Books captivate and suck you in, surrounding you with the world they’ve created. The actions, thoughts, feelings and emotions that play out on the pages are rewarding and fulfilling in a way that few things can be. And to top it all off, they’re good for your brain. Historical fiction especially is capable of really drawing you in and thrusting you into the story. All you have to do is open the book and instead of being at The Gardens at Barry Road, you’re in Henry VII’s court or the Roman Empire. While any book that covers a specific person or time period in history that you are particularly interested in is a good choice, these five books bring history alive and are a great place to start exploring history in a new way.
The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of Mary and Anne Boleyn, who were a mistress and wife of Henry VIII respectively. The book tells the historical events surrounding a portion of the reign of Henry VIII of England but from the perspective of the Boleyn sisters.
The Other Boleyn Girl is an excellent way to immerse yourself in history. While it’s a fictional account of events, it’s still grounded in real events and can help educate as well as entertain. Good historical fiction tells unique stories pitted against very real situations in history and can give you an entirely new perspective on historical events. The Other Boleyn Girl does this very well.
Imagine being suddenly transported back in time 200 years to a time you’re only familiar with from textbooks. Outlander is an interesting read because much like the main character, you are transported to a time in the past and get to see how life was back then. The story centers around a former combat nurse in World War II who gets transported to the Scottish Highlands in 1743. While that might sound a bit fantastical, the story really delves into the life of the time. There are other elements like love and the clashes between Scotland and England of the time, but the heart of the story is the time period.
War and Peace is widely regarded as a masterpiece of historical fiction. However, there’s so much accurate historical detail, the book blurs the lines between history and fiction. Tolstoy used real dates, events and people to chronicle the French Invasion of Russia as lived by five separate families of the era. The result is an epic novel that brings history alive by blending the fiction narrative with the realities of actual events. The story draws you in and plunges you into the world that is Russian nobility during the Napoleonic wars.
Most people are familiar with the name King Arthur. Arthurian legends have always been a big part of numerous forms of storytelling, whether through written or visual media. The stories of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have been told in everything from graphic novels to Monty Python movies.
But what if there were a version more grounded in historical accuracy? That’s where The Winter King comes in. It’s set in the time period after the Romans left Britain and exists within the world of the 5th Century. Magic and the like are dealt with according to the superstitions of the time, and the story is told in that manner.
The ancient Romans were a fascinating society. The Roman Empire was vast and accounted for as much as one fourth of the total population of the earth at one point. Its political processes and rulers helped shape how many modern societies operate, and stories around those people help shed light on many aspects of our own culture.
One of those people and stories is that of the Roman Emperor Claudius. In this fictionalized autobiography, Robert Graves tells the story of the life of Claudius who was an unlikely ruler for many reasons. It presents the story informed by actual history of family life and political intrigue for those at the highest levels of the ancient Roman society.
As with all things, taste is subjective. Some of these might be for you, and some might not. What they will do though is get you started on the path of historical fiction. If you enjoy reading, give some of these a try and see if historical fiction is a genre that suits you. You might even want to consider starting a book club with some of your neighbors here at The Gardens at Barry Road so that you can discuss them after you’re done.