The best multi-generational historical fiction

Who am I?

I’m fascinated with our familial, political, and cultural legacies, particularly events that displaced or forced immigration upon its people. Being Irish, we are dispersed to the four corners of the earth and often, I think about the millions of Irish immigrants who fled our shores to start again in a different country with a different culture and my imagination comes alive at the sights and changes they saw and how they had to adapt. I’ve written four historical fiction novels. One is based solely in Ireland, the others are based between Ireland and Jamaica, New York, and the American West. All of my novels are multigenerational.

I wrote...

Book cover of The Tide Between Us

What is my book about?

1821: A cargo of Irish children is deported to the cane fields of Jamaica. 1991: Their story is uncovered. Bestselling author Olive Collins “brings history to life in this mesmerizing epic spanning 5 generations and 170 years,” The Post.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Olive Collins Why did I love this book?

This was my first adult multi-generational novel which is based in an unnamed South American country during the 20th Century. I was gripped from the first line, "Barrabas came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy." And so begins the story of three generations of the Trueba Family.

The patriarch has lofty political aspirations, but his family doesn’t share his views which results in conflicts that are both tragic and comic. The novel weaves a family saga against a backdrop of political history. 

By Isabel Allende,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The House of the Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Spectacular...An absorbing and distinguished work...The House of the Spirits with its all-informing, generous, and humane sensibility, is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.” —The New York Times Book Review

Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson Goodreads Book Club Pick November/December 2020!

The House of the Spirits, the unforgettable first novel that established Isabel Allende as one of the world’s most gifted storytellers, brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political…

Book cover of The Joy Luck Club

Olive Collins Why did I love this book?

This multigenerational novel took me from San Francisco to China. It's like a collection of short stories, with each story connected.

It tells about the lives of four Chinese immigrant women who arrived in San Francisco in 1949. They met through their church and once a week gathered to play mahjong and talk. They call themselves the Joy Luck Club.

Each lady tells their story and the circumstances that brought them to America, sometimes their accounts are brutal yet realistic. It’s a heartfelt novel about mothers and daughters, how generations differ, and conflict rises and falls like the ebbing tides.

The reason I loved it is because the story can apply to any nationality and any epoch. Ultimately it's about mothers and daughters, their ambitions, disappointments, and ultimately their acceptance.   

By Amy Tan,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Joy Luck Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Joy Luck Club is an ambitious saga that's impossible to read without wanting to call your Mum' Stylist

Discover Amy Tan's moving and poignant tale of immigrant Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters.

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club.

Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives - until their own inner…

Book cover of Academy Street

Olive Collins Why did I love this book?

This is one of my favorite novels and one that I can’t stop recommending. There isn’t a word wasted in this intimate and evocative novel which is based between Ireland and New York.

The protagonist, Tess Lohan, was born in Ireland in 1944. Through Tess, we are given a ringside view of Irish life in the 40s, the harshness and stoicism, the distance between family and that which is unsaid. Tess takes us from Ireland to New York City in 1962 and the challenges of loneliness and joy of an Irish immigrant.

We see her struggling as a single mother and an ironclad friendship with Willa, a person of color from Mississippi who shares her apartment block. We see tragedy during 9/11 and follow Tess into old age. I almost mourned when I finished this novel. 

By Mary Costello,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Academy Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?




Tess Lohan appears to be a quiet child. But within lies a heart of fire. A fire that will propel her from her native Ireland into the hurly-burly of 1960s New York. In this city she will face the twists of a life graced with great beauty, but forever floating close to hazard. Joyous and heartbreaking, Academy Street journeys through six decades and one incredible story.

Book cover of The Glass Palace

Olive Collins Why did I love this book?

This epic historical fiction novel took me to Burma in 1885 and continues to 1990. The first line sets the standard for this gripping read, “In the marketplace of Mandalay, only the 11-year-old Indian boy Rajkumar recognizes the booming sounds beyond the curve of the river as the English cannon fire.”

Rajkumar witnesses Britain’s invasion and capture of Burma’s capital. He sees the looters ransack the Glass Palace. Rajkumar catches sight of Dolly, a 10-year-old nursemaid. He recalls this sighting through the years as he makes his fortune in the teak trade.

In this novel, the author brings to life the tumultuous political history of Burma and Malaya. Although I read the novel almost 20 years ago, I still recall vivid and powerful scenes.  

By Amitav Ghosh,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Glass Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The International Bestseller from the Man Booker Prize shortlisted author

'An absorbing story of a world in transition' JM Coetzee

'A Doctor Zhivago for the Far East' The Independent

Rajkumar is only another boy, helping on a market stall in the dusty square outside the royal palace, when the British force the Burmese King, Queen and all the Court into exile. He is rescued by the far-seeing Chinese merchant, and with him builds up a logging business in upper Burma. But haunted by his vision of the Royal Family, he journeys to the obscure town in India where they have…

Book cover of Cutting for Stone

Olive Collins Why did I love this book?

This sweeping historical novel took me from Addis Ababa to New York. It gave me insight to the missionary medics and the political landscape of Ethiopia.

Marion and his conjoined twin brother Shavia are the central characters in this multigenerational saga. After their mother’s death and the father’s disappearance, they were orphaned. Marion’s quest is to find the identity of his biological father, which takes us to New York, where Marion, like his father, is a renowned surgeon.

The reason the novel remains one of my favorites is that there are many levels to the story, historical and philosophical; it's also emotive and wise, with a cast of unforgettable characters. 

By Abraham Verghese,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Cutting for Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths in the thick air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. Bound by birth, we were driven apart by bitter betrayal. No surgeon can heal the would that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed. To begin at the beginning...

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Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Who am I?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

It is 1948 in Berlin. The economy is broken, the currency worthless, and the Russian bear is preparing to swallow its next victim. In the ruins of Hitler's capital, former RAF officers and a woman pilot start an air ambulance company that offers a glimmer of hope. Yet when a Soviet fighter brings down a British airliner, Berlin becomes a flashpoint. The world teeters on the brink of World War Three.

Award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader tells the backstory of the Berlin Airlift in Cold Peace, the first book of the Bridge to Tomorrow series.

Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

By Helena P. Schrader,

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