Historical Fiction

 

 A+

 

DUMAS, Alexandre   

The Count of Monte Cristo    1844

Huge (common) and coherent (rare) epic; Tolkienesque scope, Shakespearian setting

 

 

A

 

 

CLARKE, Susanna    

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell     2004    Fantasy / Historical Fiction

      A triumph – plotting, pacing, characters, tone, faery, historical fiction, interplay, humour, tragedy – really enjoyable book.

 

HESSE, Hermann      

Siddhartha     1922

Beautifully readable fictional presentation of the life and enlightenment of Siddhartha

 

MITCHELL, David

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet   2010    Historical Fiction

Ably integrated research, rich characters, interesting plot lines, satisfying and engaging from start to finish

 

O’BRIAN, Patrick

The Fortune Of War (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 6) 1979    Historical Fiction/Action

Thoroughly enjoyable

 

PÉREZ-REVERTE, Arturo    

The Fencing Master   1999 (trans.)    Historical Fiction/Crime

Sophisticated. Stunning climax

 

 

 A-

 

DUMAS, Alexandre   

The Three Musketeers     1844

Action, flawed but heroic personalities, fascinating alternate historical values

 

ELTON, Ben   

The First Casualty           2005    Historical Fiction/Crime

Alternate political characters enhance rather than overwhelm WW1 crime story

 

O’BRIAN, Patrick 

Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 1)     1970    Historical Fiction/Action

Impressive sense of another (intriguing) time, people and place

 

Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 2)     1972    Historical Fiction/Action

Engaging and fascinating characters, settings and action

 

Treason's Harbour (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 9)  1983    Historical Fiction/Action

Exotic locations and people, interesting twists of plot, fascinating historical perspectives, and all within an utterly satisfying frame

 

 

 B+

 

BARKER, Pat 

Regeneration 1991    Novel/War/Historical Fiction

Insightful WW1 profiles from well researched imagined psychological counselling sessions with the ‘shell-shocked’

 

HARRIS, Robert  

Fatherland      1992    Thriller / Historical Fiction

Filmic clichés, but able characterisation and pacing never sacrificed to novel Nazi hook

 

KEILLOR, Garrison   

Lake Wobegon Days 1985    Short Stories/Historical Fiction/Humour

Nostalgic, languid, imaginative, warm, whimsical, indulgently tangental

 

McINTYRE, Vonda N.

The Moon and the Sun    1997    Historical Fiction/SF

Cleverly evoked ‘What If’ SF/French court romance hybrid. Condescending historical revisionism

 

O’BRIAN, Patrick 

HMS Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 3)    1973    Historical Fiction/Action

Impressive weaving of professional and private lives in breathing detailed historical context

 

The Ionian Mission (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 8) 1981    Historical Fiction/Action

Keeps up the high standard

 

The Far Side of the Word (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 10) 1984    Historical Fiction/Action

More extremes of luck in this episode, but much was out of your control in the open sea

 

The Reverse of the Medal (Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 11)       1986    Historical Fiction/Action

Just keeps on delivering the goods, extraordinary

 

VIDAL, Gore   

Creation    1981

5th Century BC celebrities. Scholarly, able, but hardly a page turner

 

WILLIS, Connie

Doomsday Book 1992    SF / Historical Fiction

Two concurrent storylines: one mired in triviality and stereotype; the other powerful and affecting

 

 B

 

AUEL, Jean M.    

The Clan of the Cave Bear    1980

Epic around a Homo sapiens heroine raised by Neanderthals

 

BROOKS, Geraldine

People of the Book    2008    Novel/Historical Fiction

Clever enough idea competently realised – but not really for me

 

DOYLE, Arthur Conan          

Sir Nigel    1906

The 14th century semi-quixotic adventures of a starry-eyed teen gaining knighthood

 

DUMAS, Alexandre   

The Black Tulip    1850

Melodramatic romance, skulduggery thwarted at the 11th hour

 

 KENEALLY, Thomas

The Playmaker     1987

Time and setting overwhelm characters

 

KENT, Alexander      

The Flag Captain 1971

Adventure on the high seas. Not Patrick O’Brian, but not bad either

 

McEWAN, Ian

Atonement     2001     Novel/Historical Fiction

Too much setup, evocative war scenes, dubious dénouement

 

O’BRIAN, Patrick

The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey/Maturin, Book 16)    1993

Still good, but perhaps more one for the fans

 

PETERS, Ellis

The Leper of Saint Giles  1981    Crime/Historical Fiction

Competent medieval whodunit

 

SETON, Anya      

Katherine 1954

Dramatisation of common girl’s actual rise to mistress then wife of a 14th C. Duke

 

SMITH, Wilbur     

The Sound of Thunder (Sean Courtney series)   1966    Action/Historical Fiction

Engaging Boer war action, dubious ‘heroic’ character

 

TUROW, Scott          

Ordinary Heroes         2006    Historical Fiction (WW2)

Unconvinced by the frame, but some powerful characters and battle accounts

 

 

 B-

 

CORNWALL, Bernard

Sharpe’s Company    1982    Historical Fiction/War

Authentic Napoleonic wars props and setting; absurd pantomime characters

 

FITZSIMONS, Peter   

Batavia      2012    Historical Fiction

A bit pointless: poor fictional elements impede the fascinating non-fictional ones

 

PÉREZ-REVERTE, Arturo

Captain Alatriste 1996 (trans. M.S. Peden, 2005)     Historical Fiction/Action

Disappointing: more jingoism than intelligent historical action

 

 C+

 

WOLFE, Gene     

Soldier of the Mist     1986

Unusual, based around several interesting ideas but rarely gripping

 

 C

 

DAVIS, Lindsay   

Scandal Takes a Holiday 2004     Crime/Historical Fiction

Some OK research maybe, but overwhelmed by contemporary cliché characters and glib voice

 

 C–

 

GATISS, Mark

The Vesuvius Club    2004    Historical Fiction/Humour

Farcical Moore-type Bond characters and plot; obscenity overdressed in big words

 

TURTELTAUB, H.N.      

The Gryphon’s Skull (Hellenic Traders #2)    1975    Historical Fiction

Typical B-grade fantasy style characters: supposedly rough, capable, worldly commercial sailors in a dangerous trade talk like high schoolers