5 Must Read Historical Novels
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
When people think of King Henry VIII, who ruled over England from 1509 to 1547, they generally remember him as the Tudor King who had six wives, two of whom he had beheaded. Anne Boleyn was the most famous of his wives who lost her head in 1536 after only four years of marriage and one child: The future Queen of England, Elizabeth I.
But, Mary was the other Boleyn girl, Anne’s sister and friend. Philippa Gregory tells us about Mary, who loved Henry before he fell in love with Anne. Gregory takes us back to the 1500s with skill and historical accuracy.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
At 806 pages, many are hesitant to begin this book published in 1989. But, it is well worth the read. Set in 12th Century England, it is the story of a monk who sets out to build the best cathedral in all of England. Its representation of medieval life has been praised for its historical accuracy. One reader advised against being daunted by the book length. She found picking up the book after a pause in reading was like “returning to old friends.”
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
This book is set in the 1990s during the siege of Sarajevo. It tells the story of three people and their lives trying to survive. One day, as a cellist is looking out his window at a breadline, he sees 22 people killed by gunfire. In their honor, he decides to play Albinoni’s Adagio once a day every day for 22 days while he sits in the exact spot where the deaths occurred.
The depiction of the siege has been deemed historically correct by those who lived through it. The real cellist was a little unhappy with how he was portrayed in the book. Even so, the author makes real the tragic story of the siege and those who remember the uplifting notes of the music.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple was published in 1982 and won a Pulitzer in 1983 for distinguished fiction published in book form. It was made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 1985. It recounts the story of a black woman, Celie, in the 1930s, beginning when she is just a teenager. It follows her for more than 30 years until she finally overcomes oppression and abuse.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Pegged originally as a young adult coming of age story, The Book Thief quickly became a best-seller when published in 2005, and was made into a successful movie in 2013. It tells the story of a 14-year-old girl in Nazi Germany who loved to read but had to steal books since she had none of her own. A simple plot twist keeps readers intrigued.