Historical fiction is kind of an odd genre for me. It’s one that I consistently identify as a favourite since it’s a genre that I’ve always loved to read, but at the same time, I rarely reach for it anymore. I think I burnt out on the genre for a while because I found myself constantly reading books based on the same time periods. I’d either read about Tudor England and especially Henry VIII’s family, or about the Holocaust. Even when compiling this list, it was a big challenge to find books that weren’t all focused on the Holocaust. I love historical fiction because I find it very interesting to get a look into the way things were in various eras, but presented in a way that tends to be much more compelling to me than non-fiction. I’ve added quite a few historical fiction to my TBR in the past year, especially after finding several lists on sites like BookBub. I don’t think I’ll be setting myself specific goals around reading more historical fiction, but it’s great to have them on my TBR anyway as a reminder to check them out eventually.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham
I feel like I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately, for some reason, probably because it was just released a few months ago. This book is set in Germany in 1944, and focuses on a midwife named Anke Hoff, who is assigned to care for Eva Braun during her pregnancy with Hitler’s child. She finds herself faced with the impossible choice between her hatred of Hitler’s regime and her duties to help a woman in need during her pregnancy and birth. This is an interesting one because as far as I am aware, Eva Braun was never pregnant, so the book is based on a historical “what if” rather than an actual event. Most of the historical fiction I’ve read tends to stick more closely to real life, although of course most authors will add their own characters or plot details to expand the story. I’ve read quite a few books set around the Holocaust, so I’m always looking for stories that come at the topic from a new or unique angle, and this one definitely seems to be a storyline that I’ve never seen before.
2) The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns
I think one of my biggest challenges when it comes to reading historical fiction is that I end up in a bit of a paradox, where I get tired of reading about the same events/periods over and over, but I also tend to shy away from others that are newer to me because I think I won’t understand it without the background knowledge. I added this one to my TBR because I’ve always had an interest in Asian history, and thought some historical fiction might be a good place to start. This book is set in 1957, and it is about a 17-year-old girl named Naoko who has a fallen in love with an American sailor, even though she has been promised to someone else. When she learns that she is carrying the American man’s child, she is cast out and forced to make choices with long-lasting consequences. In the present day, a woman named Tori Kovac discovers a shocking letter that calls into question everything she knew about her father, who is now dying, which leads her on a journey to Japan to find out the truth. The synopsis for this one reminded me a bit of the musical Miss Saigon although it is in a very different setting, and I also generally tend to enjoy these kinds of dual-timeline stories.
3) The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Apparently this book has come under fire recently because of accusations of plagiarism of another recently released book that covers the same historical setting, with the author of the other book pointing out similarities that seem a bit too close to be coincidental. Having not yet read either book, I can’t really comment about the similarities, but both are on my TBR. This book is set in the USA during the Depression, and follows a group of five women who set out to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. The book follows the five women as they undertake the task of bringing books to people who may never have had any, and in the process, face all kinds of dangers. To be honest, I rarely read books that are set in these kinds of rural settings, or from the Depression era for that matter, but this one sounds like it could be good. I absolutely adored Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy and I’ve been meaning to try more of her books in general, although I somehow keep putting them off.
4) The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
I think this was another one that came up on the BookBub list, or possibly by browsing Goodreads for new historical fiction releases, since it is another 2019 book. It is also a WWII story, but this one is about a 14-year-old girl named Elise whose family is sent to an internment camp after her father is accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. The only thing that helps Elise cope with being imprisoned in the camp is meeting Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen who is also interned at the camp and soon becomes her friend. Although I’ve always heard about Japanese internment camps when learning about WWII, it was never a topic that was discussed in much detail, and I did not know that people who weren’t Japanese were also kept there. I recently read George Takei’s graphic memoir about his experiences in an internment camp, which has sparked an interest in learning more. I like historical fiction that are character-driven, which many of them seem to be, and this one seems to be exactly the kind of story that I tend to enjoy. It also kind of bridges the gap for me since it is a historical event that I have some background knowledge of already, but not so much that I’d feel like I’m reading the same story again.
5) All The Ways We Say Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig & Karen White
I’m definitely noticing a trend when it comes to the covers of historical fiction novels, especially those set around WWII. This book is due out in mid-January, and focuses on three women in three different years, who are connected by Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel. In 1914, Aurelie is driven back to the hotel, the home of her estranged mother, after a betrayal that shatters her friendship with a young man whom she had grown to love. In 1942, Daisy remains in Paris with her husband and daughter after France falls to the Nazis, and reluctantly agrees to join the Resistance and act as courier of identity papers for those who need them. In 1964, Barbara Langford meets an American lawyer after her husband’s death, whose investigation into a mysterious woman known as La Fleur has led him straight to Barbara’s late husband. She decides to join him in his search, which leads them back to Paris and the Ritz. I’m very curious to see how this book will work, since it is written by three separate authors and covers three different characters in three different time periods. It definitely seems like an ambitious book, and I’m curious to see how it would all fit together.