Monday, 10 March 2014

TBR | Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres, but I still don't feel like I read enough of it. I've compiled a list here, in no particular order, of the Historical Fiction books that I really need to tick off my TBR list!

by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...

Six of the books on this list are waiting to be read on my shelves: Fingersmith is one of them.

I stumbled across Sarah Waters and her novels in the latter half of last year, and since stumbling across them I've been itching to read something of hers and just haven't gotten round to it. I now own four of her books: Fingersmith; Affinity; The Night Watch and The Little Stranger. Fingersmith is one of the books I mentioned in my 2014 Booket List, and I'm hoping to finally pick it up over Easter!

by Hilary Mantel

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell - a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

Like Sarah Waters, Hilary Mantel is another author whose work I have yet to read but really want to! I've heard nothing but amazing things about this book, the first in a trilogy about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, and I managed to find myself a copy a couple of weeks ago for just £1.50 - bargain!

I'm hoping to read and enjoy this book this year, that way I can get my hands on the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, and read that in time for the release of the third and final book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, next year.

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

If there's one thing I know I haven't read enough of, it's books about books. The Shadow of the Wind is another book that I've heard only good things about, and another of the books on this list that I own. In fact I've owned it for quite a while now, so I really should read it soon.

I know very little about Spanish history, and practically nothing about the Spanish Civil War; the only experience with the Spanish Civil War I have is with the way it's presented in Pan's Labyrinth, so I'm hoping this book will teach me a little more!

by Sharon Penman

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love.

Similarly, I know practically nothing about Welsh history either!

Now that my parents live in Wales I'm trying to read more books that are either set in Wales, translated from Welsh or written by Welsh authors. I don't think I read enough Welsh fiction, and this book really interests me; I'm not always the biggest fan of reading Historical Fiction that revolves around real people, but before finding this book in a charity shop I'd never even heard of Joan of Wales or Llywelyn the Great, so I'm looking forward to learning something new!

by Hannah Kent

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard. 

I've been wanting a copy of this book since its release, and even though there's now a more affordable paperback copy available I'd much rather own a pretty hardback, so I just have to wait a little longer until I've read enough of the books already waiting on my shelves - otherwise I'd buy a copy and not get around to it for a while.

What interests me most about this book is that it's based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, an Icelandic woman who was beheaded on 12th January, 1830. She was the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy later this year!

by Celia Rees

England, 1783. When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn't sitting for portraits, she's donning a man's cloak and robbing travelers in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travelers fear. Spies abound, and rumors of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England's most powerful and dangerous men, it's not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father. A dazzling historical saga in which the roles of thieves and gentry, good and bad, and men and women are interchanged to riveting effect.

I have a lot to thank Celia Rees for, because she's the writer who first got me into Historical Fiction during my early teens when I read Pirates! and Witch Child. Since then I've also read Sorceress, but I've yet to read any of her other novels.

I haven't really read any novels that take place in the 18th century, I usually tend to read novels set in the 14th-17th centuries, but I'm looking forward to this read! Considering I've always found the idea of Highwaymen/women interesting I haven't read a lot about them, so that will have to change soon.

by Eva Ibbotson

Twenty-year-old Ruth Berger is desperate. The daughter of a Jewish-Austrian professor, she was supposed to have escaped Vienna before the Nazis marched into the city. Yet the plan went completely wrong, and while her family and fiancé are waiting for her in safety, Ruth is stuck in Vienna with no way to escape. Then she encounters her father’s younger college professor, the dashing British paleontologist Quin Sommerville. Together, they strike a bargain: a marriage of convenience, to be annulled as soon as they return to safety. But dissolving the marriage proves to be more difficult than either of them thought...

Like Celia Rees, Eva Ibbotson was another writer who coaxed me into Historical Fiction during my early teens when I read A Company of Swans, which, like Witch Child, is one of my favourite books that I read as a teenager.

Ibbotson has the loveliest writing style, it's relaxing and pretty, and she doesn't write what I would call 'frightening' Historical Fiction. If Historical Fiction is a genre that intimidates you then I think she's a great author to start with, though if you prefer fast-paced novels you might be better of starting off with something else.

The Morning Gift is, I believe, Ibbotson's most well known Teen/YA novel, and I've owned my copy for a while now. I have a soft spot for storylines that involve a marriage of convenience, so I think I'm going to enjoy this one when I get around to it.

by Deborah Swift

1660. King Charles II has returned from exile, but memories of the English Civil War still rankle. There are old scores to settle, and religious differences threaten to overturn a fragile peace. When Alice Ibbetson discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a wood belonging to Richard Wheeler, she is captivated by its beauty— though Wheeler, a Quaker, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. Knowing that the orchid is the last of its kind, she steals the flower, little dreaming that her seemingly simple act will set off a chain of events that will lead to murder and exile, and change her life forever…

This is one of the books I don't own yet, but I'm hoping to pick up a copy of it soon!

I really want to read this book not only because it sounds like a great story, but also because I was lucky enough to meet Deborah Swift at the end of last year. She completed her Creative Writing MA at the same university where I'm currently studying; we talked about the writing process and the publishing industry for a little while and she was lovely! You can find her website here if you'd like to find out more about her and her books.

by Robin LaFevers

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

I have to wait until November for the release of this book, the third book in the His Fair Assassin series. I read both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph earlier this year and enjoyed them both a lot, so I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!

by C. J. Sansom

1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill's Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government's side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined. And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . .

This last book is a little different from the others in that it's actually an Alternate History novel, set in a bleak, German-occupied Britain following Nazi Germany's victory in WWII.

Naturally, rebellion is brewing, and I love a good rebellion story. Not only that, but C. J. Sansom is also the author of the Shardlake series, a Historical Crime series set in Tudor England, which just so happens to be one of my favourite series. Other than that series, however, I have yet to read any of Sansom's other novels, so I'm excited to read this one!

I hope you've found something on this list that interests you, whether you read Historical Fiction or not, and if you are familiar with any of the books mentioned here feel free to tell me which one you think I should read first!

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