02 February 2018

8 New Books for Historical Fiction Fans

Many people equate historical fiction with novels about the Tudors or other European royal families. The genre is, however, much broader than that. Technically, historical fiction is a story that takes place in the past and commonly focuses on or mentions real people or events. At the least, these kinds of books include period details and create a plausible historical context.

Today I'm featuring 8 novels that fall under the historical fiction umbrella. The stories recommended here span about 100 years, from the Irish potato famine to the end of World War II.

Nineteenth Century

  • 4 historical fiction books set in the 19th centuryHunger by Donna Jo Napoli (Paula Wiseman Books, Feb. 13): Told through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, this is the story of one family's struggle to survive after the 1846 potato crop fails across Ireland. The novel, geared to middle grade readers or young teens, contrasts the experience of Irish Catholic tenant farmers with Protestant English landlords and gives perspective to the dream of immigration and the hope for a better life.
  • Hour Glass by Michelle Rene (Amberjack Publishing, Feb. 20): Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, in about 1877, this coming-of-age story strips some of the legend from Calamity Jane's reputation without whitewashing her crudity and love of drink. After their father falls ill with smallpox, a young boy and his little sister come to town for help and are taken in by Jane, who offers her own brand of protection.
  • Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira (Viking, Feb. 27): After a failed six-week search for two sisters who never made it home from school during the 1879 Albany, New York, blizzard the community presumes they're dead. When the girls later show up at Dr. Mary Sutter's home, their story sets off a chain of events that exposes the town's secrets, strains the court system, and shows the limitations of women's power over their own bodies. Relevant in light of today's #MeToo movement.
  • Only Killers and Thieves by Bill Howarth (Harper, Feb. 6): In 1885 Australia, two teenage brothers want answers and possible revenge after their family is murdered, presumably by one of their Aboriginal ranch hands. In the heat of distress, the boys take up with the Queensland Native Police, who are tasked with "cleansing" the land of indigenous peoples. The brothers' relationship to each other and the events they witness is at the heart of this novel.
Twentieth Century
  • 4 historical fiction books set in the 20th centuryAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley, Feb. 6): A family-owned funeral parlor becomes overwhelmed as the 1918 flu pandemic hits Philadelphia. The novel is told from multiple viewpoints, as three sisters and their mother try to cope with their own losses as well as the horrors of both the war and the devastating disease. How far will one of the sisters go to try to give a spark of happiness to her family?
  • The Driest Season by Meghan Kenny (Norton, Feb.13): In 1943 drought-ridden Wisconsin, 15-year-old Cielle has more to worry about than the war. In the weeks after her father's apparent suicide, she copes with the changes in her family's circumstances, the unforgiving forces of nature, and her own awaking--not only to the world at large but to her own wants and desires. A thoughtful coming-of-age story that has the markings of a classic.
  • The Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman (Mira, Feb. 13): Set in 1944 Hawaii, this is a home-front story of women adjusting to the new normal of the influx of soldiers, the distrust of their Japanese-heritage neighbors, and the changing economics brought on by war. The plot focuses on a mother and daughter, the mystery of why they're alone, and the hope for a brighter future while facing the uncertainties of combat.
  • What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Feb 20): Liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, a teenage girl, now orphaned and alone, must find a way to have a life that embraces more than simply survival. She recalls the shattering discovery that she was Jewish, her transportation to the camp, and the incomprehensible horrors she survived. Freedom does not bring an end to her degradation, and this book, with its haunting illustrations, tells that story too.


Lisbeth 2/2/18, 6:51 AM  

Thank you for sharing. I love historical fiction and these seem interesting. I especially lined to "Winter Sisters" by Robin Oliveira. Have to read that one.

Mae Travels 2/2/18, 7:53 AM  

The number of new fiction books being published is amazing! I always wonder how well-researched historical fiction books are -- I gather that you didn't review them with this in mind, more for the story. When I read historical fiction in some cases, I sometimes notice minor but annoying errors.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine 2/2/18, 8:27 AM  

Great list! Hour Glass looks fantastic and I'm starting to see lot of As Bright as Heaven. I may have to request those though I'm a little late to the party.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/2/18, 9:28 AM  

There are so many books here that I want to read as I enjoy historical fiction. Winter Sisters is tops on my list.

Kay 2/2/18, 9:35 AM  

Several of these appeal to me - probably The Winter Sister the most. I also have As Bright as Heaven already. So many good books coming!

sherry fundin 2/2/18, 11:27 AM  

Always nice to see new to me authors. Thanks for sharing.
sherry @ fundinmental

Les in Oregon 2/2/18, 3:58 PM  

I love historical fiction and have my eye on The Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, as well as What the Night Sings. Thanks for bringing these to my attention!

Greg 2/3/18, 12:31 AM  

The Island of sweet Pies and Soldiers appeals to me. That cover draws me in too. I can see giving that one a shot.

Vicki 2/3/18, 1:15 PM  

They all sound good especially Hunger & Winter Sisters.

Kailana 2/4/18, 10:25 PM  

I can't remember the last time I read a historical fiction book. I used to love them.

Daryl 2/8/18, 12:08 PM  

some of these sound like good reads .. thanks

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