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History Re-Imagined: Great New Reads in Historical Fiction

Mar 23, 2011

What was it like to live with the Brönte family? Who was the real Catherine de Medici behind the crown? How did women live in Medieval England? People love historical fiction because it offers vivid, albeit fictional, answers to questions about which scholars can only speculate. In fact, the genre of historical fiction is so popular that it's become almost as large as history itself! We decided to focus on five great reads in historical fiction from the past year.

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By Megan Driscoll

Black Hills by Dan Simmons

Black Hills

Fans of the Old West will enjoy this retelling of Custer's Last Stand with a supernatural twist. Author Dan Simmons takes us back to 1876, when Custer's dying ghost enters the body of a clairvoyant young Sioux warrior, Paha Sapa. The story follows Paha's life up through the 1930s, when the elderly warrior plots to blow up the monuments on Mount Rushmore to atone for his role in building them.

For the King

For the King's Favor

Author Elizabeth Chadwick has been heralded as 'one of the queens of historical writing,' and she has not disappointed her fans with this new book. For the King's Favor examines how life for 12th century women in England was largely shaped by their romantic decisions. Based on the true story of a royal mistress who ended up marrying a young lord, the novel tracks the life of Ida de Tosney after she leaves King Henry II for an up and coming earl.

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan

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Charlotte and Emily

The Brönte family produced not one, but two canonical English writers: Sisters Charlotte and Emily, authors of such books as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. In this novel, author Jude Morgan (a pseudonym for Tim Wilson) imagines the life of the whole family as they struggle to survive in Haworth, a rural English town with a mortality rate as high as London's slums. In addition to the famous sisters, Morgan tells the story of Branwell, their eccentric brother, and the tragic lives and deaths of their three other sisters. Readers who are entranced by the story of the Brönte family may also be interested in Passion, a novel by the same author that examines the lives of the Romantic poets (Shelley, Byron and Keats) through the perspectives of the women who loved them.

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

Daughters of the Witching Hill

Author Mary Sharratt presents Daughters of the Witching Hill, a novel structured around the 1612 Pendle witch hunts in England. Drawing on some details from the historical event, Sharratt imagines a family of strong women struggling to survive the accusations of a town that has turned against them.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici was one of the most notorious queens in European history. Ruling over France in the 16th century, she was responsible for many violent acts, including the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Author C.W. Gortner puts the reader inside the mind and heart of the queen, following her from childhood through her adult years as she ruthlessly protects her hold on the crown. Yet in spite of her actions, Gortner presents a sympathetic picture of this fascinating and perhaps rightly villainized historical figure.

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