Historical Fiction

What is Historical Fiction?

Historical fiction novels are stories that take place in the past. They use authentic period detail and may feature fictionalized accounts of real historical figures. Subgenres include fictional biographies, historical mysteries, historical romance, family sagas, nautical fiction, alternate history, and more!

New and Popular

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (2023)
Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning-and in Kerala, water is everywhere.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See (2023)
Sent into an arranged marriage, Tan Yunxian, forbidden to continue her work as a midwife-in-training as well as see her forever friend Meiling, is ordered to act like proper wife and seeks a way to continue treating women and girls from every level of society in 15th-century China.

Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward (2023)
In the years before the Civil War, Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, struggles through the miles-long march, seeks comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother, opening herself to a world beyond this world.

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (2023)
Escaping from a colonial settlement in the wilderness, a servant girl, with nothing but her wits, a few possessions and some faith, is tested beyond the limits of her imagination, forcing her to question her belief of everything her own civilization taught her.

The Fraud by Zadie Smith (2023)
From acclaimed and bestselling novelist Zadie Smith, a kaleidoscopic work of historical fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story—and who gets to be believed.

The Spectacular by Fiona Davis (2023)
In 1956 New York City, Marion Brooks, one of the famous Radio City Rockettes, is unwittingly drawn into the police search for the “Big Apple Bomber” and may be forced to sacrifice everything she’s worked for, as well as the people she loves most, to catch this elusive criminal.

Loot by Tania James (2023)
Set in 18th-century India, England and France, this sweeping novel follows gifted woodcarver Abbas who embarks on a perilous journey to retrieve the giant wooden tiger he created for Tipu Sultan from an estate in the English countryside, where it is displayed in a collection of plundered art.

Muskets & Masquerades by Lindsey Fera (2023)
Against the backdrop of war with Britain, façades mount between Jack and Annalisa, and the merry minuet of their adolescence dissolves into a masquerade of deceit, one which threatens to part them forever.



Historical Fiction: Highlighted Categories

Massachusetts Historical Fiction

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian (2021)
A resourceful Puritan woman in 1662 Boston plots to escape a violent marriage only to find herself targeted by her disapproving and superstitious neighbors for failing to save a child’s life.

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane (2023)
In 1974 Boston, as a heatwave blankets the city, Mary Pat Fennessey, in a desperate search for her missing daughter, asks questions that bother Marty Butler, chieftain of the Irish mob, who doesn’t take kindly to anyone who threatens his business.

Lioness of Boston by Emily Franklin (2023)
Based on the life of an eccentric trailblazer who lived life on her own terms, this deeply evocative novel follows Isabella Stewart Gardner who, exploring the world of art, ideas and letters, developed a keen eye for paintings and objects, scandalizing Boston’s polite society and transforming the city itself.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
In early colonial Massachusetts, a young woman endures the consequences of her sin of adultery and spends the rest of her life in atonement.

The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey (2019)
After her fiance goes missing during the war, Fiona decides to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl and brings along her friends Dottie and Viviana, an adventure that has them encounter new friendships, new loves, and new danger.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A dramatic re-telling of the Salem Witch Hysteria of 1692.

Parallel Narratives

Homecoming by Kate Morton (2023)
Called home to care for her grandmother after a fall, Jess, a journalist, discovers a book chronicling the police investigation into an old unsolved murder that has a shocking connection to her family.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani (2022)
This richly woven tapestry of three generations of women faced with impossible choices follows Matelda, the family’s matriarch, as she, facing the end of her life, must decide what is worth fighting for and when to let go.

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende (2023)
Traces the ripple effects of war and immigration on two children– five-year-old Samuel, whose mother puts him on a Kindertransport train out of Nazi-occupied Austria to England in 1938, and seven-year-old Anita, who boards another train eight decades later to the U.S. where she’s separated from her mother.

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai (2023)
Follows three generations of Vietnamese American women reeling from the death of their matriarch, revealing the family’s inherited burdens, buried secrets and unlikely love stories.

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong (2022)
In this dual-timeline historical novel—two women, a volunteer librarian on the frontlines of France during World War I and a woman accepted into the first coed class at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976—face insurmountable odds as they contend with secrets that could be their undoing.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks (2022)
A scientist from Australia and a Nigerian-American art historian become connected by their shared interest in a 19th century race horse, one studying its remains, the other uncovering the history of the Black horsemen who were critical to its success.

Facing Racism

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (2021)
Hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle de Costa Greene becomes one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she keeps.

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson (2022)
A fierce queer coming-of-age story follows the personal and political awakening of a young gay black man in 1980s New York City, from the television drama writer and producer of Narcos.

Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (2023)
When a skeleton is unearthed in the small, close-knit community of Chicken Hill, Pennsylvania, in 1972, an unforgettable cast of characters, living on the margins of white, Christian America closely guard a secret, especially when the truth is revealed about what happened and the part the town’s white establishment played in it.

Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead (2023)
A furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem becomes a fence for shady cops, local gangsters and low-life pornographers after his cousin involves him in a failed heist.

Daughters of Nantucket by Julie Gerstenblatt (2023)
An atmospheric historical debut novel centers on Nantucket’s Great Fire of 1846, in which three very different women are brought together, each forced to re-evaluate her priorities and answer the harrowing question: “What–and whom–would you save?”

Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom (2023)
In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell’s past, falls in love with her husband.

20th Century Historical Fiction

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022)
In the early 1960s, chemist and single mother Elizabeth Zott, the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show due to her revolutionary skills in the kitchen, uses this opportunity to dare women to change the status quo.

Trust by Hernan Diaz (2022)
Pulitzer Prize winner! Told from the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction, this unrivaled novel about money, power, intimacy and perception is centered around the mystery of how the Rask family acquired their immense fortune in 1920s-1930’s New York City.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (2022)
In June of 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson, released after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car and have hatched a different plan for Emmett’s future.

The Trackers by Charles Frazier (2023)
Commissioned to create a mural representing Dawes, Wyoming, for their new Post Office, Val Welch, a painter in Depression-era America, stays with a wealthy art lover, his wife and a mysterious elder cowboy where he turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them.

This Other Eden by Paul Harding (2023)
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There – after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat up biplanes – Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah (2015)
A woman is forced to house a Nazi in WWII France, while her sister becomes a Resistance fighter.

Updated: October 2023

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