Who doesn’t like to to look into the past, a time that seems more heroic, more romantic and more picturesque than now? Historical fiction is a combination of truth and imagination. It sweeps you away.
I’ll never forget being so utterly consumed by Gone With the Wind ~ hooped dresses, yams dripping with butter, plates of golden-fried chicken. Mint juleps. Riding boots. War. I was jolted right off my plantation veranda by the doorbell, and shocked to see my neighbor in snow boots, shovel in hand, instead of a notorious Scalawag rascal.
Historical fiction takes some liberties with the facts but the best novels make the characters and events feel true. Here are a few ~
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, this is a reimagining of the reign of Henry VIII as told through the eyes of his close advisor, Thomas Cromwell. If you’re fascinated by the Tudors, the viciousness and romance, then, as Cardinal Wolsey says, you’ll find out what they are wearing under their clothes.
And Mantel’s next book, Bring Up The Bodies, takes up exactly where Wolf Hall leaves off.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
My book group read this novel that traces the experiences of Japanese mail order brides ~ “picture brides” ~ who were brought to America in the early 1900s. Otsuka gives these women a voice, you are there as they negotiate their first interactions with westerners and adjust to a new life as Japanese Americans.
Otsuka’s first book, When the Emperor Was Divine, is a portrait of one Japanese-American family’s daily life, at home and in the internment camps, during World War II. I think her prose is close to poetry.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This author, too, imagines a world of women in rich poetic detail. Through the eyes of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, you are immersed in a biblical world where women are bound by culture, religion and their own cycles.
Got a favorite historical novel? It’s good to share.
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