Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. When done right, it can transport us to another time and teach us about eras that are often overlooked in history books. In the historical novels listed below, the authors bring us back in time to show fascinating events and time periods that, while significant in human history, are rarely seen in other stories. Here are some of my all-time favorites of the genre.
We’ve all heard of the California Gold Rush of 1849, but this gripping novel views the time period through the unique perspective of a Chilean immigrant. Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California and, as she finds her place in a society of gold fever, single men, and prostitutes, her journey becomes one of self-discovery.
From 1866 to 1969, those diagnosed with leprosy in Hawaii were quarantined to leper colonies on the island of Moloka’i. This deeply moving novel follows Rachel Kalama, a 7-year-old whose life is torn away from her when a rose-colored mark appears on her skin and she is sent to Moloka’i.
This one is for those who love THE CRUCIBLE and are always on the hunt for another perspective on the Salem witch trials. THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER chronicles the story of Martha Carrier, one of the first women to be accused, tried, and hanged for being a witch in Salem, told from the perspective of her daughter.
BARKSKINS sweeps readers around the globe from America to Europe to New Zealand in an epic story about the decimation of the world’s forests. Told from the perspective of two wood-cutters and their descendants over the course of 300 years, the characters face incredible challenges, including the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation.
This follow-up to SMALL ISLAND takes readers to Jamaica as the Baptist War rages and slavery comes to a violent and chaotic end on the island. Miss July, a slave, and Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, watch the world transform around them from one of Jamaica’s sugar plantations.
From 1933 to 1973, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina authorized the sterilization of “mentally defective or feeble-minded” women, often without their consent or through coercion. In this heart-wrenching novel, a new social worker is forced to make this painful decision for her clients, while a young tenant on a tobacco farm tries to hold her splintering family together.
The spellbinding story of one of China’s most controversial historical figures: the first and only female Emperor of China. Empress Wu emerged in the seventh century during the Tang dynasty and ushered in a golden age in China, rising from obscurity in the Forbidden City to her place of high power.
Throughout her many historical novels, Philippa Gregory illuminates all of King Henry VIII’s queens. In this story, his final queen, Kateryn Parr, holds her own as an independent woman, but in her attempt to save the Protestants, she finds herself accused of heresy, punishable by death by fire.
Set in Kenya in the 1920s, this captivating novel illustrates the life of Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator who becomes caught in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who wrote the classic memoir OUT OF AFRICA under the pen name Isak Dinesen.
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. When Native Americans capture Mary Rowlandson, she finds herself sold into the service of a powerful female tribal leader. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness as she begins to question the life she once knew.