The Best Historical Fiction To Curl Up With

James O. Goldsborough Author Of Blood and Oranges: The Story of Los Angeles: A Novel
By James O. Goldsborough

The Books I Picked & Why

I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54

By Robert Graves

I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54

Why this book?

Most of us want to know more about the Roman Empire than Shakespeare gives us in Julius Caesar, though probably not as much as Gibbon offers us in six volumes. Robert Graves’ I, Claudius does what historical fiction does best: it is a brilliant narrative about a complex and important period of history that most of us want to understand. The emperor Claudius is the narrator, brutally honest, marvelously flawed, tragically situated as emperor between Caligula and Nero. Whew, such company!


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Arundel

By Kenneth Roberts

Arundel

Why this book?

Arundel is the compelling story of Col. Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec in 1775 on Gen. Washington’s orders to take Canada and the St. Lawrence from Britain at the start of the Revolutionary War. I’ve long admired Kenneth Roberts’ ability to navigate the treacherous path between history and fiction. One must stick to the history yet bring it alive through characters the author imagines to give the story drama and narrative power. Few writers of historical fiction have done it better or chosen better themes. Like Emperor Claudius, Benedict Arnold is a man of history worth understanding.


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The Winds Of War

By Herman Wouk

The Winds Of War

Why this book?

As more contemporary writers of historical fiction go, Herman Wouk is at the top. The Winds of War does with the beginnings of World War II what Barbara Tuchman did with The Guns of August, her history of events on the eve of World War I. This is a story that can best be told by a narrator who, Zadig-like, is present at the key events of the period. In other words, it is a story best told through the devices of historical fiction. The story takes place in 1939-’41, three of the most dramatic years of the Twentieth Century. 


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Caleb's Crossing

By Geraldine Brooks

Caleb's Crossing

Why this book?

Caleb’s Crossing is a stunning piece of research and recreation into the lives of Puritans and Native Americans in and around Martha’s Vineyard in the 17th Century. Brooks, a master of the art, weaves together a detective story and a love story about how a young English woman and the son of a chieftain strive to overcome the failure of the Puritans to convert the Wampanoag tribe to Calvinism. Her investigation into this little-known period is a triumph of sleuthing.


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Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall

Why this book?

So you thought you knew all about Thomas Cromwell, the devious and manipulative chief minister behind some of Henry VIII’s most heinous deeds. History has treated him generally as beyond redemption for his hand in the murders of some of England’s finest, including his relentless war against England’s Catholics. And let’s not forget poor Anne Boleyn. Hilary Mantel’s research tells a more complex story of a far more complex man.


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