I was discussing historical fiction with a staff member. We both found it a wonderful genre. It can easily be overshadowed by contemporary thriller/murder/ intrigue-rich novels enjoyed by so many, and are so often checked out of the library.
The irony is, history-based fiction is built on these elements, and includes so many more. Set anywhere from exotic locales to war-torn regions, these wonderful stories submerge us into worlds documented by historians but humanized by talented authors.
Some of my all-time favorites include Sofia, by Ann Chamberlin. This is the first in a trilogy (The Sultan’s Daughter, The Reign of Favored Women), situated at the height of the Ottoman Empire, and is loaded with women behaving badly. This rich view into the world of a harem is mesmerizing and historically plausible.
The Far Pavilions, by M. M. Kaye is set in the British Raj era. This classic is oh so memorable, covering the Indian caste system, and characters steeped in mortal choices.
The Belt of Gold is by the very talented Cecelia Holland, and is based in Christian Constantinople. It follows the matriarchal- occupied seat of power in 9th century Byzantium. The author did not feel this novel her most successful, but I enjoyed the glimpse into this world nonetheless.
The Terror, by Dan Simmons, is a fictional story telling of the failed expedition of Sir John Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage in 1845–1848. It is a gripping tale of the extremes of human endurance, with Inuit mysticism added for a heightened level of spirituality. You can’t put it down.
After polling other staff members for their favorites, they recommended Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, Lady’s Maid, by Margaret Foster, and Helen of Troy, by Margaret George.
They also assured anything by Philippa Gregory, Louis L’Amour, John Jakes or Jean Plaidy is not to be missed. They are all a treasure trove of humanity and history.
Caroline Poppendeck, Librarian