9 November 2015

10 Contemporary Historical Fiction Novels on my Reading List

With university and a crazy life rhythm, keeping up with reading hasn't been super easy. I have read a bunch of Spanish classics to which I felt no entitlement to review whatsoever, so I decided to make a list of the contemporary history fiction books I want to read instead.
In the mean time I will try my hardest to keep reading in my free time, but I can barely read more than ten pages a day which is breaking my heart.
1 - Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (written 1942, published 2004)
Set in World War II France, the book is about the love between a young woman whose husband is missing at the front, and a German officer.
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably have noticed that my 'currently reading' status hasn't changed since September, which is when I started reading Suite Française. The book is still on my shelf and I'm still at page 134, but now that I've done quite a lot of reading for university I will try and go on reading it (I can't wait!). What I'm surprised about is that the book is described everywhere as a romantic book, and I still have seen no signs or romance, only (incredible) descriptions of family misadventures during World War II. Don't get me wrong: the book is written beautifully, but where is the romance? Also, I know this is not a contemporary history novel but I decided to include it because it was only published last year. Read my review here

2 - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
Young Liesel finds joy in stealing books and sharing them with others, even if that's not allowed in Nazi Germany.
This book has been on my reading list forever. I'm not too attracted by the idea that it's being narrated by Death, but everyone says that it's very well written so I definitely want to read it. I like to read books that are set in different places and times of history, so comparing this book to Suite Française would be very interesting as one is set in France and the other in Germany at the same time. I would also be curious to see how realistic Zusak's picture of Nazi Germany is compared to books of the time, if any were allowed or published posthumously. Read my review here

3 - Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (2013)
Set in 1920s Seattle's Chinatown, the book is about William, an orphaned Chinese American boy with dreams for the future, and Liu, a woman escaping her haunted past seeking love, hope and forgiveness.
The reason why I want to read this book now is that I read Jamie Ford's first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and fell in love with it. His style of writing is amazing and I would absolutely love to get into another of his books. I have also made a deal with my best friend that we would read it together so I know that I will read it!
4 -Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (1999)
Barcelona, 1980. Fifteen-year-old Oscar is drawn to an old mansion where he meets captivating Marina, a girl of his age. The two are swept on a journey into the city's dark underground of criminality, corruption and more…
I've just bought this book in the Spanish edition so I can challenge myself (and because books in original language are a million times better) and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I find that Spanish literature is very good at conveying a sense of mystery and I would love to find that in a history book. Read my review here.

5 -The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001)
Barcelona, 1945. In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he realises that someone has been destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel himself may have the last of Carax’s books in existence…
I started reading this book a long time ago but didn't bring myself to finish it. I can't wait to start it back from where I left it, because the first part was pretty good. I am very interested in the Barcelona setting as I'll probably be moving there soon and I'm so excited to read books that are set there (if you do some research, there are so many, my favourite of which is Nada by Carmen Laforet).

6 - Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (2007)
London, 1890s. Thomas Kellaway and his family migrate from rural Dorset to London, where Thomas has found work as a circus carpenter and builder. His son Jem and his sister Maisie adjust to adulthood and their new urban life living just next to poet William Blake.
Besides the fact that Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite authors, I would like to read this book because it intertwines history, a family matter and art. I'm not sure of how present in the story Blake is, but surely in Girl with a Pearl Earring Dutch painter Vermeer covered a vital role. Chevalier's analysis of any historical period and its well rounded characters is always very accurate and her books are very enjoyable to read.

7 - Mornings in Jenin by Susan Albulhawa (2010)
Set in the second half of 1900s, the book follows four generations of the Abulheja family through upheaval and violence in their homeland, Palestine. Stories of love, community, safety intertwine with the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Lebanon War.
The historical context of the book is a very close one to my heart, as the story of the Abulheja family being forced to move out from their own homes to a refugee camp is the one that my own family lived after the state of Israel was formed. Moreover, the story is defined on Goodreads as "a heart-wrenching, powerfully written novel that could do for Palestine what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan", so it definitely sounds great.

8 - Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (2005)
Set in 1930s Japan, the novel is the story of the world of a geishas, virgin girls who are trained to beguile the most powerful men and whose love is scorned as illusion.
Honestly, the subject itself of this novel doesn't attract me that much; however, I have heard so many good opinions about this book that I feel like I should give it a try. The trailer of the film also looks very good.

9 - The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (2015)
The novel follows the story of two very different women and how their lives meet: one is the elderly Jewish lady, Alma Belasco, who as a child escaped to the USA prior to the German invasion of Poland, where her parents eventually perished; the other character is Irina, a young immigrant from Moldova, who’s working as a carer in a San Francisco nursing home.
I've seen this book on the shelves of all bookshops  here in Spain, and I have to say that the main reason why I am attracted to it is its amazing cover (I am a believer that you can judge books from their covers). Also, I like Isabel Allende's style a lot, even if I haven’t read much by her; she is an intriguing author and person and would like to read more of her work. Read my review here.

10 - Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (written 1960, published 2015)
United States, 1950s. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.
Apparently this book is the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird, even though there has been some controversy going on about this idea. I honestly don't know much about the author neither her first book; however, something tells me that I should. The edition of this book looks beautiful and I would love to get hold of a hardcover. 

I hope you enjoyed my to be read-list of historical fiction. What are some historical fiction books you would like to read? Have you read any of these and what were your thoughts on them?

Let's keep in touch on Goodreads!


  1. The Book Thief is SO beautiful, it's a truly amazing and unique book (one of my all-time faves)! Memoirs of a Geisha is good as well. I want to read Suite Française as well as the new Harper Lee book.

    I know what you mean struggling to find time to read (and blog) between university work. I force myself to read at least 20 pages in bed before I go to sleep and I'm addicted to audiobooks when I do the boring house chores of ironing, cleaning etc. I hope you get to read Suite Française soon anyway!!

    1. Ahh it's so exciting when someone knows what you're talking about in a post! I AM reading Suite Francaise and the review will be up as soon as I have finished it. I am loving it!
      I like reading before bed too. It's like switching your mind off and switching on another side of your brain if that makes sense? I have tried audiobooks before but I'm not a fan, neither am I a fan of eBooks. I'm just very traditional when it comes to books and enjoy my physical copies lol. I'm so glad I found your blog through this comment! Will be checking out your posts ;)

      Assia |

    2. Yes! It's a great 'fan-girling' opportunity too. That's very exciting news, I can't wait to read your review I'm sure it'll be amazing! Yes I know exactly what you mean. Ahh you just haven't found the right narrator yet ;-) There are loads of amazing ones out there, if you love watching adaptions you'll love audiobooks. A good narrator offers a new perspective on it and see things, emphasises things differently. I do love physical books too, but sometimes the large ones are a bit annoying at night (I always get cold hands??) I'm glad I found your blog on Facebook too!! :) xx

    3. Hahah the cold hands! I know the feeling!! I listened to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and enjoyed it, the narrator had a perfect British accent and put emphasis on the dialogues. However, I got lost several times because I found it hard to listen to every single word she said. Even when reading I have to turn the page back quite often or re-read the sentence and that's a bit more complex with audiobooks. My review of Suite Francaise is up by the way! :)

      Assia |

  2. Good-looking list. Sadly, I haven't read any of them, but also curious about the William Blake thread. Maybe my forthcoming novel, Hippies, can make your list one day :) You've read a couple of excerpts. It's set probably 75% in 1960s hippie culture and 25% Medieval Germany. That counts as historical fiction, yes? But I'm only about 60% finished :(

    1. Oh, I didn't realise it was a historical novel! I focused on the time travel theme and had thought of it as fantasy / fiction. I'm sure Hippies can be on my list :) Medieval Germany sounds incredible! I've no idea of what could happen to two hippies thrown back then?! (Which is what I imagine to happen). I will wait for the book, no worries.
      Have you read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon? It has the time travel element and it's set in England 1945 / Scotland 1670s. Very good read, and I'm not even a fan of fantasy.

      Assia |

    2. To clarify: The "historical" component is mainly recreating the hippie culture of 1969; the medieval element is not what you think it is (but it does involve recreating the atmosphere of that era to some extent). No, I haven't read Gabaldon. My reading repertoire is very strong up until about 100 years ago, after which it tapers off considerably :(

    3. I see, it still sounds good! I'm not a huge fan of the 60s-70s but love the Middle Ages. Could turn out into an interesting mix...

      Assia |

  3. I hear the Book Thief is fantastic! As well as the Watchman. It's been awhile since I got into a good novel (mainly because I couldn't find them at the library) so I finally gave in and bought the next Shopaholic book on my list (Shopaholic and Sister). So glad I splurged; Sophie Kinsella always knows how to make me laugh :)

    ~Lor @

    1. Ahh I know the feeling! I always feel like buying books is my last choice after the library, my friends' books and the secondhand bookshop. I love all Shopaholic books! I really enjoyed the sister one even if it wasn't my favourite. Loved the first one and the wedding one so much!

      Assia |

  4. The Book Thief is lovely - I re-read it recently and wept at the end - a bit embarrassing since I was in a public place!
    I personally found The Shadow of the Wind a bit disappointing as it was less bookish than I was expecting it to be.

    1. That's so cute! I think that happened to me as well once :)
      I started it but didn't manage to finish it. I hope to be able to get a good opinion of Zafon's books because they look so inspiring... Thanks for passing by :)

      Assia |