Saturday, January 12, 2013

Novel Escapes Historical Fiction Faves

In honour of Cathy Marie Buchanan's latest release, The Painted Girls, Novel Escapes is celebrating by sharing our favourite historical fiction. We each had to pick one. It wasn't easy. Some of us read wide ranges of novels, while some of us typically only read select genres. Some of us have had one such favourite for over twenty years while some of us have newer faves. There is so much to choose from! Check out the Novel Escapes Historical Fiction Faves!


I first read Pillars of the Earth when I was sixteen. I've read it at least a dozen times since. In addition to falling in love with this novel, I absolutely adored the mini-series produced in 2010. Ken Follet is a master of character, plot and historical detail. Full of intrigue, mystery, murder, politics, religion and romance (swoon!), this one isn't for the faint at heart at over a thousand pages, but it's worth every second.

As a new age dawns in England's twelfth century, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal. It is in this rich tapestry, where kings and queens are corrupt - and one majestic creation will bond them forever.


Although I read Year of Wonders years ago I am still impacted by its' intensity and the haunting, horrific images it created. The plot surrounds the spread of the plague of 1665-1666 in England to one village of Eyam but in simply reading Brooks’ story it was like watching events unfold in front of me. The almost daily changes occurring to families with people passing and orphaned children, the survivors having to take on more and more roles as more people passed- all were simply told but left a huge impact on me and Brooks has written an incredible novel.

When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

When I was first asked to come up with my favourite historical novel my thoughts immediately went to Elizabethan England as that's my favourite historical period. I surprised myself when I realized that I haven't actually read many novels based in that time period. After jotting down several titles to add to my to read list, I came up with another favourite that is completely different - and I think that's why I liked it so much. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a book that took me awhile to pick up because I didn't think I would find it interesting. Once I started reading it though, I couldn't put it down. Stockett provides a voice for the African American maids in 1960s Mississippi and writes an entertaining and enlightening novel while doing so.
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

I have selected The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved this book because it was set in the South which is an area of the world that I find so intensely interesting. I am always drawn to coming of age tales and this is definitely one that was masterfully written. I just adore the author's writing style. It is so easy to get into and I just devoured this book!
When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the town's most vicious racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.
My favorite historical fiction novel is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. It's the account of two sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn as they both vie to become Queen and marry Henry VIII. It's a riveting novel with many story lines that is a must read! 
Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her familys ambitious plots as the kings interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

1 comment:

  1. I love "Pillars of the Earth" and I'll check out the other books - my own favourite historical fiction book must be "The Crimson Petal and the White" by Michel Faber.



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