5 Page Turning Historical Fiction Book Club Picks

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Winter, it’s coming, or for some – it’s already here. If you’re like me, Apple TV and Netflix can be very enticing when the windows start to frost up. But it’s also the perfect time to curl up with some hot tea and a good book, take a break, rest a little and read. And lucky you if you have a fireplace, even better.

A good way to get the proper mindset for this is to make sure you have a few good books handy. This way when the mood strikes, you’re ready. I don’t know about you, but I love it when I’m one step ahead of things – it’s a good feeling.

I know – finding a good book can be hard – especially if you’re eventually going to share it with your book club.

Searching for your next read can be overwhelming, it can even change your mood, and not in a good way. Before you know it, your quest for a new book is sitting at the top of your  “procrastination” list; so it’s probably not a coincidence when you search your bookshelves and come up empty handed. And while not having something to read isn’t quite in the same panic category as that last minute,frantic search for something to wear- why not have a few good books on hand?

I love to read so my reading tastes are pretty broad, but today I’m suggesting Historical Fiction – always a great book club choice.

Reading about another time and place- another culture and in some cases a completely different thought process – can fire up emotions and with that comes great Book Club conversation.

Here are some of my favorite discussion generating, Historical Fiction books:
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Burial Rites By Hannah kent

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Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

From The Jacket:

In 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota, all is quiet and serene. The Minnesota River flows through the countryside, the town barber knows everyone’s name, and folks dutifully attend church every Sunday. But that serenity is thrown into turmoil as a series of tragic deaths lead thirteen-year-old Frank Drum and his family on a hunt for terrible truths. But at what cost comes wisdom? In this powerful novel from the author of the Cork O’Connor mysteries, a boy must leave his childhood behind and confront the dark nature of the adult world and its myriad moral questions: What secrets will destroy us? How do we deal with grief? And what solace is there in the ordinary grace of the world?

My thoughts:

Even if you’ve never lived in a small town, a sense of longing for the earlier days of youth will fill your senses while reading this book. It’s a beautifully written coming of age story, which perfectly captures the pure simplicity of living in a small town, being 14 years old and  the son of a preacher. The book is told from the perspective of 40 year old Frank as he reflects back on a summer that changed his life; this gives the book an interesting spin.

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

From the Jacket:

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away. September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her? September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryns eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

My thoughts:

The book follows two women, born centuries apart, and their struggle to remain strong and continue on after suffering a great tragedy. The story has many wonderful facts and details of Elis Island in the 1900’s; a place I knew very little about before this book, but my favorite thing about this story was the detailed descriptions  of the 911 terror attacks. Meissiner was able to give the reader a true sense of what it must have been like to lose someone to this terrible tragedy – or be a survivor.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

From the Jacket:

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking,and attractive, than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

My Thoughts:

What does it feel like to know war is coming, what impact does war have on a small English village and how does war change people? This is a well-written story depicting just this. I can’t say enough about the characters –they are special, you will think of them as friends and remember them long after the book is done and put back on your book-shelf.

The Girl Who Came Home; A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

From the Jacket:

Inspired by true events, the New York Times bestselling novel The Girl Who Came Home is the poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard RMS Titanic—a seamless blend of fact and fiction that explores the tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants. Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again. Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

My Thoughts:

You would think a fresh take on the sinking of the Titanic would be impossible. I’m not sure what the fasinaton is with this tragedy; maybe because it was the ship’s maiden voyage, or maybe because the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable. Personally, I am scarred by visions of men dressed in tuxedos playing violins, people scrambling for a place on a lifeboat, and others less fortunate ,floating in sub zero waters hoping to be rescued. Regardless, people are drawn to details of this event,always wanting to know more. This story puts a personal spin on the tragedy and show the poverty and famine the immigrants were running from when they boarded the Titanic full of hopes and dreams for a better future.

Burial Rites By Hannah Kent

 

From The Jacket:

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

My Thoughts:

I read this book a while ago, but it still haunts me.   It’s a compelling tale, which takes place in 1829 and is based on the true events of the last public execution held in Iceland. There were no jails at the time, so Agnes, the condemned woman, is held at a farm, spending the last year of her life with a family. The book recounts the events leading up to her execution and details the tension created by her presence.

 

Happy Reading!

Linda

Get the Book Club Discussion Questions & Read PBR Reviews:
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    Faye Parker

    Burial Rites is a great book. I did not want the story to end. If you love historical fiction this is a great selection.

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