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Find more Top 10 Historical Fiction
In recent years in our Spotlight on Historical Fiction, we have insisted the current renaisssance in historical fiction shows no signs of abatement. We are only too happy to sing the same tune again this year: it may be a different verse, but it’s still the same song. Read the following historical novels, and try to resist admiring them all.
Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. By Anne Rice. Knopf, $25.95 (9781400043521).
The second volume in this author’s fictionalized biography of Jesus sees the Son of God at a major turning point in the preordained path of his ministry on earth; excellent historical fiction with sensitive, humanizing religious interpretation.
Come with Me to Babylon. By Paul M. Levitt. Univ. of New Mexico, $24.95 (9780826341785).
This stirring novel of Jewish immigration from a Russian shtetl to early-twentieth-century New York challenges the clichés of the golden promised land. It shows the grim reality not only of the daring struggle to survive but also of how the dream of success often led to corruption and heartbreak.
Consequences. By Penelope Lively. Viking, $24.95 (9780670038565).
The historical event around which this beautifully crafted family saga revolves is the chaotic Battle of Crete, in 1944, which resulted in an Allied defeat and, in Lively’s sensitive rendering, the death of her artist hero.
Fellow Travelers. By Thomas Mallon. Pantheon, $25 (0-375-42348-6).
Mallon patiently develops a riveting story of love and politics set in the mid-1950s. Within the District of Columbia, the McCarthy Subcommittee on Un-American Activities rages against suspected Communists and homosexuals within the federal government and the military, with personal consequences felt by a young senatorial aide and his lover, an older State Department official.
Foreigners. By Caryl Phillips. Knopf, $24.95 (1-4000-4397-2).
In this elegiac trio of stories, the author reclaims the lives of three black men in England—in Samuel Johnson’s day, in 1951, and in the 1960s—and deciphers the toxic social chemistry that first gave each man hope and then destroyed him.
Johnny One-Eye. By Jerome Charyn. Norton, $25.95 (9780393064971).
Never before has the American Revolution been so glorious or tawdry as it is in Charyn’s picaresque adventure of spies, harlots, and Founding Fathers; wartime Manhattan provides the backdrop for a tale of a young double (at least) agent and his infatuation with a sharp-tongued octoroon.
People of the Book. By Geraldine Brooks. Viking, $15.95 (9780670018215).
Brooks fictionalizes the history of an actual book, the Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, an extremely precious illuminated manuscript originally from medieval Spain; the author traces, in greatly imaginative scenes, where the book has been, ranging from 1894 Vienna to 1940 German-occupied Yugoslavia.
The Reavers. By George MacDonald Fraser. Knopf, $24 (9780307268105).
In the late Fraser’s rollicking Elizabethan-era swan song, hero Archie Noble and friends stumble upon a fiendish Spanish plot to install an impostor on the throne.
Redemption Falls. By Joseph O’Connor. Free Press, $25 (1-4165-5316-9).
In this enthralling saga, O’Connor illuminates a slice of the Civil War and Reconstruction; the stories of Eliza Mooney and her younger brother, Jeremiah, are intertwined with those of General James O’Keefe and his wealthy wife in a vibrant literary collage of letters, personal accounts, transcripts, and newspaper articles.
The Seventh Well. By Fred Wonder. Norton, $23.95 (9780393065381).
In this slim, overwhelmingly powerful novel, it is as if the narrator, imprisoned in Buchenwald, is turning the pages of a photo album, pausing at each turning of the page to remember, for a brief time, the individuals with whom he became familiar during his long, cruel months of incarceration.
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