The best historical fiction books about sisters that *might* make you ugly cry

The Books I Picked & Why

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

Book cover of The Nightingale

Why this book?

In the overcrowded market of World War II fiction, this book stands alone. It centers around two sisters far from the battlefield but nonetheless on the front lines and allows us a rare glimpse at the intricacies and complexities of war—how “right” and “wrong” are not always black and white terms. For me, this book shattered the narrative I’d always assumed about Nazi collaborators versus resisters and truly made me think about the sacrifices I’d be willing to make for the ones I love.


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The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

By Lori Nelson Spielman

Book cover of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

Why this book?

This book has everything: love, drama, lush descriptions of a foreign country (essential now, when travel is so limited), and family curses. Having a sister myself, I loved how authentic the relationship between Emilia and Lucy felt; stronger than iron yet as fragile as glass. The unraveling mystery behind the so-called “curse” was just icing on the cake. Love truly is what life is all about---just not in the ways we always assume.


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The Distant Hours

By Kate Morton

Book cover of The Distant Hours

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for books with a creepy setting—and a rundown castle in the English countryside was the perfect, eerie location for this twisty, unsettling novel. With alternating timelines, unreliable characters, and multi-faceted mysteries, this tale of family secrets kept me on my toes—and reminded me that the stories behind our favorite childhood stories are often darker than we realize…and often best left untold.


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As Bright as Heaven

By Susan Meissner

Book cover of As Bright as Heaven

Why this book?

Alright, alright, alright, I get it: no one wants to read a pandemic book. Not here, not now. But Meissner’s novel, set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu, is a surprisingly uplifting tale. In addition to sisters, we also get to experience the time from the viewpoint of the girls’ mother. It’s a beautiful, resonating story that reminded me of the tricky balance that always exists—pandemic or no—between mitigating risk and living life to its fullest. 


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Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

Book cover of Little Women

Why this book?

What’s a list about sister books without Little Women? It’s cliched and commonplace…but also absolutely wonderful. Originally published in the late 19th century, Alcott’s tale has lost none of its charm over 150 years later, and nearly everyone can find themselves in one of the March sisters. As for me, I’m Jo. Always and forever Jo. 


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