I have been reading a ton this summer and loving every minute of it. I’ve been really fortunate to discover some wonderful books and new-to-me authors that embody everything I love about reading. And, after taking a little hiatus, I’ve resumed reading non-fiction in the morning, saving fiction for before bed or after work, out on the porch. Per my usual habit, I’ve been focused on historical fiction novels. I love reading to travel to another time and place or to learn about an aspect of history I didn’t know through the power of storytelling. This summer I’ve explored quite the variety of eras and settings.
The following are some of my favorite historical fiction novels from the last few months…
I decided to pick up Mudbound mostly because of its construct – multiple narrators sharing their perspective on the same series of events – because it’s one I tend to enjoy. Set in the Jim Crow South after WWII, this was not a happy book, and it describes a difficult and disturbing time. I was uncomfortable with reading it at times due to both the overt and subtle racism that are the undercurrent of the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’ve recommended it, but I would avoid it if you prefer to keep your summer reading light and casual.
I’ve been resisting this book since it first came out but finally decided to give it a try. Another historical fiction novel, surprise surprise, The Light Between Oceans is set on the Western Coast of Australia following World War I. Two main characters make a choice that has ripple effects for years to come and subsequent choices which still further impact both themselves and others. Part of the enjoyment of this novel comes from wondering if you would have made the same choices given the situation. If you like your books wrapped up with a neat and tidy bow at the end, this one delivers.
Coming Home was my first Rosamund Pilcher novel, probably an Amazon recommendation. I hesitated a little at the length – over 900 pages – but I had just finished some quick and easy reads and was looking for a project. I’m so glad I took the plunge because I enjoyed every word of this book from beginning to end. I’m sure many people would find it slow and tedious, but I was mesmerized by Pilcher’s use of language and her descriptions of place and fashion and people. I loved how she took the time to provide background and context for each of the main characters. She brought the people, the time and the place fully to life for me. I usually skim between the dialogue but I found myself stopping and rereading any time I caught myself doing it during this book because I really didn’t want to miss a word.
2023 Update – I’ve reread Coming Home three times, and it’s one of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time.
The sequel to the much loved The Kitchen House did not disappoint. In fact, I think I liked it better. I admit that I was a little reluctant to read it at all because I didn’t recall liking the main character of Glory much, and I confirmed that opinion when I reread The Kitchen House before starting Glory. But, Jamie was much improved in character and fortune by the start of the sequel, and I definitely found myself rooting for him throughout the story. If you liked The Kitchen House, you should definitely read Glory Over Everything.
The Promise is a short book, and the plot centers on Galveston in the early 1900s in the days leading up to and after the historic hurricane that wiped out the city and killed thousands of people. I read this very quickly…in a day or two. While the author did a wonderful job at portraying Galveston and the social constructs of that particular time, it was a little too short for me to become emotionally invested in the characters.
Set in Brooklyn immediately following the second World War, The Two-Family House is another story that centers on a fateful decision. It’s also a book about redemption and seizing life. More than one of the main characters are less than sympathetic. But, as I got to know them better, I found myself hoping they would all eventually find peace and happiness. If you enjoy family centered plot lines and mid-century historical fiction, this is a good book to add to your pile.
I actually read the follow-up to the Lost Soldier as well, which is titled The Sisters of Saint Croix, immediately, so it was like reading one long novel instead of two. The first book is set during the Great War, while the second book picks up just before World War II. I found Costeloe’s writing easy to read and on the lighter side of historical fiction. If this sounds like your genre then you would probably enjoy both of these books.
What have you been reading this summer and where do you find your book recommendations? I usually enjoy Modern Mrs. Darcy’s picks, but Amazon hasn’t been as great for me lately.