One of my favorite genres to read is historical fiction. (I have a lot of favorites, what can I say?) So many settings, so many stories, and if you learn a little something along the way, that’s a bonus! Lots of people have read, say, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory or Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. (But if you haven’t, those are both excellent places to start!) The places you can travel are limited only by the globe, but today’s list is all about British history. The titles I recommend most often are:
Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks. When the plague makes its way from 17th century London to a small Derbyshire village, the villagers struggle with the choice of staying and trying to maintain life as they know it, or fleeing into the countryside as the lord of the manor and his family have done. The rector argues for them to stay and isolate themselves from the neighboring villages to contain the contagion. Cut off from the outside world, then, those who remain must try to maintain their humanity despite the fear and death that lurks in every corner. Heavier than your normal beach book, but beautifully told and with a surprising amount of heart, I highly recommend this one.
The Lady Elizabeth, by Alison Weir. For those looking for more fiction about the Tudors, Alison Weir is at the top of the list. A biographer of Tudor England by trade, Weir takes all of that research to create a rich and vibrant backdrop to her fictional tales. If you’ve ever wondered about what Elizabeth I was like before she became queen, this is a great novel. From her childhood to her coronation, spanning the last years of Henry VIII’s reign as well as those of her younger brother Edward VI and her older sister Mary, Weir’s Elizabeth is brilliant, opinionated, and heartbreakingly human. Can’t get enough of the Tudors? Try Weir’s other work, including her novel The Innocent Traitor about Lady Jane Gray, or consider one of her biographies, like The Children of Henry VIII to learn more about Elizabeth and her half-siblings.
Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin. In medieval Cambridge, four children have been murdered. The Catholics blame the Jews, who are then placed under the protection of King Henry II. Desperate for a resolution, the king sends abroad for someone to perform a scientific inquest into the murders. The investigator sent is Italian physician and coroner Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno, who must keep her true identity a secret in Cambridge to preserve her safety. Part forensic thriller, part murder mystery, part historical novel and completely engrossing, this is a great read on all fronts. The best news? It’s the start of a series—continue on with The Serpent’s Tale.
Have a particular era or country you’d like more suggestions for? Leave me your suggestion in the comments!