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Historical Novels are Always Enjoyable

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Phil, Queen's Square | August 1, 2017

Historical novels are most enjoyable when novelists delve more deeply into the nooks and crannies of people and places than nonfiction can often go.

It’s an issue Alison Weir should know more about than most as she writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her latest work of fiction Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is the story of Henry VIII’s second wife. C.C. Humphries, Phillipa Gregory and Sandra Byrd have all written novels featuring Boleyn, and Weir imagines her protagonist as an early feminist in this rich and detailed novel.

Other recent and highly rated historical fiction includes Barkskins by Annie Proulx. Set in 17th Century America, Barkskins examines the clash between European settlers and Native Americans over a number of generations.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders deals with grief, hope and redemption in the death of Willie Lincoln (Abraham’s third son) prior to the American Civil War, in what several Idea Exchange members have called the best novel they’ve read in quite some time. It’s a possible novel of the year contender.

Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner, features music as central to the story. Music of the Ghosts also deals with the the bloody past of the Khmer Rouge. So if you enjoyed the award winning Madeliene Thien novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing you may want to check this book out.

Music is also integral to the Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. Set in Switzerland during WWII, it dovetails nicely with Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden, a story of growing up African-American in the South in the Thirties; the jazz clubs of Harlem; and then Montmartre, set prior to and into WWII.

Finally, Isadora by Amelia Gray is a fictionalized story of the great modern dancer Isadora Duncan who survived WWI. It’s about the power of women, surviving grief and her tragic death in Paris.

Anne Boleyn book coverBarkskins coverLincoln in the Bardo book coverMusic of the GhostsBook of Harlan book coverIsadora book cover