Historical Fiction — Wilton Library
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Historical Fiction

China Dolls by Lisa See

 The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and Shanghai Girls has garnered international acclaim for her great skill at rendering the intricate relationships of women and the complex meeting of history and fate.  China Dolls starts in 1938 in San Francisco: a world’s fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities.

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

In 1872 the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain. Her cargo was intact and there was no sign of struggle, but the crew was gone. They were never found.  This maritime mystery lies at the center of an intricate narrative branching through the highest levels of late-nineteenth-century literary society.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

At 11, Sarah is given ownership of Hetty “Handful” Grimke, urban slave in 19th century Charleston. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

 For fans of Pride and Prejudice: While Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters fuss over balls and husbands, Sarah, their orphaned housemaid, is beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When a new footman arrives at Longbourn under mysterious circumstances, the carefully choreographed world she has known all her life threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

The March – E. L. Doctorow

 Doctorow presents a stunning visionary reconstruction of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous/infamous march of sixty-two thousand soldiers through Georgia and the Carolinas.

 

Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

 The second (after the prize-winning Wolf Hall) in a trilogy centering on the life of the complex, enigmatic Thomas Cromwell, chief secretary to Henry VIII and overseer of the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn.

 

Winter of the World – Ken Follett

 The second volume of Follett’s “Century Trilogy” picks up where the first installment (Fall of Giants) left off, as the characters of its international, interrelated families face the cataclysms of the Third Reich, World War II, and the ensuing Cold War.

 

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln – Stephen L. Carter

 Did Lincoln subvert the Constitution?  In the “What-If?” mode of historical fiction, Yale law professor Carter supposes Lincoln’s miraculous survival of the assassination attempt, and his impeachment two years later over his prosecution of the war against the Confederacy.

 

Enchantments – Kathryn Harrison

 Harrison’s take on the last days of Imperial Russia centers on the doomed Romanovs and their relationship with Grigori Rasputin, faith healer, peasant, mad monk, and – surprisingly – family man.  His legitimate daughter, Masha, and her unlikely friend, the hemophiliac Romanov heir Alyosha, are co-narrators.

 

The Sandcastle Girls – Chris Bohjalian         

 Bohjalian’s novels have taken readers on journeys from 1980s Vermont in winter, to 1920s Long Island in summer, to 1930s Germany and Poland. Here he travels between Aleppo, Syria and Bronxville, New York, all the while calling on his personal heritage to tell the story of the Armenian genocide of 1915-20.

 

Merivel: A Man of His Time – Rose Tremain

 “Get ready to laugh, prepare to weep.” Tremain presents a sequel to her much-praised novel Restoration, published in 1989 and set around 300 years earlier in the England of Charles II.  Merivel is the king’s courtier – no longer young, but still in hot pursuit of pleasure.

 

In Sunlight and in Shadow – Mark Helprin

 1940s Manhattan stars in Helprin’s sprawling novel of a bygone era and the love story of war hero Harry Copeland and heiress-songbird Catherine Hale, described as “a poster couple invented to persuade 21st century readers of the way things once were and still ought to be.”

 

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

McLain makes Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson the narrator of this stylish account of  their five-year marriage, most of which was spent in the Paris of the 1920s among the expatriate community of writers and artists who formed the famed “moveable feast.”

 

The Cove – Ron Rash

 Set during the final year of World War I, The Cove is the atmospheric story of a brother and sister and their life in the mountains of Appalachia.  It is also an account of a little-known historical event: the seizure of the German ocean liner Vaterland and the internment of its crew in a North Carolina camp.

 

 

Paris  – Edward Rutherfurd

Rutherfurd’s multigenerational epics have covered some of the world’s most storied places (Sarum, The Forest, The Princes of Ireland, New York: The Novel).  Here he presents the City of Light in his usual expertly-researched manner, but in a structure different from the previous novels, alternating between the 19th century and both earlier and later eras, rich with characters from different social classes.