Historical Fiction

The Square of Sevens book cover

The Square of Sevens

Laura Shepherd-Robinson

OverDrive Audiobook
Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction

This "intricately plotted, epic" (The Times, London) international bestseller—in the vein of the vivid novels of Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry—follows an orphaned fortune teller in 18th-century England as she searches for answers about her long-dead mother.Cornwall, 1730: A young girl known only as Red travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient Cornish method of the Square of Sevens. Shortly before he dies, her father entrusts Red's care to a gentleman scholar, along with a document containing the secret of the Square of Sevens technique. Raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendor of Bath, Red's fortune telling delights in high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him? The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red's quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads to grave danger. "Intricate, haunting, and magical by turns, Laura Shepherd-Robinson's tale is an absolute immersive read you won't soon forget" (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author).

Candice's picture

An engrossing account of a young woman finding her way in 17th century England, from plying her trade of reading tarot on the streets and in fair booths, to seeking out the story of her family in the country homes of Bath and Devon. Red (aka Rachel) is at once an intelligent and curious waif, and a cunning teenager who balks at restraints and finds her own strength, as well as her weaknesses, as she grows up. This is a heroine one can root for at the same time they cringe at some of the choices she has to make, or chooses to make. Expertly read, as ever, by Imogen Wilde, who knows how to nail all the voices and dialects. Aimed at adults, but I think older teens would like this as well. -Candice

Night Watch : a novel book cover

Night Watch : a novel

Jayne Anne Phillips

FICTION Phillips Jayne
Historical Fiction

"In 1874, in the wake of the Civil War, eleven-year-old ConaLee and her mother arrive at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia. They're delivered to the hospital's entrance by Papa-an abusive veteran who forces himself into their lives-after ConaLee's mother, who hasn't spoken in a year, grows even more withdrawn. Before he departs, Papa assigns them new identities and demands that ConaLee introduce herself as her mother's nurse-not her daughter-so they'll both be admitted and allowed to stay. There, far from family, their beloved neighbor, Dearbhla, and the home they know, ConaLee will care for her mother and try to reclaim their lives. Years earlier, ConaLee's father left for the war before she was born and never returned. After suffering a life-threatening headwound in battle, he couldn't remember his name, his family, or where he came from. Forced to start over, he takes the name of the doctor who gave him a second life, and ventures back into the world looking for work and the truth about his past"--

Anne M's picture

Longlisted for the National Book Award, Jayne Anne Phillips’ “The Night Watch” is a compelling narrative about one West Virginia family and how the Civil War broke them apart. Phillips lands the reader first in the middle of the foray on a plodding carriage ride to deliver ConaLee and her mother to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. ConaLee's mother hasn't spoken for years, and the man she calls Papa is done. He hands over the younger children to some neighbors, packs up the house, and commits his wife, demanding ConaLee report as her companion and nurse. Phillips pushes and pulls us through the Civil War, how we got to the asylum door, and then moves us onto the consequences, the truths revealed. There were parts of this story that were immersive; the text made my heart race. It is a great read, albeit brutal. -Anne M

North woods : a novel book cover

North woods : a novel

Daniel (Daniel Philippe) Mason

FICTION Mason Daniel
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

"When a pair of young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and nonhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths a mass grave--only to discover that the ancient trees refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister conman, a stalking panther, a lusty beetle: As each inhabitant confronts the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive"--

Anne M's picture

I really enjoy Daniel Mason’s writing. I loved The Winter Soldier. (Now that I think of it, I should read that one again. It’s so good!) But Mason really surprised me with this book. It is refreshing, funny, and a little chaotic. It follows the history of a single piece of land in the woods of western Massachusetts from first contact into the future. It’s the story of the land, the animals that live there, and the house that stands on it and how they change with each generation, but also how each generation is influenced by the land and the house. It is full of these beautiful connections woven throughout the generations—sometimes in completely unexpected ways. One of my favorite parts of the novel are the ghostly ballads written by two twin sisters that are used as interludes between chapters. Yes, this novel is ambitious. And Mason succeeds. -Anne M

My brother's keeper book cover

My brother's keeper

Tim Powers

Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Horror

"This is a ghost story. It is a story about werewolves, and things that go bump in the night. It is a story of an ill-fated land, the pathless moors of Northern England so well chronicled in Wuthering Heights. And it is the story of a real family whose destiny it is to deal with this darkly glamorous and dangerous world. When young Emily Brontë helps a wounded man she finds at the foot of an ancient pagan shrine in the remote Yorkshire moors, her life becomes contentiously entwined with his. He is Alcuin Curzon, embittered member of a sect working to eradicate the resurgent plague of lycanthropy in Europe and northern England. But Emily's father, curate of the Haworth village church, is responsible for having unwittingly brought a demonic werewolf god to Yorkshire forty years ago-and it is taking possession of Emily's beloved but foolish and dissolute brother. Curzon must regard Emily's family as a dire threat. In spite of being at deadly odds, Emily and Curzon find themselves thrown together in fighting werewolves, confronting pagan gods, even saving each other from the lures of moorland demons. And in a final battle that sweeps from the haunted village of Haworth to a monstrous shrine far out on the moors, the two of them must be reluctant allies against an ancient power that seems likely to take their souls as well as their lives" --

Paul's picture

Once again, Powers crafts an engaging, supernatural tale involving well known literary figures, in this case the Bronte sisters. Also thrown into the mix are their father and brother, and the consequences of missteps, misdirection and misdeeds with worldly and other worldly implications. -Paul

The vaster wilds book cover

The vaster wilds

Lauren Groff

FICTION Groff Lauren
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

"A servant girl escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness. She carries nothing with her but her wits, a few possessions, and the spark of god that burns hot within her. What she finds in this terra incognita is beyond the limits of her imagination and will bend her belief in everything that her own civilization has taught her. Lauren Groff's new novel is at once a thrilling adventure story and a penetrating fable about trying to find a new way of living in a world succumbing to the churn of colonialism. The Vaster Wilds is a work of raw and prophetic power that tells the story of America in miniature, through one girl at a hinge point in history, to ask how--and if--we can adapt quickly enough to save ourselves."

Anne M's picture

A lot of “pandemic novels” are coming out right now—at least narratives inspired by or written during the pandemic and everything that happened within that time. They provide a window into what authors were thinking about, working through, or grappling with during the height of the pandemic. Lauren Groff’s thinking was pretty bleak. Her thoughts turned to the “Starving Time” of Jamestown: crops failed, disease flourished, and those that survived ate everything. The narrative centers on a white servant girl, who is called many different names in her short life, and her decision to run away from the colonial settlement and strike out on her own in hopes of finding the French. She is hungry and afraid in the settlement and what is unknown to her beyond the palisade holds better chances for survival. The story follows her during those first few weeks with glimpses into how she found herself on this side of the Atlantic. This survival novel is engrossing, and it takes on quite a few subjects: colonization, land use, 17th century religion, and the oppressively hierarchical structure of English society. But also, what does it mean to be human when you are alone? What does real survival mean? Groff left me with more questions than answers, but good novelists do that. -Anne M

The Golden Doves book cover

The Golden Doves

Martha Hall Kelly

OverDrive eBook
Historical Fiction, LGBTQ+, Suspense

Two former female spies, bound together by their past, risk everything to hunt down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II—a pulse-pounding novel inspired by true events from the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls “Martha Hall Kelly deftly illuminates little-known complexities of the post-war era while painting a vivid portrait of the deep scars and trauma that Holocaust survivors carried.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of Code Name Sapphire American Josie Anderson and Parisian Arlette LaRue are thrilled to be working in the French resistance, stealing so many Nazi secrets that they become known as the Golden Doves, renowned across France and hunted by the Gestapo. Their courage will cost them everything. When they are finally arrested and taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with their loved ones, a reclusive Nazi doctor does unspeakable things to Josie’s mother, a celebrated Jewish singer who joined her daughter in Paris when the world seemed bright. And Arlette’s son is stolen from her, never to be seen again. A decade later the Doves fall headlong into a dangerous dual mission: Josie is working for U.S. Army Intelligence and accepts an assignment to hunt down the infamous doctor, while a mysterious man tells Arlette he may have found her son. The Golden Doves embark on a quest across Europe and ultimately to French Guiana, discovering a web of terrible secrets, and must put themselves in grave danger to finally secure justice and protect the ones they love. Martha Hall Kelly has garnered acclaim for her stunning combination of empathy and research into the stories of women throughout history and for exploring the terrors of Ravensbrück. With The Golden Doves, she has crafted an unforgettable story about the fates of Nazi fugitives in the wake of World War II—and the unsung female spies who risked it all to bring them to justice.

Mykle's picture

These characters are fictional but they went through some real stuff. Simultaneously sad and exciting, I had to put it down a few times but I always came back. -Mykle

Beyond that, the sea book cover

Beyond that, the sea

Laura Spence-Ash

FICTION Spence-Ash, Laura
Historical Fiction

"A sweeping, tenderhearted love story, Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash tells the story of two families living through World War II on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and the shy, irresistible young woman who will call them both her own. As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she'll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she'll stay safe. Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England. As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life-summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea-the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends. Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own. As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love"--

Anne M's picture

I really found this novel captivating. Told from many different points of view, the novel centers on Beatrix, who is sent to the United States as part of a program to evacuate children from London during the Blitz. We hear from her parents as they wring their hands on sending her away, the family in Boston who take her in, and of course, Bea herself. Bea grows up in America, comes of age, and has hopes, triumphs, as well as disappointments. But she has to go back. This is one of those novels that you are unsure what the right course is: does she belong in London or in Boston? What does Bea want? This evacuation has consequences that reverberate through her life and the lives of her family, both paternal and found. -Anne M

The midnight news book cover

The midnight news

Jo Baker

Historical Fiction

"From the best-selling author of Longbourn, a gripping novel of one young woman's unraveling during the Blitz-a story of WWII intrigue, love, and danger. It is 1940 and bombs are falling on London. Watching from her attic window, Charlotte sees enemy planes flying in over the city and her neighbours' homes turning to rubble. Still grieving for her beloved brother who never returned from France, Charlotte has moved away from her overbearing father and built a new life for herself. She works as a typist for the Ministry of Information, rents a room in a ramshackle house, and shares gin and confidences with her best friend, Elena. Every day brings new scenes of devastation, and after each heartbreaking loss Charlotte comes to fear that something-or someone-else is responsible. Who is the shadow man that seems to be following her? Is her mind playing tricks? Her nerves increasingly frayed, she soon finds her very freedom under threat. . . Utterly riveting and hypnotic, The Midnight News is a love story, a war story, and an unforgettable journey into the fragile mind and fierce heart of an extraordinary young woman"--

Anne M's picture

I read a lot of fiction set during World War II. If you like historical fiction, the period is pretty unavoidable. I have never read anything quite like this take on the Blitz. Normally the Brits muddle through this experience in novels (stiff upper lip and all that). They go to work. They meet with friends. They put up their black out curtains. But Jo Baker tosses this narrative right out with this novel. Yes, the main character Charlotte goes to work, meets with friends, and puts up her black out curtains. But she experiences significant psychological distress. She isn't sleeping (who could when the neighborhood is bombed every night?). Her friends and neighbors are dying. And she isn't quite sure her ministry typing job is amounting to any help at all. She starts questioning a great deal and also believes she is being followed--catching the eye of her estranged family. Is it madness or is the Blitz covering for something menacing out there? -Anne M

The postcard book cover

The postcard

Anne Berest

FICTION Berest Anne
Historical Fiction

"Anne Berest's The Postcard is among the most acclaimed and beloved French novels of recent years. Luminous and gripping to the very last page, it is an enthralling investigation into family secrets, a poignant tale of mothers and daughters, and a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life. January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest's maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques--all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga of a family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling that shatters long-held certainties about Anne's family, her country, and herself." --

Anne M's picture

To cut to the chase, I couldn't put this novel down. It is a research mystery about a family past, which I loved. It is also beautifully written. It is also a novel rooted in truth. There really was a postcard and it was really sent to Anne Berest's mother. And Anne Berest and her mother did conduct this family research. But the fictionalized elements fill in the gap of the history that was erased--the stories of Berest's great-grandparents and great aunt and uncle could not pass down. Their memories were extinguished at Auschwitz If you appreciate the role that novels play in showing you something, "The Postcard" is the novel that encapsulates the idea of inherited trauma. -Anne M

The house is on fire book cover

The house is on fire

Rachel Beanland

FICTION Beanland Rachel
Historical Fiction

Richmond, Virginia 1811. It's the height of the winter social season. The General Assembly is in session, and many of Virginia's gentleman planters, along with their wives and children, have made the long and arduous journey to the capital in hopes of whiling away the darkest days of the year. At the city's only theater, the Charleston-based Placide & Green Company puts on two plays a night to meet the demand of a populace that's done looking for enlightenment in a church. On the night after Christmas, the theater is packed with more than six hundred holiday revelers. In the third-floor boxes, sits newly widowed Sally Henry Campbell, who is glad for any opportunity to relive the happy times she shared with her husband. One floor away, in the colored gallery, Cecily Patterson doesn't give a whit about the play but is grateful for a four-hour reprieve from a life that has recently gone from bad to worse. Backstage, young stagehand Jack Gibson hopes that, if he can impress the theater's managers, he'll be offered a permanent job with the company. And on the other side of town, blacksmith Gilbert Hunt dreams of one day being able to bring his wife to the theater, but he'll have to buy her freedom first. When the theater goes up in flames in the middle of the performance, Sally, Cecily, Jack, and Gilbert make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.

Anne M's picture

Rachel Beanland got some buzz for her “Florence Adler Swims Forever.” Her second historical fiction novel is set in 1811 and follows four people who survive the Great Richmond Theatre Fire. There is Sally, the daughter of Patrick Henry who is recently widowed and grieving for her husband, Cecily an enslaved woman in an impossible situation, Jack a young stagehand who is looking for a career as an actor, and Gilbert, a blacksmith working extra hard to buy his freedom as well as his wife’s. These people end up getting caught in this horrific tragic event—and there are severe consequences as well as new opportunities that each person is handed in survival. I will say the first quarter of the book is grim and deals with death and mayhem as we see through the character’s eyes what it takes to survive. I needed some breaks while reading it. It is haunting. -Anne M