Another fascinating form of literature is historical fiction since these are novels that make use of historical figures such as characters, events and places that feature the proper settings of fictional work.
The best historical fiction books are those that make the reader feel as if they have been brought back in time to that historical period as they read the story. These kinds of works should not only reflect the physical setting, it should also accurately portray the characters’ perspective, values, morals, and sensibilities during the era.
Here is a list of the best historical fiction books that will surely bring you back to the past:
A Tale of Two Cities
By: Charles Dickens
Set in the period before and during the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities tells the story of Charles Darnay who is an exiled French aristocrat, and his wife Lucie Manette.
Memoirs of a Geisha
By: Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha is a story of a young girl named Chiyo who lives in a fishing village. She was sold by her poor family to an okiya or geisha house in Kyoto and is then renamed Sayuri. She then discovers the secrets and sacrifices of a geisha.
By: Sarah Waters
Margaret Prior, the protagonist, visits the Millbank Prison in England during the Victorian era to recover from depression and her failed suicide attempt. As she becomes the prison’s “Lady Visitor” or a guiding figure of the other female prisoners, she meets and gets drawn to Selina Dawes, a medium of spirits.
By: Elizabeth Kostova
While exploring her father’s library at one late night, a young woman finds an antique book and a stash of letters addressed to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. This discovery brings her to a maze where her mother’s unfathomable fate and the secrets of her father’s past which connect to an evil hidden in the depths of the past. The story combines the history and folklore of Vlad Tepes with his fictional equivalent, Count Dracula.
Mariette in Ecstasy
By: Ron Hansen
This is one of the best historical fictions that tell the story of Mariette; she joins the order of the Sisters of the Crucifixion in the early 1900’s. Prone to “inner wrenchings”, she disrupts the convent’s serenity when she experiences the stigmata of Christ. Mariette in Ecstasy shows three perspectives – that of the investigating priest, the nuns’, and Mariette herself.
The Name of the Rose
By: Umberto Eco
Considered among the most original and best historical fiction books, The Name of the Rose is set in the 14th century where Adso, a novice, follows William of Baskerville, an Oxford-educated monk to an Italian monastery where bizarre deaths happen to its inhabitants. Brother William then investigates this and collects evidence, interpret secret symbols, decode manuscripts, and digs into a labyrinth at night -and this is where the most interesting things happen.
The Three Musketeers
By: Alexandre Dumas
D’Artagnan, a Gasconian nobleman leaves his home to make a living in Paris. He brings with him a letter of introduction to his father’s friend who is the captain of the King’s Musketeers.
Place of Greater Safety
By: Hilary Mantel
One of the best historical fiction books that focus on the French Revolution; Place of Greater Safety focuses on the lives of Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, and Georges Danton.
By: Anya Seton
Seton’s Katherine is one of the best historical fiction books that tells the story of England’s significant 14th-century love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and King Edward III’s third surviving son.
The Killer Angels
By: Michael Shaara
The Killer Angels, one of the best historical fiction books of all time, talks about the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. On July 1, 1863, over fifty-one thousand men died, were wounded, and went missing during the largest battle of the American Civil War.
Every Man for Himself
By: Beryl Bainbridge
The story is all about the 1912 RMS Titanic tragedy begins with Morgan, a rich and young American orphan who finds it difficult to find his cabin when he boards the Titanic. However, there are no crew members present to guide him so he proceeds to observe on the ship and continues to see more mysteries.
The Scarlet Letter
By: Nathaniel Hawthorne
One of the best historical books set in June 1642 in the Puritan community of Boston; it tells the adulterous tale of Hester Prynne who is found guilty and is punished by letting her wear a scarlet with an “A” which stands for adulteress. Her lover then is wracked with guilt and plans to keep his relationship with Hester a secret. Roger Chillingworth, her husband, becomes obsessed and seeks revenge
By: Margaret Atwood
A story about the notorious murder in Toronto in the year 1843; Grace Marks is accused guilty of murder was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, she is hired out from prison and eventually shows symptoms of hysteria. This led to Grace being interviewed by an alienist, then she proceeds to share her life story.
By: Andrew Miller
The story takes place in Paris in the year 1785; the presence of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a Normandy engineer, is called to the Palace of Versailles. There, he is commissioned by the state to destroy the cemetery beneath the Les Innocents church and dispose of the thousands of buried corpses.
The English Patient
By: Michael Ondaatje
One of the best historical fiction books that trace four dissimilar people who were brought together at an Italian villa after World War II – a patient, a nurse, a thief, and a sapper and each is haunted by the English patient’s riddle. This is a story of the English patient’s memories, passions, and betrayal.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
By: John Boyne
During the Second World War, Bruno and his family move from Berlin to live near the concentration camp where his father has become a commandant. The unhappy and lonely child wanders and meets a Jewish boy, Shmuel then forms a forbidden friendship with him, unaware of the consequences of this.
Sarum: The Novel of England
By: Edward Rutherfurd
Through the stories of several families from and around Salisbury, Sarum: The Novel of England talks about the city from its prehistoric era until the year 1985.
By: Donna Woolfolk Cross
Based on the medieval legend of Pope Joan, this tells the story of a young woman named Joan who is urged by her own desire to gain knowledge to dress as a man and eventually becomes a pope.
The Birth of Venus
By: Sarah Dunant
Set in the late 15th century in the Italian city of Florence, this tells the story of Alessandra Cecchi, a child of the Renaissance is drawn to the abilities of a young painter from northern Europe. She brings him along with her to her nativity decorate the chapel walls in her family’s Florentine palazzo. However, her flourishing relationship is disrupted when she is forced to marry a wealthy older man where she ends up with a miserable life.
By: Lisa See
Two sisters, Pearl and May, experience a lot of pain and suffering when WWII reaches the city of Shanghai. They leave the war-torn city for the United States and enters arranged marriages.