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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Historical Novels
We keep saying it, and we keep meaning it: the current renaissance in historical fiction has yet to abate. For evidence, read these 10 outstanding historical novels reviewed over the past year in Booklist.
Baker, Kevin. Strivers Row. HarperCollins, $26.95 (0-06-019583-5).
In the final installment in the author’s City of Fires series, which is set during critical periods in the history of New York City, he tracks within the robust atmosphere of 1940s Harlem two separate paths toward personal empowerment taken by two black men with very different backgrounds.
Barnes, Julian. Arthur & George. Knopf, $24.95 (0-307-26310-X).
Barnes channels the voice of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the beloved creator of Sherlock Holmes, who was also a spiritualist and an advocate for justice, which led to his involvement with one George Edalji, whose legal case Doyle takes up.
Brownstein, Gabriel. The Man from Beyond. Norton, $23.95 (0-393-05152-8).
This curious, intense first novel dramatizes the well-known debate between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini over the veracity of spiritualism and the existence of an afterlife; this is a brilliant time capsule offering an enticing portrait of the 1920s.
Doctorow, E. L. The March. Random, $25.95 (0-375-50671-3).
The march in question is that of General William Tecumseh Sherman and his Union soldiers as they slash and burn their way through Georgia and the Carolinas in the American Civil War. Doctorow’s masterpiece uncovers the roots of today’s racial and political conundrums.
Dunant, Sarah. In the Company of the Courtesan. Random, $23.95 (1-4000-6381-7).
Following The Birth of Venus (2004), the author offers another lush, intelligent historical novel as she tells the tale of a sixteenth-century Italian courtesan who has to flee her successful life in Rome and begin all over again in Venice.
Phillips, Caryl. Dancing in the Dark. Knopf, $23.95 (1-4000-4396-4).
Phillips transports readers to early-twentieth-century Harlem and fictionalizes with profound sensitivity and unflinching candor the outwardly successful yet spiritually disastrous life of Bert Williams, a trailblazing Bahamas-born entertainer.
Rosen, Nicolle. Mrs. Freud. Arcade, $24 (1-55970-783-6).
In this compelling, painstakingly researched novel, Rosen, a psychiatrist herself, delivers an intimate and telling fictional portrait of Sigmund Freud, as seen through the eyes of his wife, Martha.
Rozier, Gilles. The Mercy Room. Tr. by Anthea Bell. Little, Brown, $22.95 (0-316-15973-5).
This haunting and, at times, harrowing novel, set in France during the German occupation of the 1940s, is a beautifully sensual love story that becomes somewhat of a variation on the Anne Frank story.
White, Jenny. The Sultan’s Seal. Norton, $24.95 (0-393-06099-3).
The premise here is sort of CSI goes Ottoman Empire, in the late nineteenth century, that is, when the sultan reigned supreme and everyone was spied upon. Court life and customs in old Istanbul are thrillingly captured, with readers easily transported back to those days when mystery and intrigue lurked around every corner.
Wright, Stephen. The Amalgamation Polka. Knopf, $24.95 (0-679-45117-X).
Wright’s tale of the growth and travels of Liberty Fish, son of passionate upstate New York abolitionists but still drawn to his slaveholding extended family, is an unusually captivating novel set during the Civil War.
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