Book Recs Fiction Novels

Book Recs: Best Historical Fiction

I recently finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl (I know, I know, I’m about a decade behind the rest of the reading world), and despite the frequent historical inaccuracies, it’s given me a bit of a taste for historical fiction!

The only problem is that, apart from historically-set fantasy, I’ve never read any historical fiction before, and I don’t even know where to start in my hunt for books.

So… please give me all your recommends!

What are some good, feminist-friendly historical novels? Historical accuracy not necessarily required (although enjoyed!).


  1. Kathlyn

    January 31, 2013 at 4:03 am

    First, let me tell you how much I enjoy your blog posts! Very often, they make me reassess things in a new light that I haven’t even considered before! Anyway, this is just off the top of my head right now, but for light reading, I’d like to recommend C.W Gortner’s novels. He offers fascinating, sympathetic takes on such controversial queens as Juana La Loca, Isabella of Spain, and Catherine de Medici. Of course, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and bring Up the Bodies are must reads, although they do perpetuate the Mary Boleyn=Good, Anne Boleyn=Bad dichotomy that irks me. And you want something different from the typical stuff about kings and queens, I earnestly recommend David Mitchell’s “”The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” about a young Dutch clerk trying to make his fortune in Dejima, the sole port during Japan’s period of seclusion that was open to foreigners. The writing is vivid and often gorgeous, plus the love interest in the book. is far from being a Madame Butterfly stereotype, but a strong-willed, gifted midwife. I’m really sorry I can’t think of more, but I hope you enjoy these.

  2. Kathlyn

    January 31, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Follow Up Recs: You might also want to try Margaret Joyce’s sweeping novels about Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Cleopatra VII. And Kate Mosse’s Carcassone trilogy (Labyrinth, Sepulchre, and Citadel) is an entertaining, suspenseful set of novels featuring determined female protagonists.

    1. Rhiannon

      February 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Awesome, thank you! I’ve been eyeing Wolf Hall for a while, so I’ll have to grab it now! And I’d never heard of C.W. Gortner or Margaret Joyce, but those sound exactly like the sort of novels I’d love to read. *runs to the library*

  3. Emily

    February 2, 2013 at 12:18 am

    okay, also old school, and it’s biblical fiction (of which there is SO MUCH) but The Red Tent by Anita Diament is a really interesting read and most people I’ve talked to about it have liked it.

    Because of this book, I’m now working my way through this awesome list on Good Reads…

    1. Rhiannon

      February 3, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      That looks like a great list! I’ve never read Biblical fiction (or even really knew it was a genre!), but that looks fab. Thanks for the rec!

  4. Kathlyn

    February 5, 2013 at 2:38 am

    I hope this is not yet too late, but I meant to type Margaret George, not Joyce! And if you’re fond of the Victorian era, Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White is a massive, yet very filthy and funny book that subverts the common tropes about women and sexuality often found in novels of the period. I haven’t yet read either Emma Donoghue or Sarah Waters, but I’ve heard they’re a good bet if you want your historical novels with a sapphic twist.

  5. D

    February 8, 2013 at 2:23 am

    Catherine Called Birdy

  6. Laura T

    February 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Sarah Waters is indeed wonderful – my favourite is ‘The Night Watch’, which is set during and immediately after WW2, but you can’t go wrong with any of her novels. Also second the recommendation for ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’.

  7. Linda

    February 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Have a look at “Pope Joan” by Donna Woolfolk Cross. About a (possible) female pope in the 9th century.

  8. Victoria Lamb (@VictoriaLamb1)

    March 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Gently laying before you my Lucy Morgan: Tudor Court trilogy … part historical ‘real story’, part fiction, with a black singer-cum-spy-cum court lady as a heroine. First book is The Queen’s Secret, then His Dark Lady. Please don’t judge them up by their covers – or cover blurbs, in fact. 😉

    1. Rhiannon

      March 18, 2013 at 12:00 am

      Sounds awesome! I’ll definitely check them out. 🙂

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