Historical Fiction

orphanOrphan Train / Christina Baker Kline

Close to aging out of the foster care system, Molly Ayer takes a position helping an elderly woman named Vivian and discovers that they are more alike than different as she helps Vivian solve a mystery from her past.

 

pearlGirl with a Pearl Earring / Tracy Chevalier

Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl, becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts Vermeer’s attention. He slowly draws her into the world of his paintings and ultimately has her sit for him as a model.

sistersThe Sisters of Versailles / Ally Christie

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, a sensual tale of power, romance, family and betrayal follows the five Nesle sisters, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV as they all desperately fought for both love and power.

 

lightAll the Light We Cannot See / Anthony Doerr

Set during World War II Europe, this novel is sobering without being sentimental. The tension builds as the alternating, parallel stories of Werner and Marie-Laure unfold, and their paths cross.

 

nightingaleThe Nightingale / Kristin Hannah

Reunited when the elder’s husband is sent to fight in World War II, French sisters Vianne and Isabelle find their bond as well as their respective beliefs tested by a world that changes in horrific ways.

 

blueGirl in the Blue Coat / Monica Hesse

In 1943 Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, teenage Hanneke, a ‘finder’ of black market goods, is tasked with finding a Jewish girl a customer had been hiding, who has seemingly vanished into thin air, and is pulled into a web of resistance activities and secrets as she attempts to solve the mystery and save the missing girl.

lilacLilac Girls / Martha Hall Kelly

This is story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits: seventy-four women prisoners in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Using alternating first-person narratives, the characters relate their experiences from 1939 through 1959. Drawing upon a decade of research, Hall reconstructs what life was like in Ravensbruck. More than a war story, this is a tale of how the strength of women’s bonds can carry them through even the most difficult situations.

givenThe Given Day / Dennis Lehane

An epic tale set at the end of World War I follows the experiences of a family whose lives mirror the political unrest of an America caught between its well-patterned past and an unpredictable future.

 

wolfWolf Hall / Hilary Mantel

A detailed look into the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in the 1520s, in particular the events leading up to the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the role Cromwell played in those events.

 

parisThe Paris Wife / Paula McLain

Meeting through mutual friends in Chicago, Hadley is intrigued by brash “beautiful boy” Ernest Hemingway, and after a brief courtship and small wedding, they take off for Paris, where Hadley makes a convincing transformation from an overprotected child to a game and brave young woman who puts up with impoverished living conditions and shattering loneliness to prop up her husband’s career.

sarahSarah’s Key / Tatiana de Rosnay

On the sixtieth anniversary of the 1942 roundup of Jews by the French police in the Vel d’Hiv section of Paris, American journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article on this dark episode during World War II and embarks on investigation that leads her to long-hidden family secrets and to the ordeal of Sarah, a young girl caught up in the raid.

summer beforeThe Summer Before the War / Helen Simonson

In the summer of 1914, Beatrice Nash arrives in Rye, East Sussex, to teach Latin at the local school. Her scholar father having recently died, Beatrice is determined to remain a spinster (but we know how that goes) and find “meaningful work and a productive life.” Her patroness, Agatha Kent, is married to an official in the Foreign Office and presides over a household that includes two nephews— sensible Hugh, completing his medical studies, and passionate Daniel, a poet.

brooklynBrooklyn / Colm Toibin

Leaving her home in post-World War II Ireland to work as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Eilis Lacey discovers a new romance in America with a charming blond Italian man before devastating news threatens her happiness.

 

payingThe Paying Guests / Sarah Waters

With two brothers killed in WWI and a debt-ridden father who followed them to the grave soon afterward, 27-year-old spinster Frances Wray knows that she and her mother must take in lodgers (euphemistically described as “paying guests”) to maintain their large house in a genteel section of London.

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