November 9, 2006

Historical Fiction

Oh, there are so many wonderful books that fall in this category. I don't know if I can limit this list to just 13!

1. Pope Joan by Donna Cross

2. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

3. A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

4. Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

5. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd

7. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Gutterson

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

9. Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreeve

10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

11. These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

12. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

13. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Others I've read, but didn't necessarily love (or even like!):

Aztec by Gary Jennings

Molokai by Alan Brennert

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

And then there are these of which I'm not sure are true "historical fiction." How exactly does one define the genre? By the way, I loved all three of these:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull

Atonement by Ian McEwan


  1. Les, I finished The Book Thief today. It was every bit as wonderful as you said it was.

  2. Hurray!!!! Another fan! So glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did, Booklogged. Now to read something cheery, right?

  3. Anonymous7:41 PM

    Oh - I've read and loved many of the same books. In fact - There are only 4 on your top 13 that I haven't read. Looks like they might need to get added to "The List"

    Sarum was awesome!! Russka was a disappointing follow-up

    Skip the sequel to These is My Words.

  4. les, Atonement was one of those books that made me feel physically angry as I read it. I had no compassion for that rotten little girl who screwed up everyone's life whatsoever. In fact, I'm still mad at her.

    Also loved: Pillars of the Earth,
    Girl with the Pearl Earring, Snow Falling on Cedars, Fortune's Rocks,
    Kite Runner, and Memoirs of a Geisha which I read twice.

    I've only seen the film of The English Patient, which is still vivid in my mind. All that loss...

    The Book Thief is waiting for recovery from my surgery. I can't concentrate on books right now, for some reason. I'm Short Attention Span Theater.

  5. Les we really have some similar tastes! I thought I was the only one who didn't care for The Red Tent & Cold Mountain. Which means I'm going to have to try some of your likes (we share some of those too).

    I haven't had much luck with Anita Shreve's books so I'll look for Fortune's Rocks.

  6. I wouldn't have put Snow Falling as historical fiction...maybe because it's recent history? I guess I tend to associate historical fiction with stuff prior to the century I was born in.

    Don't know how it is categorized, but A Fine Balance is one of the best books ever.

  7. I love historical fiction, too, and I've read only a few on your list. Lots of good ideas for future reads here!

  8. I read 8 of your 13 and pretty much liked them all, too. :)

  9. Anonymous3:43 PM

    I love historical fiction, and have read or am going to read most of your list. As far as a definition goes, it varies from person to person, but I think if it is from two generations or more before my own that is a good rule of thumb.

    BTW, did you know that there is a sequel out to The Tea Rose. I am not sure if it is out in the US yet, but it is out in the UK and Australia/NZ. In my opinion it is a better book than The Tea Rose. It is called The Winter Rose.

  10. You know, I noticed A Thread of Grace on the shelf at the bookstore yesterday and thought of you--since I know how much you loved The Sparrow.

  11. The English Patient is one of the few where I preferred the movie to the book. Someday I should reread it to see if that opinion still stands.

    bellezza, I hated her too! ;)

  12. SuziQ, thanks for sharing your opinion about Russka and the sequel to These Is My Words. I have yet to hear anyone rave about the latter, which is unfortunate.

    Bellezza, so tell me how you really feel about Atonement. ;) I enjoyed The English Patient better as a movie than a book. It took forever to read it; so slow and plodding! You're in for such a treat whenever you get to The Book Thief.

    Iliana, I did like The Red Tent - just didn't love it. Now Cold Mountain is one I really didn't like at all. But the movie is incredible and one I'll watch again this winter. Fortune's Rocks is one of the titles I wasn't sure fit in this Historical Fiction category. But when I perusing the lists at Amazon, it came up several times so I threw it in here. It's my favorite of Shreeve's (she's quite a hit or miss author for me).

    Di, I agree. A Fine Balance is superb! I hope Family Matters is as good.

    Thanks, Lisa!

    Joy, there are quite a few winners in the list, aren't there?

    Marg, thanks for explaining how one defines "Historical Fiction." And thanks for the info about the sequel to The Tea Rose. Looks like it won't come to U.S. until next spring. Hmmm, maybe I'll read The Tea Rose again in preparation for the sequel. It was such an enjoyable read, which makes me excited to learn that the sequel is even better!

    Sassypants (aka Birthday Girl!), I had to laugh when I read your comment. I suppose I've gushed about The Sparrow for so long now that everyone remembers it's one I loved. A Thread of Grace was good, but not nearly as good as The Sparrow. It's odd. A Thread of Grace is one of those books that grew on me after I finished reading it. I think I may have even raised my rating a week later.

    Nat, I agree. The movie was so much better than the book! And harrumpf to you and Bellezza. ;) Briony was a complicated protagonist and strange as it may be, I liked her. I didn't like what she did, but I liked her.

  13. Anonymous5:14 PM

    Well, I always have to stick up for Cold Mountain, although that whole first section seemed endless...could you just move it along, Inman????? I loved Ada's story--the Ada/Ruby/rooster passage was worth the price of the book. Not the best book I ever read, but I'm glad I stuck with it!

    Fortune's Rocks and These Is My Words are two on the list I've read and enjoyed. I've been wanting to pull The Tea Rose off Mt. TBR for quite some time.

  14. This is such a great blog - stumbled across you when looking for info on the new adaptation of the bell jar. And from there had a good old read. I wish I got half as many comments on my posts as you do! Keep up the great work.

  15. Historical fiction is one of my favorites genres and I think I read more of it than almost anything else. I am not sure I could narrow it down to 13! I see we have several favorites! I can see I am going to have to break down and buy the Zusak book...

  16. Marcia, you're right about Cold Mountain. I did enjoy Ada & Ruby's stories. Just could've done without that whole first section about Inman. ;)

    P. Viktor, thanks for stopping by and for your nice words about my blog.

  17. Danielle, you're in for a treat! I know I keep repeating myself, but The Book Thief is one of those books that lingers for quite a long time after you read the closing sentences.

  18. You asked how to define the genre of historical fiction --

    It's a book where the events are based on a recorded historical event, and many if not all of the characters are fictional.

    If the book is merely set in a past time, then it's not true historical fiction.

    Hope that helps. :)

  19. Tristi, yes it does help! Thanks so much for helping me clarify this genre and also for visiting my blog.


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