My Top Historical Novels
I am not a huge reader of fiction, to be perfectly honest with you. I much prefer to read a biography, or non fiction text. But sometimes, we all like to escape a little. The real world gets too much (it does for me, anyway.) It’s nice to just settle down with a nice cup of tea and get lost for a while. Novels are perfect for that. These are the novels I really enjoyed.
‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel
I have never read another book written the way Hilary Mantel writes. Her use of the English language, to me, is extraordinary. I loved how she got into the mind of Thomas Cromwell. Instead of the heartless monster he’s all too often portrayed as, we are shown a sympathetic, human portrayal of this great man. And he was a great man. This is, without a doubt, the best historical fiction novel I’ve ever read. Well, until I finish Bring Up The Bodies, perhaps.
‘Hugh & Bess’ by Susan Higginbotham
I adored this book. Really. I fell in love with Hugh Despenser the even Younger (well, that’s what I call him anyway) almost instantly. Bess was a grower, but I ended up loving her too. This is a gorgeous story. You don’t need to be a 14th century England nerd (like me!) to enjoy it. It’s a really warming love story.
‘The Daisy and the Bear’ by K.L. Clark
I read this book when it was still in blog form. It is so funny! A Wars of the Roses spoof, told from the eyes of our heroine, Dakota FitzPercy. Who REALLY had the affair with Margaret of Anjou? Find out here….
‘The Wise Woman’ by Philippa Gregory
This is one of the few Philippa Gregory books I read and really enjoyed. The main reason being it is a complete work of fiction. Her characters are fictional, the plot is fictional and the places are fictional. It is a very dark story, the story of a young nun who has her nunnery dissolved by Henry VIII. Lots of magic, intrigue and heresy. I didn’t really like Alys, the main character, but that didn’t stop me wanting to find out her fate. An excellent novel.
‘Betrayal’ by Michele Kallio
I have recently read and reviewed Michele’s novel on this blog, so I risk repeating myself. How is a modern day Canadian woman, Lydia, connected to a lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn? Why is Lydia haunted by dreams of this woman? When she is sent her mother’s diary from long-lost relatives in England, the mystery begins to unravel… This novel had me hooked straight away. A great story!
‘The Concubine’ by Norah Lofts
This is the only novel of Anne Boleyn I have really enjoyed. It was sympathetic, yet explored the fall of Anne in an interesting way. Die-hard Anne fans may be a little irked by some of the inaccuracies in this novel; it was accurately written at the time, but recent research proves some of Norah Lofts’ descriptions of Anne and her family incorrect. That doesn’t stop this from being an excellent novel, though.
‘Madonna of the Seven Hills’ by Jean Plaidy
A novel of the infamous Borgia family of Renaissance Italy, told from the point of view from the daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia. We have arrogant Giovanni, murderous Cesare and an interesting Lucrezia. It explores some of the rumours of the family (without resorting to the ridiculous ‘incest’ nonsense) and is as accurate as any novel can be.
‘The Lady Elizabeth’ by Alison Weir
I found this novel enjoyable, well written and told an interesting story of the early life of Elizabeth I. It linked to her previous novel, ‘Innocent Traitor’ nicely and explored some interesting possibilities. I’m the first to admit that Alison Weir’s non-fiction books are not for me; but that said, I think all her novels are excellent.
I am hoping to read a lot more historical fiction over the next few months. I am currently reading Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (which, so far, is excellent) and have novels by Susan Higginbotham, Melanie Clegg, Anne O’Brien and Barbara Gaskell Denvil on my kindle. Now, if someone could give me a few extra hours every day, we’d be set.