20 More of My Favorite Historical Fiction Novels

I tend to read A LOT of historical fiction; in fact I shared a list of 15 of my favorite WWI and WWII historical fiction novels back in March of 2020.  But I have a lot more books to add to my list of favorites-- some still keeping with the WWI and WWII theme but I have been branching out to other areas of history as well.  



1.The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline-I first learned about the orphan trains while studying the great depression with the boys and I was intrigued by this period of American history.   This historical fiction book came with pages in the back showing actual photos of the orphan train, their posters advertising them, and a few of the children who rode on them.  The story of the book focuses on a young foster girl sentenced to community service helping an elderly lady clean out her attic.  Through cleaning the reader learns of the old woman's experiences with the orphan train.  The two form an unlikely friendship.



2. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys--  I never knew anything about life in Franco controlled Spain.  Daniel is an 18 year old  aspiring photojournalist who accompanies his mother and father to Spain during Franco's dictatorship.  Through his camera lens he sees more than most tourists.  Ana works at the hotel where Daniel is staying and her family is suffering in this troubling time but they do their best to keep working hoping for some way out of poverty.



3. The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner--  This was such a fabulous book. I read the whole thing in under 24 hours.  When Sophie responds to an add as a mail order bride she gets more than she bargained for.  Martin seems like the perfect husband but one night before the great San Francisco earthquake & fire of 1906 Sophie's new world comes crashing down.  Part historical fiction part mystery it was a wonderfully woven tale.



4. The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin-- I really enjoyed this historical fiction novel about the Children's Blizzard of 1888.  I had never heard of this freak storm that blasted the great plains out of nowhere that killed more than 200 people.  It was such a sad and moving story. 



5. Along the Broken Bay by Flora J. Solomon-- Another historical fiction novel; I found that once the story got going I just could not put it down.  While this is a World War II novel this one was quite different from any others I have read.  Taking place on the Philippine Islands mainly around the capital city Manila the central story revolved around Gina.  Gina is a wealthy American living the good life in Manila when the Japanese army attack just days after Pearl Harbor.  With her husband working on a nearby island, Gina is on her own. The army quickly invades and takes over and Gina, her daughter, and her friends are forced to flee and hide or be taken into camps because they are American. Joining a team of resistance fighters, Gina is smuggled back into Manila under an assumed name and identity where she opens a nightclub to spy on the Japanese and raise funds for the guerilla armies.  



6. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes-- I loved this historical fiction novel about the packhorse librarians of Kentucky.  I never knew that packhorse librarians were a thing set up by Elanor Roosevelt as part of the WPA.



7. City of Thieves by David Benioff-- Two boys who have been arrested in Russia during the war are given the option to try and find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding to save themselves from certain death.



8. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa-- Another fabulous World War II historical fiction written in two time frames.  Hannah and her family are fleeing Germany before the start of World War II and Anna is searching for clues about her father's family since her father died before she was born.  The two find themselves meeting in Cuba and find that their stories are interwoven.  I loved reading all the notes in the back about which parts were based on real life occurrences-- I didn't know much about Cuba's role during this time.



9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate--  I was simply stunned when I learned that this book was loosely based on a real- life American scandal; a Memphis based adoption organization that kidnapped poor white children and sold them to wealthy families.  The story takes us through the life of 12 year old Rill who was taken, along with her 4 siblings, into foster care one morning during the Great Depression while her parents were at the hospital. Avery Stafford, a present day daughter of a South Carolina state representative starts unraveling her family's history



10.A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute-- I was surprised that I had never heard of this book when I saw that it was on the Mensa reading list for high school.  I really enjoyed the different writing style and the easy to follow story.  A solicitor is hired to write up a trust for an old client of the firm.  By the time the client passes the solicitor has to track down the only remaining heir; Jean. Jean was held as a prisoner of war in Malaya and wants to return to a town there that she remembers in order to build a well.  While she is there to build the well she discovers a man she befriended during the war did not actually die like everyone thought and follows the trail to Australia, eventually helping a small town thrive by setting up a few small businesses to that it becomes a town like Alice.  Part love story/ part historical fiction it was a really good story. 



11. The Latest Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin (also called The Last Collection)-- Another historical fiction novel with a big spotlight on fashion that I just adored.  It took me a bit longer to read through it but only because I kept Googling things as I was reading (famous names and places and what they looked like in the time period, styles of dresses and hats mentioned, etc).  Told in a few different voices and timelines this story was mainly set in Paris between the two World Wars, on the cusp of the second, as Schiaparelli was enjoying a rise to stardom in the fashion world rivaling Chanel.  The two were rivals and had such vastly different fashion ideals.  I really want to read Schiaparelli's autobiography now and learn more about these fascinating women that each played a role in WWII.



12. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn-- Kate Quinn writes some fabulous historical fiction novels and I really enjoyed this one too!  Three women with nothing in common end up working in Bletchley Park in England during WWII trying to break codes.  They form an unlikely friendship until something tears them apart and one of them end up in an insane asylum for years.  Told in alternating time lines from the time they start working at the Park and from just a few days before Queen Elizabeth's wedding in 1947 when the three are reunited through a mystery coded letter stating that there had been a spy in their midst.  I really enjoyed this book and found that by the last 100 or so pages I just could not put it down! 



13. Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee-- Velora Luck sneaks onto the Titanic and through a series of events, she finds herself living both in first class and spending time with her brother and his friends in 3rd class. I loved this story and found myself rooting for Velora and her friends despite knowing how the story must end-- with the sinking of the Titanic.  I highly recommend this young adult novel about the Titanic.



14. I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys-- I just LOVE Ruta's books and this one about a boy turned spy in Communist controlled Romania sucked me right in from the very first chapter.  Never knowing anything about what Romania was like under Nicolae Ceausescu's rule my heart ached for Cristian and his family and so many of the impossible choices they were faced with. It was a very moving and powerful historical fiction. 



15. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn-- Even though this book is over 400 pages; I read the entire thing in just under 2 days.  It was so good! Mila is a student with the aims of being a historian and building a better life for her son.  Then when Hitler's army invades her country she signs up and hones her sharpshooting skills to become a famous sniper called Lady Death.  She ends up being sent on a goodwill ambassador trip to the U.S. where she becomes friends with Eleanor Roosevelt.  Told in two alternating timelines I thought it was a compelling story.



16. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah-- Set during of The Great Depression, Elsa and her family are struggling to hold onto their farm with drought, dust storms, and financial troubles all around them. When they finally decide to flee the state in hopes of finding a better life in California they are already much changed.  Finding themselves unwanted in a state overrun with refugees they become squatters and cotton pickers and day laborers treated as second class citizens struggling to survive.  A very powerful and moving story that left me in tears.  Be warned though-- it is about the great depression and it really did live up to it's name. I found this book so depressing... but I still loved it.  Nothing has ever painted such a perfect picture for me of just how long these hardships lasted and what so many hard working American's had to go through just to stay alive. 



17. Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris-Like most books written about the concentration camps of World War II this book was very intense at times.  Lale becomes the tattooist of both Birkenau and Auschwitz and vows to take note of all that is happening around him so that he can survive and make sure that the SS officers and those in charge will one day pay for what they did.  Based on Lale's and Gita's (his wife's) true life story.



18. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee-- My mom gave me this book to read and I was so happy to see that it was by the same author as Luck of the Titanic (which I enjoyed a lot!). This book did take a bit of work to get into but then I really enjoyed it a lot.  Set in Atlanta, GA in the 1890's, 17 year old Jo is a ladies maid. Unhappy with her life and the treatment of those around her she starts writing an advice column in the local paper called "Dear Miss Sweetie." Her column grows in popularity and sparks opposition from people who are determined to unearth the truth behind the writing. At the same time as all this is going on, Jo is working to uncover the mystery of who her parents are and what debt her "uncle" who has raised her from birth has to repay.  With a slow start this book really picked up and had me turning pages quickly to see how everything resolved. 



19. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio-- This was such a sweet story! Anne and her friend Kitty have just finished nursing school and are at odds with what to do when so many of their contemporaries are heading off to war or getting married and setting up house.  They decide to join the Army Nurse Corps and are sent to Bora Bora.  Their time on the island will change them completely and set their lives on different paths.  I really enjoyed this part romance, part historical fiction novel a lot. 



20. The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel-- I had no idea how much I was going to love this book until I began reading... it was the most touching story.  Hope is struggling to raise her daughter Annie after her divorce while running her family's struggling bakery after the death of her mother and the slow decline of her grandmother with Alzheimer's.  In short Hope feels like she is drowning and is completely out of hope.  One lucid evening her grandmother hands Hope a list of names and implores her to go to Paris and find what happened to these people.  At first Hope balks at the thought of dropping everything to head to Paris but slowly she begins to unravel a family secret her grandmother has been holding onto for more than 70 years.  Secrets that find Hope questioning everything she ever thought she knew about her grandparents, about who she is herself, about love, and even about life.  It certainly didn't hurt that lots of yummy recipes were sprinkled throughout the book. 



You can look back at my old favorites here-- all of which I still LOVE! 


Linking up with:










Comments

  1. Thanks for compiling this. I'm not sure that I've read a single book on this list but I've read several good books by authors who wrote the books that you mention here. I'm always on the lookout for more good books to read.

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  2. I love historical fiction and have only read The Giver of Stars. Adding the rest of these to my library list!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

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    1. I love historical fiction too. I feel like I've learned more history through them than all my years of schooling!

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  3. Oh very interesting list- thanks so much for sharing- Happy Friday!

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  4. I've read 6 of these. You should know that The Tattooist of Auschwitz was said to not be historically accurate by the family it was written about.

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    1. Oh I did not know that; thank you, that is good to know.

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  5. I haven't read any of these, but several of them are already on my list!

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    1. Oh those lists... they get so long don't they?!

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  6. We had to read 'A Town Like Alice' for school. But that was such a long time ago that I couldn't remember what it was about until your recap jogged my memory!
    Ruth@playworkeatrepeat

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    1. I had never heard of it! But I really enjoyed it.

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  7. I found many of my favorites on your list. I haven't thought about A Town Like Alice in a long time, I loved it.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. I couldn't believe I had never heard of it before. I happened to do a Goodreads search for books on Mensa reading list and came across it.

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  8. This is a fabulous list. I read 'A Town Like Alice' over 40 years ago. Although I have not reread it since, it is amazing how much of that story has stayed with me. Definitely the sign of an incredible book!

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  9. Between this list and the WWII list, you have shared some of my favorite books. So many great titles set during WWII or written as historical fiction. I am listening to The Dressmakers of Auschwitz. Haunting.

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    1. I don't even think I've heard of that one! I'll have to check it out.

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  10. I love historical fiction! I've read a few on your list and a few I had wondered about--great post!!!

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  11. Oh some great suggestions! I have requested The Orphan Train and The Giver of Stars from my library. Cannot wait to dig in! Have you read the Darling Dahlias? These books were my first introduction to historical fiction and I really love them! They take place in a small southern town during the Great Depression.

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    1. I have not but I will definitely look into them; thanks for the suggestion!

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  12. I enjoy historical fiction especially around WWII but you have suggested several other books I would be interested in. I live in Australia and would you believe I've never read 'A Town Like Alice'? I have 'The Giver of Stars' downloaded so thanks for the reminder. It is great that you have joined us for What's On Your Bookshelf? and shared the books you have been reading. I look forward to you joining us next month. x

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    1. Thank you! I definitely plan on joining in-- so far March has been a great reading month!

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  13. What interesting sounding books. I love the sound of the one about Titanic.

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    1. That was a really neat one and a fairly quick read too.

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  14. I Don’t read near enough historical fiction and I need to, some of these sound great!

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    1. I find that most historical fiction novels stick with me longer than traditional chick lit books as they tend to be a bit meatier and make me think of what it was really like to live through that.

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  15. The Sweetness of Forgetting sounds like my kind of book. I'm a Kate Quinn fan so it was good to see these on your list. It was also cool to see A Town Like Alice. Thanks for linking up.

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    1. The Sweetness of Forgetting is a great one!

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  16. Okay, so I've read #1. 9. 16 and 17. I am totally adding the rest to my list.
    I don't know if you know this but AZ was a cotton state too, and we got to see the bags they used from book #16...it really pushed it home how hard it was.
    XOXO
    Jodie

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    1. My grandmother brought home a small portion of a cotton plant and those plants are so ornery to work with; I felt so bad for all those cotton pickers.

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  17. I really enjoyed the Diamond Eye. It was definitely a different book...who thinks of a woman sniper. And, she was a real woman which made it even better!

    https://marshainthemiddle.com/

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    1. Yes, I thought so too! I love reading books based on real life people.

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  18. I love a good historical fiction book!

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  19. So many good reads here Joanne, thanks for sharing as this is one of my favourite genres.

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  20. I have loved all of Ruta's books.

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  21. I love historical books but usually gravitate to the medieval times period up to the 1800's. However I'd love to read several of these, I did read one of the books you mentioned here and it was a good read. I agree that I too learn more about history from reading novels than anything I learned in History class.

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    1. I used to read a lot more medieval and renaissance history but more and more I've been trying to find other time periods to read about.

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  22. Hi Joanne ... somehow I just arrived here and had to smile because I just a few weeks ago I did a post on historical fiction writers. It was just meant to be, right?!
    http://www.lindastoll.net/2023/02/4-historical-fiction-writers-i-think.html

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    1. Awesome! I will definitely be checking that out.

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  23. Joanne! What an ambitious post! I'm working on a round up and feeling very overwhelmed, so you encouraged me to persevere!

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  24. I'm visiting from Linda Stoll's. I love historical fiction. I just started The Nature of Fragile Things this morning. I loved Before We Were Yours. Have you ever read Rosanna M. White or Melanie Dobson? They are two of my favorites.

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    1. I have not heard of either of those authors before; thank you so much for the suggestions!

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