out of Proust but without any aristocrats.”

THIS OTHER EDEN, by Paul Harding (Norton, 221 pp., $28). Malaga Island was first settled in the late 18th century by a formerly enslaved Black man and his white wife, and over the years it became a refuge for outcasts of different races and conditions. In 1912, its people were forcibly evicted by the state of Maine, and their homes destroyed. Some were sent to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, while the rest were dumped on the mainland and told never to return to the island. From this tragic event, Harding (a previous winner of the Pulitzer Prize) has created a devastatingly lyrical fictional portrait of a tight-knit community dismissed as degenerate by those who would “save” it. With heartbreaking empathy, he evokes their daily rhythms, their fears and fascinations and, above all, their improvised harmony with both the sea and one another.

THE WITCHING TIDE, by Margaret Meyer (Scribner, 327 pp., $28). Martha Hallybread, the midwife heroine of Meyer’s first novel, leads a precarious existence: Unable to speak, she communicates via an improvised system of gestures as she plies her trade and wanders the fields collecting an array of healing herbs. How, then, to protect herself and the household she serves when her East Anglian village is caught up in the feverish mid-17th-century hunt for hidden servants of the devil? Meyer’s painstaking research into this period of mass hysteria yields a tension-filled narrative dominated by an impassive stranger known as the witchfinder and his ever-so-proper (and ever-so-cruel) female aide. From one day to the next, friends become enemies and innocent gestures become signs of depravity. No one is safe; everyone is suspect.

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When the Irish writer Paul Lynch started working on his novel “Prophet Song,” he worried it might destroy his career. Four years later, the book won the Booker Prize .

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Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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recent historical fiction books

50 best historical fiction books of all time

Historical fiction allows us to immerse ourselves in eras long past. our edit of the best historical fiction books is perfect reading inspiration for when you want to lose yourself with a cast of characters in another time and place..

recent historical fiction books

The best historical novels are meticulously researched and wonderfully evocative of times gone by. Whether you’re looking for the sweeping historical romance of Winston Graham’s historical fiction series Poldark , or feminist retellings of ancient Greek myth like Natalie Haynes’ Stone Blind , there’s a historical fiction novel for everyone. Here, ancient history expert and historical fiction fan Dr Jean Menzies shares some of the very best historical novels of all time.

There’s a reason we’re drawn to the past. History is inescapable. Decisions are made on the back of past events, and lives are affected by the stories of those that came before us. Historical fiction books resonate with modern readers because they give us the chance to immerse ourselves in another time. Each of the historical fiction novels on this list tells the stories of different characters, from the plains of Ancient Greece, the dark middle ages, or the battlefields of WWI and WWII.

The best historical fiction of 2023

Stone blind, by natalie haynes.

Book cover for Stone Blind

This retelling of the famed myth of Medusa asks who the real monsters are, after all. The sole mortal raised in a family of gods, Medusa is alone in her ability to experience change and to be hurt. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and she is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest . . .

Don't Miss

A guide to Natalie Haynes' fiction & non-fiction books

By james hynes.

Book cover for Sparrow

This vivid coming of age story set at the end of the Roman Empire, follows Sparrow – a boy of no known origin living in a brothel. He spends his days listening to stories told by his beloved ‘mother’ Euterpe, running errands for her lover the cook, and dodging the blows of their brutal overseer. But a hard fate awaits him – one that involves suffering, murder and mayhem. To cope he will create his own identity – Sparrow – who sings without reason and can fly from trouble. This is a book with one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction, brought to life through James Hynes meticulous research and bold imagination. 

The World and All That It Holds

By aleksandar hemon.

Book cover for The World and All That It Holds

Rafael Pinto's life hasn't quite turned out as he expected. But he is, on the whole, happy. He spends his time crushing herbs at a pharmacy, a far cry from his poetry-filled student days in libertine Vienna. And then the world explodes. In the trenches in Galicia, fantasies fall flat. War devours all that they have known, and the only thing Pinto has to live for is the attentions of fellow soldier, Osman. Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches and find themselves entangled with spies and Bolsheviks. As they travel all the way to Shanghai, it is Pinto’s love for Osman that will truly survive.

The Armour of Light

By ken follett.

Book cover for The Armour of Light

In 1792, England hungers for supremacy while France witnesses Napoleon's ascent. Meanwhile, Kingsbridge, a once-tranquil town, stands on the brink. Industrial innovation sweeps the land, shattering the lives of workers and tearing families apart. In the face of encroaching tyranny, a small but resolute group from Kingsbridge emerges. Their intertwined stories encapsulate a generation's struggle for enlightenment, as they rally against oppression and fight passionately for a future free from the shackles of an oppressive regime. The Armour of Light is the latest instalment in Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series.  

Ken Follett's Kingsbridge novels in order

Once a monster, by robert dinsdale.

Book cover for Once a Monster

Robert Dinsdale brings Victorian London to life in this unusual blend of historical fiction with ancient myth. Ten-year-old orphan Nell belongs to a crew of mudlarks who work a stretch of the Thames. She spends her days searching for treasure in the mud in order to appease her master, Benjamin Murdstone. That is until she finds a body on the shore – a seven-foot matted creature with horns. As she ventures closer the figure draws breath and Nell is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. 

The Dance Tree

By kiran millwood hargrave.

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.

The House of Fortune

By jessie burton.

Book cover for The House of Fortune

A glorious, sweeping story of fate and ambition, The House of Fortune is the sequel to Jessie Burton’s bestseller  The Miniaturist . Amsterdam, 1705. Thea Brandt is about to turn eighteen and she can't wait to become an adult. Walter, her true love, awaits Thea at the city's theatre. But at home on the Herengracht things are tense. Her father Otto and Aunt Nella bicker incessantly and are selling furniture so the family can eat. And, on her birthday, the day her mother Marin died, secrets from Thea's past threaten to eclipse the present. Nella is feeling a prickling sensation in her neck, which recalls the miniaturist who toyed with her life eighteen years ago.

A guide to Jessie Burton's books

The darkest sin, by d. v. bishop.

Book cover for The Darkest Sin

It's spring in Florence in 1537, and Cesare Aldo is investigating a report that a convent in the northern quarter has been breached. Soon Aldo finds himself immersed in a bitterly divided community. And when a man's body is found in the convent, it seems as if one of the nuns must be the murderer. Meanwhile, Constable Carlo Strocchi finds human body parts in the Arno, which turn out to be the remains of a much feared officer who went missing in the winter. Aldo and Strocchi search for the truth, in an investigation that is increasingly full of peril.

by Kate Foster

Book cover for The Maiden

A thrilling historical murder tale and so much more besides, The Maiden is inspired by a real-life case from seventeenth-century Edinburgh. Lady Christina is newly married, wealthy and respected. A year later she is on trial for the murder of her lover, James Forrester, her story splashed across newspapers: Adulteress. Whore. Murderess. Why did she risk everything for an affair? And did it really end in murder? She certainly wasn't the only woman who might have wanted Forrester dead. . .

The Ghost Ship

By kate mosse.

Book cover for The Ghost Ship

The third book in the Joubert Family Chronicles beging on the Barbary Coast in 1621. A mysterious vessel floats silently on the water. It is known only as the Ghost Ship. For months, its captain - Louise Reydon-Joubert - and her courageous crew has hunted pirates to liberate those enslaved during the course of their merciless raids. But now the Ghost Ship is under attack – its hull splintered, its sails tattered and burnt, and the crew at risk of capture. But the bravest among them are not who they seem.

Kate Mosse’s books in order

The square of sevens, by laura shepherd-robinson.

Book cover for The Square of Sevens

Set in Georgian high-society, The Square of Sevens is a historical fiction novel packed with fortune-telling, travels and mystery. A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar. But soon, she can't ignore the burning questions about her family. The pursuit of these mysteries takes her across the country in an epic tale of intrigue, heartbreak and audacious twists. 

by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Devotion

It's 1836 in Prussia, and teenage Hanne is finding the domestic world of womanhood increasingly oppressive. She longs to be out in nature, and finds little companionship with the local girls. Until, that is, she meets kindred spirit Thea. Hanne is from a family of Old Lutherans, whose worship is suppressed and secret. Safe passage to Australia offers liberty from these restrictions. But a long and harsh journey lies ahead, one which will put the girls' close bond to a terrible test.

Learned by Heart

By emma donoghue.

Book cover for Learned by Heart

In 1805, at a boarding school in York, two fourteen-year-old girls cross paths. Eliza Raine, an orphan with an Indian heritage, feels isolated due to her differences. Anne Lister, a rebellious spirit, defies societal norms for women. Their love story blossoms, creating a profound bond that transcends time and shapes their lives forever. Learned By Heart is the heartbreaking story of the love of two women – Anne Lister, the real-life inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, and her first love, Eliza Raine – from the bestselling author of  Room  and  The Wonder.

A complete guide to Emma Donoghue's books

Moonlight and the pearler's daughter, by lizzie pook.

Book cover for Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

It's 1886, and the Brightwell family has just arrived at Bannin Bay in Western Australia after a long sea voyage from England. Ten-year-old Eliza has been promised bright pearls, shells like soup plates and good fortunes in a new land. Ten years later, and Eliza's father Charles Brightwell is the most successful pearler on the bay. When he goes missing from his boat at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swirl across the bay. But Eliza refuses to believe that her father is dead and, in a town mired in corruption, she sets out to find the truth.

The Midwife

By tricia cresswell.

Book cover for The Midwife

1838. A violent storm has hit the Northumberland coast, and a woman is found alone, naked and on the verge of death. She has no memory of how she got there, but she can speak fluent French, dress a wound and help women give birth. She starts to rebuild her life, helping those around her and finding a fragile happiness. Until tragedy strikes and she must go into hiding. Meanwhile in London, respectable Dr Borthwick assists mothers and babies in high society, and in the slums of Devil's Acre. The solitary doctor has a secret though, one which threatens to engulf him.

by André Dao

Book cover for Anam

Anam takes us on a poignant journey from 1930s Hanoi to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne, and Cambridge, exploring memory, inheritance, colonialism, and belonging. The narrator, born into a Vietnamese family in Melbourne, grapples with his grandfather's haunting tale of imprisonment in Chi Hoa prison under the Communist government. Straddling his Australian upbringing and Vietnamese heritage, he faces the impact of his grandfather's death and the birth of his daughter on his own life's trajectory. André Dao artfully weaves fiction and essay, theory and personal experience, revealing forgotten aspects of history and family archives. 

Mrs Porter Calling

By aj pearce.

Book cover for Mrs Porter Calling

The third in A J Pearce's charming and uplifting World War Two series find Emmy Lake enjoying huge success at Woman’s Friend  magazine, where she is the much-loved agony aunt. But the arrival of a glamorous new owner puts this all at risk, as Mrs Porter's plans are slowly revealed and it becomes clear she will destroy everything readers love about the magazine.

by Kate Morton

Book cover for Homecoming

A gripping mystery set between Australia and London, Homecoming , is the much-anticipated new novel by Kate Morton. When 89-year-old Nora's health takes an unexpected turn for the worse, Jess boards the first plane out of London, her home of twenty years, to be by her grandmother's bedside in Sydney. Soon, she discovers that the usually stoic Nora has been hiding a family secret and vows to get to the heart of the mystery of what happened on a fateful Christmas Eve sixty years before. 

Discover more books my Kate Morton

Other women, by emma flint.

Book cover for Other Women

Emma Flint’s evocative historical novels transport you to another time and place. In her new book, Other Women , the destination is London, devastated by the impact of the Great War. For unmarried Beatrice Cade, the war has robbed her of the chance to find true love and have a family, just like it has for millions of others. One day a chance encounter changes her life, and she falls head over heels in love with someone she should never have met. An enthralling tale of obsession, murder and lives intertwined by forbidden love, Other Women is a novel that you won’t be able to put down. 

The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel

By antonio iturbe.

Book cover for The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel

Based on the life of Dita Kraus, a holocaust survivor , The Librarian of Auschwitz tells the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous. Imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz aged fourteen along with her mother and father, Dita is asked to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards. But in the children's block of Auschwitz, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, Dita must risk her life to keep the books alive. Out of one of the darkest chapters in human history, this graphic novel tells an extraordinary story of courage and hope. 

by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

Everyone in 1920s New York knows of Benjamin and Helen Rask, the Wall Street tycoon and the daughter of bohemian aristocrats. They live in a sphere of untold wealth, but what is the true cost of their fortune? This mystery sits at the heart of Bonds , a bestselling 1938 novel that all of New York has read. But, like all stories, there are different perspectives, and Hernan Diaz puts these different narratives into conversation with each other, in a novel that tracks across a century and documents the truth-bending power of money, with provocative revelations at each turn. 

A Jewish Girl in Paris

By melanie levensohn.

Book cover for A Jewish Girl in Paris

Against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Paris in 1940, Judith, a young Jewish girl, falls in love with the son of a wealthy banker and Nazi sympathiser. As restrictions on Jews tighten, the couple plans to escape, but Judith mysteriously disappears before they have the chance. 1982, Montreal: Lica Grunberg confesses to his daughter, Jacobina, that she has an older half-sister, Judith. Determined by the encouragement of her friend Béatrice, Jacobina takes on the mission to uncover the truth. Delving into the past, they unearth a concealed family secret spanning continents and decades, forever altering the course of their lives.

The best historical fiction of 2022

The red tent, by anita diamant.

Book cover for The Red Tent

In the Bible, the fate of Dinah is only given a brief and violent reference: she features in the Book of Genesis story that tells the tale of Jacob and his twelve sons. But Anita Diamant’s  The Red Tent  gives Dinah space to live and breathe. The narrative, which uses Dinah's voice, is one of betrayal, sorrow and love. Diamant’s feminist text weaves vivid storytelling with original insights into the lives of women in early history.

She Who Became the Sun

By shelley parker-chan.

Book cover for She Who Became the Sun

An absorbing historical fantasy,  She Who Became the Sun  reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, two children must somehow survive. The boy despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. Can she escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?

Daughters of Night

Book cover for Daughters of Night

This historical crime fiction novel is the second from Laura Shepherd-Robinson, following her award-winning debut Blood & Sugar . Set in London in 1782, it’s the story of Caroline Corsham, who is determined to seek justice for a string of murders of high-class prostitutes – crimes that the police are all too happy to ignore. As she delves deeper into the darkest, hidden corners of Georgian society, Caroline soon finds that much more than her reputation is at stake. . .

Circus of Wonders

By elizabeth macneal.

Book cover for Circus of Wonders

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea. But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea,  Circus of Wonders  is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.

The Four Winds

By kristin hannah.

Book cover for The Four Winds

Texas, 1934. Elsa Martinelli finally has everything she had wished for – a family, a home and a livelihood on a farm on the Great Plains. But when drought threatens her family and community, Elsa must decide whether to stay and fight for the land she loves or flee to California in search of a better life. Hailing praise from Matt Haig and Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing who called The Four Winds ‘powerful and compelling’, this is a must-read historical fiction book of the year. 

A complete guide to Kristin Hannah's books

The lamplighters, by emma stonex.

Book cover for The Lamplighters

Inspired by true events, Emma Stonex’s debut historical novel is a riveting mystery which will grip the reader, and a beautifully written exploration of love and grief. In Cornwall in 1972, three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from shore. The door is locked from the inside, and the clocks have stopped. Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give the women a chance to tell their side of the story. What happened to those men, and to the women they left behind?

The Attic Child

By lola jaye.

Book cover for The Attic Child

It's 1907, and twelve-year-old Celestine is locked in the attic of a house by the sea. He has been forcibly removed from his home in Africa and is treated as a servant. He dreams of home and family, even as his mother's face, and his real name, begin to fade. Decades later a young orphan girl is banished to the same attic. Under the floorboards she finds mysterious artefacts, and on a wall there is a sentence etched in a language she does not recognise. What she does recognise though, is that she is not the first child to be held captive in the attic. This dual-narrative tale of love, loss and family secrets shines a light on the early Black British experience. 

Pippo and Clara

By diana rosie.

Book cover for Pippo and Clara

It’s 1938, Mussolini is in power in Italy and war is on the horizon. Pippo and Clara are brother and sister, newly arrived in an unspecified city with their family. When their mother goes missing one morning they both go in search of her, with Clara turning right and Pippo left. As a result of their choices, the children’s lives will be changed forever. Diana Rosie’s Pippo and Clara tells the story of a family and a country divided. But will Clara and Pippo – and their mother – find each other again?

Kololo Hill

By neema shah.

Book cover for Kololo Hill

Neema Shah’s debut is a heartbreaking historical fiction novel set in Uganda and Britain. Uganda, 1972. When a devastating decree is announced which says all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days, Asha and Pran and Pran’s mother Jaya must leave everything they’ve ever known for a new life in Britain. But as they try to rebuild their lives, a terrible secret hangs over them. Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving novel explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

Soul Sisters

By lesley lokko.

Book cover for Soul Sisters

Soul Sisters tells the story of the friendship between Scottish Jen McFadden and South African-born Kemi Mashabane. Since they were children, Jen and Kemi have lived like sisters in the McFadden home in Edinburgh. On a visit to London the women meet handsome South African lawyer Solam Rhoyi and he has a great impact on them both. Kemi returns to her birth country, and Jen decides to come too, but it soon becomes clear that Solam is looking for a wife to help further his political ambitions. The women, bound by friendship and love, are also connected by a family secret, one which threatens to reveal itself with shocking consequences.  

The best historical fiction of all time

Dead man's walk, by larry mcmurtry.

Book cover for Dead Man's Walk

The first book in the famed Lonesome Dove series from Larry McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk takes us into the heart of the American West. Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call first encounter the untamed frontier that will form their characters. The two young men experience their first great adventure in the barren, empty landscape of the great plains, in which arbitrary violence is the only law – whether from nature, or from those whose territory they must cross in order to reach New Mexico. Danger, sacrifice and fear test Gus and Call to the limits of endurance, as they seek the strength and courage to survive against almost insurmountable odds.

Les Misérables

By victor hugo.

Book cover for Les Misérables

A historical fiction classic, it took seventeen years for Hugo to write this epic novel set in impoverished 19th-century Paris. Made up of interrelated stories that follow his characters’ lives, Les Miserables explores how deprivation leads to crime, and ends with the Paris Uprising of 1832. Using big theatrical scenes, extremes of characters, and a fondness for ‘The Fallen Woman’, Hugo’s novel has a fairytale quality which delivers his message with a punch.

Blood Meridian

By cormac mccarthy.

Book cover for Blood Meridian

Written in 1985, but set in the 1850s Blood Meridian explores the anarchic world opened up by America’s westward expansion. Through the hostile landscape of the Texas–Mexico border wanders the Kid, a fourteen year-old Tennessean who is quickly swept up in the relentless tide of blood. But the apparent chaos is not without its order: while Americans hunt Indians – collecting scalps as their bloody trophies – they too are stalked as prey. Powerful, mesmerizing and savagely beautiful, Blood Meridian is considered one of the most important works in American fiction of the last century.

A guide to the literary great: Cormac McCarthy

The miniaturist.

Book cover for The Miniaturist

In 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to marry merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

The Land Beyond the Sea

By sharon penman.

Book cover for The Land Beyond the Sea

Set in 1172 the Kingdom of Jerusalem is also known as Outremer – the land beyond the sea. When the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099, many crusaders stayed on and built a life in this new world of blazing heat, exotic customs and enemies who are also neighbours. But now Saladin, leader of the vast Saracen army, is seeking retribution for the massacre in 1099 In The Land Beyond the Sea, Penman expertly weaves a complicated tapestry to create a historical fiction saga of epic proportions. 

The Pillars of the Earth

Book cover for The Pillars of the Earth

Welcome to medieval England, where a civil war ravages the country and a monk is on a mission. Ken’s The Pillars of the Earth follows Philip, a devoted monk, who joins forces with Tom, a talented builder, to undertake the most ambitious project either has ever set themselves to. In a world in turmoil, however, their journey will not be a smooth one. The first book in Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series, this historical saga is one to get lost in.

The Sin Eater

By megan campisi.

Book cover for The Sin Eater

Set in a thinly disguised 16th century England, Megan Campisi’s debut novel is a wonderfully woven tale of treason and treachery, women and power. When fourteen year old May is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread she is sentenced to become a Sin Eater, a devastating sentence that will see her shunned by society and exiled to the edge of town. For a Sin Eater hears the confessions of the dying and eats their sins as a funeral rite, and is believed to be stained by these sins. When May is called to hear the deathbed confessions of two of the Queen’s courtiers she hears whispers of a terrible rumour her invisibility allows her to investigate. 

Ross Poldark

By winston graham.

Book cover for Ross Poldark

Historical fiction is often the basis for some of the most acclaimed and popular period dramas, and Winston Graham’s Poldark series is no exception. In the first book Ross Poldark, the eponymous hero, returns home to Cornwall, tired from a grim war in America. But the joyful homecoming he has anticipated turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin. Then, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers leads him to rescue an urchin girl –  an act which alters the course of his life. 

The Water Dancer

By ta-nehisi coates.

Book cover for The Water Dancer

This is the historical novel that Oprah Winfrey called, ‘One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life.’ Hiram Walker was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation, but one fateful decision will take him away from his plantation family and into the heart of the underground war on slavery. For Hiram is a man with a secret, a mysterious power he was gifted at birth. 


By c. j. sansom.

Book cover for Dissolution

This is the first book to feature Matthew Shardlake, Sansom’s insightful Tudor lawyer. Set in 1537 as Henry VIII becomes Supreme Head of the Church and the bloody dissolution of the monasteries is beginning, Shardlake investigates the shocking murder of one of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners. But Shardlake's investigation soon forces him to question everything he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes. Dissolution  is the first book in this bestselling phenomenon, where C. J. Sansom creates both a stunning portrait of Tudor England, and an unforgettable character in Matthew Shardlake. 

The Underground Railroad

By colson whitehead.

Book cover for The Underground Railroad

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and also a major TV series, The Underground Railroad is Colson Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, as his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. 

by Ian McEwan

Book cover for Atonement

One of the Guardian's 100 best books of the 21st century, Atonement is a formidable modern classic. On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone. 

Things Fall Apart

By chinua achebe.

Book cover for Things Fall Apart

First published in 1958, Chinua Achebe's stark, coolly ironic novel reshaped both African and world literature. Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire in the harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By gabriel garcia marquez.

Book cover for One Hundred Years of Solitude

Originally written in Spanish, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of magical realism and generational storytelling. The novel is set in the fictional town of Macondo, where the Buendía family's triumphs and tribulations unfold across generations. As the Buendía family navigates love, war, and the passage of time, Márquez delves into the intricate web of human connections. With its vivid imagery and lyrical storytelling, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a timeless exploration of love, loss, and the inexorable march of time.

War and Peace

By leo tolstoy.

Book cover for War and Peace

War and Peace traverses the tumultuous landscape of early 19th-century Russia, interweaving the lives of a diverse cast against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. The novel follows aristocratic families as they grapple with love, ambition, and existential questions during a time of immense societal upheaval. Pierre Bezukhov's quest for meaning, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky's search for purpose, and Natasha Rostova's journey of self-discovery are among the narrative threads that converge. The novel's canvas spans grand ballrooms, bloody battlefields, and intimate chambers, deftly blending historical events with profound philosophical musings. 

by Min Jin Lee

Book cover for Pachinko

Pachinko is a captivating multigenerational saga set against the backdrop of 20th-century Korea and Japan. The novel centers on Sunja, who, after becoming pregnant by a wealthy man, becomes determined to forge her own path. The story delves into the lives of Sunja's descendants as they grapple with discrimination, ambition, and the complex ties that bind a family together. Pachinko is a deeply moving journey through generations, inviting readers to witness the enduring power of love, the pursuit of belonging, and the indomitable human spirit that thrives even in the face of adversity.

by Hilary Mantel

Book cover for Wolf Hall

Set in 16th century England, Wolf Hall follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a shrewd and capable commoner, in the court of King Henry VIII. As Henry VIII seeks to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Cromwell becomes instrumental in navigating the complex political and religious landscape of the time. The book delves into the intricate power struggles, religious conflicts, and personal ambitions of the characters and provides a fresh perspective on the events leading to the English Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England. A Booker-prize-winning novel, this is an essential read for all fans of historical fiction. 

by Colm Tóibín

Book cover for Brooklyn

Set in the 1950s, Brooklyn traces Eilis Lacey's journey from a small Irish town to Brooklyn, New York. Eilis grapples with homesickness but gradually forges a life in America, working and falling in love. Unexpectedly, a family crisis summons her back to Ireland, where she becomes torn between her two worlds. The book delves into Eilis's inner conflict as she navigates questions of identity and belonging. The novel is a poignant exploration of personal growth and cultural displacement, showcasing the complexities of choosing between two lives.

For even more historical fiction recommendations, don't miss this episode of Book Break:

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Fiction » Historical Fiction » New Historical Fiction

Browse book recommendations:

  • Best Historical Fiction of 2023: The Walter Scott Prize Shortlist
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Every year, we interview the judges of the Walter Scott Prize to hear about the latest historical novels we should be reading, but with so much new historical fiction being published every week, we like to keep a look out for other books that look interesting. We also keep track of new books by authors who have done an interview with us or whose books have been frequently recommended on Five Books . If you're interested in a particular era, we have a special section devoted to the very popular genre of World War II historical fiction as well as an interview on the best medieval historical fiction , recommended by Professor Marion Turner, a medieval literature expert at the University of Oxford. Tudor-era historical fiction is recommended by British historian Alison Weir.

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

by Zadie Smith

Read expert recommendations

“One of the biggest books of the season…is Zadie Smith’s new novel, The Fraud. It’s a work of historical fiction—her first—set in Victorian England, and exploring art-that-imitates-life, abolitionism, and a scandalous case of identity theft that gripped the nation. It was an instant New York Times bestseller and has garnered some brilliant reviews in the three weeks it has been out so far. ( The Observer said it was ‘almost flawless… her funniest novel yet.’)” Read more...

Notable Novels of Fall 2023

Cal Flyn , Five Books Editor

The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

The House of Doors

By tan twan eng.

☆ Longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize  

The House of Doors is another beautiful historical novel by Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng. Set in Penang, it's told through the eyes of two people: Lesley Hamlyn, a Malaysian-born English woman married to a lawyer and the British novelist W. Somerset Maugham (Willie). It's a wonderful fusion of fact and fiction, featuring also Sun Yat-sen—the Chinese revolutionary who served as the first president of the Republic of China. Sun Wen, as he liked to be called, spent time in Penang in 1910.

The Black Crescent by Jane Johnson

The Black Crescent

By jane johnson.

The Black Crescent by British novelist Jane Johnson is a lovely work of historical fiction that introduces you to the world of 1950s Morocco, at the time of the country's struggle for independence from France. The main character, Hamou Badi, is from a mountain village but ends up becoming a policeman and working in Casablanca. The author, Jane Johnson, has set a number of her novels in Morocco where she met her husband, Abdel Bakrim, and now lives for half the year (see below for the story of how that happened!). As well as being a good story, the book is a nice way of learning about Morocco's recent history alongside her.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn

In Memoriam

By alice winn.

“Alice Winn’s In Memoriam— a love story set during the tumult of the First World War—came roaring out of the starting gates and straight into the bestseller lists. In it, two heartsick schoolboys are forced to confront their feelings for one another amid the horror of war. It’s been endorsed by such literary grandees as Maggie O’Farrell and Garth Greenwell; The New York Times has also described it as both ‘devastating’ and ‘tender'” Read more...

Notable Novels of Summer 2023

M: Son of the Century by Antonio Scurati

M: Son of the Century

By antonio scurati.

🏆 Winner of the 2022 European Book Prize

Antonio Scurati's novel about the rise of Fascism in Italy, told from the point of view of Benito Mussolini. There are also excerpts from newspapers and reports. The first in a trilogy, this 700+ page book includes the March on Rome as well as the murder of Giacomo Matteotti, ending in 1925.

Finger Bone by Hiroki Takahashi & Takami Nieda (translator)

Finger Bone

By hiroki takahashi & takami nieda (translator).

🏆 Winner 2014 Shincho Prize for New Writers

Finger Bone was the debut novel of award-winning Japanese writer Hiroki Takahashi, first published in English in 2023. The title alone conveys a lot of its horror: rather than gravestones, when Japanese soldiers died in World War II, one finger would be chopped off, stripped of its flesh and sent home to the family. The novel is set in Papua Guinea in 1942, and details the experience of a young, wounded soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army. It's a short, very sad book.

The Marriage Portrait: A Novel by Maggie O'Farrell & narrated by Genevieve Gaunt

The Marriage Portrait: A Novel

By maggie o'farrell & narrated by genevieve gaunt.

☆ Shortlisted for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction

“I liked what Claire Allfree had to say about it  in  The Times : “So headily perfumed is her prose it works on the reader almost like a drug.” Sound good? Then I suspect this historical romance (of a kind) will work for you.” Cal Flyn in Notable Novels of Fall 2022

“O’Farrell’s novel is richly atmospheric and deeply researched, although she has altered some historical details for narrative effect. It met with a somewhat mixed critical reception on publication but has found a wide and largely appreciative fan base. If you enjoy lushly descriptive historical fiction, this will be the book for you.” Read more...

The 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist

I Am Not Your Eve by Devika Ponnambalam

I Am Not Your Eve

By devika ponnambalam.

☆ Shortlisted for the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

Devika Ponnambalam's historical novel presents the story of Teha'amana, the child-bride and muse of the French artist Paul Gauguin, and the girl who features in his most famous work, ' Manaò tupapaú ' (' Spirit of the Dead Watching'). I Am Not Your Eve is written primarily from Teha'amana's perspective, but includes several other voices, creating the clash of cultures between the French colonists, Christian missionaries and the indigenous peoples of Polynesia. While presenting their 2023 historical fiction shortlist, the Walter Scott Prize judges said it was "a complex novel"  that raised "uncomfortable issues of morality." It demands a lot of the reader, they added, but is "deeply rewarding."

Ancestry: A Novel by Simon Mawer

Ancestry: A Novel

By simon mawer.

Mawer won the 2016 Walter Scott Prize for his novel Tightrope — the story of a female secret agent for the British during World War II . He returns to the shortlist with a new historical novel that delves into the stories from the author's own family tree. As the 2023 Walter Scott Prize judges observed: "he refuses to choose between fiction and fact," melding his archival research with imagined elements that takes us from poverty-stricken London to the Crimean War. It's an "ambitious novel" and a "memorable family odyssey that takes the reader into a fictional realm."

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane

The Sun Walks Down

By fiona mcfarlane.

In  The Sun Walks Down , a historical novel set in 1883 Australia, the disappearance of a six-year-old boy during a duststorm electrifies an outback community of farmers, artists, servants, cameleers and Aboriginal peoples, and forces a broader reckoning in this uneasy colonial society. This is a slowburn mystery of literary merit, with a complex, multi-layered plot and intense atmospheric effect. The 2023 Walter Scott Prize judges described it as a "rich and empathetic novel" which offered the reader the keys to understanding Australia , summoning its landscape—"at once beautiful and alien"—and its "burning sun" directly onto the page.

The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry

by Elizabeth Lowry

In  The Chosen,  Elizabeth Lowry examines—by way of historical fiction, drawn from fact—the troubled marriage of Thomas Hardy and his wife Emma. After Emma's death in 1912, Hardy read her diaries recording their years together; their contents, the story they told about their dissolving partnership, disturbed him so much that he burned them. "Combining meticulous research with a poet’s imagination, Lowry gives voice to both Hardy and to his downtrodden wife," said the judges of the 2023 Walter Scott Prize. "The result is an extraordinary work, full of tenderness and unexpected humour. It’s a portrait of a marriage gone wrong and an investigation into the grammar of grief. Along the way, we consider the parasitic relationship art can have with life, and the transcendent power of love."

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris

Act of Oblivion

By robert harris.

☆ Shortlisted for the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

New historical novels by British writer Robert Harris are always worth looking out for so don't let the blitz of marketing surrounding his latest, Act of Oblivion, put you off. It's set at an interesting point in English history: the immediate aftermath of the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Through the reflections of one of the main characters, we see the events leading up to the execution of Charles I more than a decade previously, in 1649, as well as the battles of the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell 's New Model Army. Puritan America is also an important part of the setting. If you're interested in history and don't know the details of this period, it's an interesting book, not least because you can't help but reflect on what it takes to tip a country into civil war.

The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan

The Geometer Lobachevsky

By adrian duncan.

The Irish writer, artist and former structural engineer Adrian Duncan draws from his unusual blend of expertise in his novels—which have previously featured a Berlin construction site and a retired bridge engineer. The Geometer Lobachevsky is about a Soviet mathematician who has been working to survey peatbogs for mechanised harvesting in 1950s Ireland. But to describe it in such terms "is akin to relegating Leonardo’s Last Supper to thirteen men having dinner," protest the judges of the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. "Like the bog Lobachevsky is surveying, the unassuming surface conceals ‘a subterranean ocean on a gusty day’." It's a "quiet gem" that brings a great, fitting precision to the inner life and melancholy predicament of our protagonist, as he attempts to evade a summons to return to the USSR.

These Days by Lucy Caldwell

by Lucy Caldwell

🏆 Winner of the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

Lucy Caldwell's fifth novel is set during the Belfast Blitz, a series of four devastating major air raids on the Northern Irish city in 1941. It's "an under-told chapter in the fiction of my city," as Caldwell reflected; researching the book felt like "a strange, intense sort of solace" during the early days of the Covid crisis. The novel focuses on two sisters, Audrey and Emma, whose comfortable middle-class existence is shattered during the attacks. While announcing the shortlist for the 2023 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, the judges noted that "the juxtaposition of the horrific and mundane and the authenticity of detail makes this novel an exceptional study of the terrors and consequences of war."

The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hemon

The World and All That It Holds

By aleksandar hemon.

🏆 Winner of the 2023 Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine

The World and All That It Holds is a new historical novel by Bosnia-born novelist Aleksandar Hemon, who we interviewed more than a decade ago on the cheery topic of ' Man's Inhumanity To Man'.  This novel is set at the outbreak of World War I and ranges from Sarajevo (where the main protagonist witnesses the killing of Archduke Ferdinand and Sophie, his wife) to Shanghai.

The Blunder by Mutt-Lon

The Blunder

By mutt-lon.

The Blunder by Mutt-Lon, the pen name of Nsegbe Daniel Alain, is a historical novel set in early 20th century Cameroon, when the country was split between French and English colonial administrations. It's based on the true story of Dr. Eugène Jamot, a French military doctor whose head still graces a monument outside the Ministry of Public Health in Yaoundé, the capital, but whose legacy is decidedly mixed. The book is a revealing, refreshing and entertaining read, written in French and translated into English by Amy Reid.

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist , recommended by Cal Flyn

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - These Days by Lucy Caldwell

These Days by Lucy Caldwell

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - I Am Not Your Eve by Devika Ponnambalam

I Am Not Your Eve by Devika Ponnambalam

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - Ancestry: A Novel by Simon Mawer

Ancestry: A Novel by Simon Mawer

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry

The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry

The Best Historical Fiction: The 2023 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist - The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan

The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan

Every year, the judges for the Walter Scott Prize highlight the best new historical fiction. In 2023, the shortlisted books include a slow-burn mystery set in colonial Australia and a thrilling new novel from the author of Fatherland . Cal Flyn , our deputy editor, takes us through the seven books that are set 60+ years in the past and yet speak to the present.

Every year, the judges for the Walter Scott Prize highlight the best new historical fiction. In 2023, the shortlisted books include a slow-burn mystery set in colonial Australia and a thrilling new novel from the author of Fatherland . Cal Flyn, our deputy editor, takes us through the seven books that are set 60+ years in the past and yet speak to the present.

We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.

This site has an archive of more than one thousand seven hundred interviews, or eight thousand book recommendations. We publish at least two new interviews per week.

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