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by Mo Amiri April 19, 2021
Are you new to the historical fiction literary genre? In this video, Grace is going to share 6 book recommendations, 3 tips and 3 anticipated releases in 2021 that will help you go from a beginner to reading more historical fictions books in no time.
Hi, it's Grace! Welcome or welcome back to Emposia's channel. Today, I'm going to be talking about historical fiction and recommending some historical fiction books, specifically for people who think they don't like historical fiction.
I think there are actually so many things unique to the genre that make it really really brilliant. I have 6 books to recommend that are sort of an entryway into historical fiction as well as things to look out for in books that might just make it a little bit easier for you.
So first of all, I think if you're starting out in historical fiction, a really good idea is to pick a time period that isn't quite so far away. I can see why reading something set in 1491 might be scary, but how about something set in the 1960s or the 1970s? For this, I have 2 books to recommend.
One is Daisy Jones and the 6 by Taylor Jenkins Reid. So, this is a fictional oral history about this band, who was super famous in the 1970s, but then split up under kind of mysterious circumstances. The way it's told, in this kind of oral history style, makes it really easy to read and really gripping because you're getting things straight from the character's mouth, and the 1970s is evoked so well.
You get a kind of faded glamour feel of California, these big parties, these big tours. I think it's a good kind of bridge into historical fiction because we're very familiar still with bands and concerts and famous people, but it also has a really unique feel to it because a lot of what's happening is very kind of specific to the 1970s.
Another reason this is a good bridge book is because it has a dual timeline so half of it is historical fiction. It's people talking about when they were in the 1970s, but then there's also a modern timeline.
That's something that The Girls by Emma Cline also does. So, this book is set in the 1960s and it follows a young girl , called Evie Boyd, who basically gets mixed up in a cult. She is a high school student. Her parents are divorced and they're not really around that summer. She's feeling very disillusioned, and so when she meets this kind of glamorous group of people, who live on a commune and are all about rejecting society, she gets drawn in very quickly, but as we find out it's not quite as happy in lovey-dovey as they would claim, and actually this cult will go on to do some pretty terrible things.
So like Daisy Jones and the Six, this has two timelines. We have Evie when she's 14 in the 1960s, getting mixed up in this cult, and then we have Evie, in the present day, who is kind of reflecting on what happened.
My second way of getting into historical fiction is to pick a historical mystery, historical thriller. The great thing about thrillers and mysteries is that they're so compulsive. As soon as you're hooked into that mystery, it's impossible to put them down, and so regardless of what the time period is, when you're hooked you're hooked.
So the first book I want to recommend that is a historical ghost story is The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
So this is set post world war ii. So again, it isn't too far away. And we're following a doctor who lives in a small English village, and he's asked to attend a big house where the kind of rich family lives because one of the adult children has started acting strangely; weird things are happening.
So the doctor is brought into the house, but soon he realizes there might not be anything medical he can help with because more and more weird and ghostly things start happening.
And I don't want to tell you any more other than to say this book is addictive. This is so gripping I couldn't put it down one night, which was a mistake because then i was the most scared i've ever been and couldn't sleep.
If you think historical fiction books are kind of dry and dusty, you won't think that if you read The Little Stranger.
Similarly, but a little bit more in the past, we're pushing ourselves out of the box is The Confessions of Franny Langston by Sara Collins.
So in this book we follow Frannie Langton, who is a young girl from Jamaica. She was a slave brought over to England by her master, and serves as a servant for a very rich married couple. At the start of the book, we know that Frannie is in prison for killing one of the couple although at the start we're not really sure who has died. And so as you're reading it, you're constantly second guessing: did she do it, did she not? Who even died?
I think that's one of my favorite tropes in thrillers is when you don't even know who the victim is, never mind who the perpetrator is. This is 1826, so it's set in Regency Era London, really really evocative of London as well as of Jamaica.
And i think another reason this is great, if you're a bit newer to the genre, is that although it is historical and set hundreds of years ago, Frannie is such a compelling character. She's very recognizable as a protagonist and a lot of the things that she's going through, struggling with her identity and with her place in the world, are kind of timeless.
So my third tip is to pick something that kind of hinges on a historical event that you don't know much about or that adds a new perspective to it.
So for this, I wanted to recommend How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang. This is set in the kind of post Gold Rush Era of America, so kind of around the 1860s. And we're following a brother and sister, who come from Chinese immigrant parents, as they travel across the kind of deserted West.
So the gold rush is a period of history that, you know, a lot of books have been written about, but this adds such an interesting perspective because, mainly, we're following a young woman and a young Chinese-American woman, and so everything you might think you know about the Western genre is really flipped on its head.
This is a beautifully written, almost magical realist, book. It's very much about family and belonging and home. We get a lot of information about how our main character's parents came to be in America from China. There was a lot of stuff that I had no idea about and i was so so fascinated by Lucy's story.
Similarly, i want to recommend Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, one of my favorite books of all time. This book is set during world war ii, which i feel is a very well trodden area for historical fiction, and something that i tend to avoid, but this book looks specifically at the Italian occupation of Greece.
So it's set on a beautiful Greek island called Cephalonia, and we follow a young girl who lives with her father who's the doctor on the island, and the romance that blossoms between her and an Italian soldier called Captain Corelli. Like i say, I don't usually like reading about world war ii, but i had no idea about the Italian occupation of Greece, and so the historical things in here were actually really really fascinating to me, but it's also just a really beautiful kind of a romance, kind of like an island life story. It's a lot about family. It's a lot about music.
It's so beautiful and heartwarming, and if you can make it through this book without crying, let me know because i don't think you can. So there are my six recommendations as a little entryway into historical fiction.
I also wanted to quickly talk about what I think are the most anticipated historical fiction releases of this year.
So one is The Prophets by Robert Jones JR. You've probably seen this book already. It has been absolutely everywhere. It's getting a lot of prize buzz. I've only seen good reviews of it. Actually have that one on my shelf, so I'll be picking it up soon.
Also Outlawed by Anna North, and this again is a cowboy book. It's a western
set in the 1800s, but it's about a young girl and it is shaking up the genre.
And finally, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. This is set in the 1930s in Texas. Kristin Hannah is basically queen of historical fiction. I think you could probably ignore all of my recommendations , although please don't, and pick up any of her books as a great place to start.
We'll see you in the next video.
Bye! -Grace, Emposia Book Club.
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Mo Amiri is the 20 - something founder of Emposia, a growing community where your passion for books and blankets can run wild. Part of what he does is write guides for the Bibliophile who enjoys the smell of a good book as much as its contents. And in his free time, he enjoys writing about himself in third person. Connect with him via the comments below or on IG (@emposiablankets).