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Find more Top 10 Historical Fiction
The year’s most engrossing and resonant historical novels abound in both authenticity and imagination as authors engage deeply with the tragedies of war and displacement, the end of a dynasty, and struggles for equality.
Bowlaway. By Elizabeth McCracken. 2019. Ecco, $27.99 (9780062862853).
Bertha Truitt’s passion for candlepin bowling is the catalyzing force in McCracken’s rollicking, intermittently otherworldly American tall tale of misfits, surprising alliances, defiance of racial and gender norms, and the quest to be oneself.
If You Leave Me. By Crystal Hana Kim. 2018. Morrow, $26.99 (9780062645173).
In Kim’s multivoiced, multilayered, and indelible debut novel, hunger, both physical and emotional, haunts the extended Lee-Yun family during the tumultuous, violent decades that define modern South Korea.
The Island of Sea Women. By Lisa See. 2019. Scribner, $27 (9781501154850).
In this engrossing tale steeped in Korean history and culture, See follows the lives of Young-sook and Mi-ja, trained as haenyeo—the renowned free-diving sea women of Jeju Island—as they share joy and hardships over the years.
The Lake on Fire. By Rosellen Brown. 2018. Sarabande, $17.95 (9781946448231).
Brown astutely maps the divide between rich and poor during Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 as she tells the enthralling story of two young Jewish refugees who fled anti-Semitic violence in Russia.
The Last Thing You Surrender. By Leonard Pitts. 2019. Bolden, $17 (9781572842458).
In his powerful tale of race and heroism in WWII’s Pacific theater, Pitts creates compelling and complex characters and situations that embody social and personal aspects of America at war overseas and at home.
The Old Drift. By Namwali Serpell. 2019. Hogarth, $28 (9781101907146).
In Serpell’s smartly composed and unforgettably original epic, magic realism and science fiction interweave with history to tell a unique immigration story rich in Zambian culture.
The Romanov Empress. By C. W. Gortner. 2018. Ballantine, $28 (9780425286166).
Gortner takes a fresh, captivating look at the collapse of the Romanov dynasty as she sweeps readers into the tragic story of Empress Maria Feodorovna, who marries the heir to the Russian throne and becomes the mother of Nicholas II, the last Russian czar.
The Silence of the Girls. By Pat Barker. 2018. Doubleday, $27.95 (9780385544214).
Man Booker winner Barker offers a compelling take on the events of The Iliad, allowing Queen Briseis a first-person perspective while making the army camp, the warrior mind-set, the horrors of battle, and the silence of the girls profoundly convincing and powerful.
Warlight. By Michael Ondaatje. 2018. Knopf, $26.95 (9780525521198).
In Ondaatje’s drolly charming, stealthily sorrowful tale, a teenage brother and sister are left with a mysterious man in 1945 London as evidence about their mother’s involvement with British intelligence slowly accrues and war is slowly forged into peace.
Washington Black. By Esi Edugyan. 2018. Knopf, $26.95 (9780525521426).
Washington Black escapes enslavement on the island of Barbados in a hot-air balloon with the master’s younger brother, thus beginning a wonderfully strange adventure that extends to the Arctic, Nova Scotia, and London, and illuminates both horror and hope.
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