historical fiction

Cover of Lone Women by Victor LaValle. A black woman stands alone on a prairie.

Lone Women

By Victor LaValle
Star Rating

Rated by Allison M
Sep 20, 2023

Lone Women by Victor LaValle blends the best of several genres, giving us western, historical fiction, horror, thriller, and plenty of social commentary to boot. The year is 1914 and our heroine, Adelaide Henry, is fleeing California – her parents are dead and all she has with her is a suspiciously heavy locked steamer trunk. She makes her way to Montana where, thanks to the Homestead Act, single women were able to claim plots of land, work it for three years, and then “prove up” to owning the land. The harsh Montana environment is difficult enough for anyone to survive, let alone a young

Cover of "Banyan Moon" by Thao Thai.

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

By Thao Thai
Star Rating

Rated by Gregg W.
Jun 21, 2023

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of New Title Tuesday, where we take a closer look at a new release that's hitting the publishing world this week.

Summer is in full swing, and some of our patrons might be looking for a deeply immersive novel - something that grabs us and transports us to another place and another time. Banyan Moon, a debut novel by Thao Thai, is a sprawling, epic, multi-generational novel that focuses on interweaving mother-daughter relationships through three generations of fierce, independent women that stretch from the modern Florida coast to back, years ago, to the

We Were the Lucky Ones cover. Man and woman sit on bench with their backs facing us.

We Were the Lucky Ones

By Georgia Hunter

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Apr 30, 2021

What a book. What a story. What a family. The Kurcs are a Polish family who will not let the cruelty and dehumanizing Nazi and Soviet rule crush their spirit.  

We see babies born, weddings, and a family desperately wishing they were all together again. They feel lucky just to be with one another.  We follow the lives of the Kurc families’ five children through the war.  

Addy moved to France to finish his studies and stayed after finding a job. Now, he cannot return to Poland because there is no safe way to get there and he doesn’t have the right paperwork. His one hopeful thought is seeing

The Harvey Way

By Carolyn Meyer
Star Rating

Rated by Heather McCartin
Apr 8, 2019

In the late 1800s and early-mid 1900s, the Harvey Girls were considered to be elite hostesses and servers for entrepreneur and businessman Fred Harvey.  Harvey developed the concept of the ‘Harvey House’ dining areas along various railways across the United States, including the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.  These hospitality restaurants worked in tandem with the railways in order to provide first class service to passengers and railroad employees.  Meals were served promptly on a strict schedule and all Harvey Girls were expected to follow a strict code of conduct that included a

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow

By Alyssa Palombo

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Dec 21, 2018

This story is the legend of Sleepy Hollow from the point of view of the main female character, Katrina Van Tassel. Having grown up the only daughter to a wealthy farmer and doting mother, Katrina is strong in her opinions, desires and actions. While this strength of character gets Katrina into some mischief, it also allows her to follow her heart and find a deep love with the new school teacher, Ichabod Crane.

When Ichabod first arrives at Sleepy Hollow he stays with the Van Tassel family until he finds the first host family among his pupils. Katrina's father hires him quickly to be her music

The Lake House

By Kate Morton
Star Rating

Rated by Colleen O.
Oct 31, 2017

Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors, and she does not disappoint with The Lake House. The story moves through several time periods beginning in the present when Detective Sadie Sparrow (who is on enforced leave from the department due to leaking a hunch to the media) goes to Cornwall to stay with her granddad. There she discovers the remains of a grand estate buried in the woods, and her curiosity is piqued. She learns that the estate was abandoned in the wake of the disappearance of the one-year-old son of the house, who was never found. The detective in Sadie rises to the fore, and she

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession

By Alison Weir

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Jul 5, 2017

Having read many books with Anne Boleyn as either a periphery or main character, Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession offers a very different take on this notorious woman. In this second novel of the Six Tudor Queens series, Alison Weir paints Anne Boleyn in an almost sympathetic light. Where she is generally seen as a conniving, cold and adulterous woman, Weir shows her as a woman shaped by the events of her upbringing and pushed to her limits by the pursuit of a king who always gets his way, and the promise of being Queen.

The second and perhaps most well known of King Henry VIII's wives, Anne

The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

By Jonas Jonasson
Star Rating

Rated by Emily D.
Oct 25, 2016

I suffered through this book! (I know what you're thinking, "Why? Life is too short to read books you don't like! Yada yada . . . .") Well I finished it because I had to lead the discussion at book club. (Spoiler! I'm the only one who finished it! Everyone else quit.)

Allan Karlson climbs out the widow because he doesn't want to go to his 100th birthday party. He then manages to steal 50 thousand dollars and forms a group of unlikely friends (which includes an elephant.) They precede to run and hide from both a police detective and the criminal gang he stole from. Through mostly good luck

Far From The Madding Crowd DVD

By Thomas Hardy

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Nov 28, 2015

Thomas Hardy, an English author, spun a classic and spectacular tale of love in his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. Adapted for the screen by David Nicholls and starring Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), and Tom Sturridge (Waiting Forever), the movie stands on its own with this convincing cast of actors. In the beginning of the film, the protagonist Bathsheba Everdene, convinces us she is too independent to need a husband or to be courted by a man. Her first suitor is Gabriel Oak, who is hard not to like with his chivalrous characteristics and the

The Tudors, the Complete First Season

By Michael Hirst
Star Rating

Rated by Megan C.
Dec 3, 2014

My original reaction to this series was acerbic (see below). But now that I have watched all 4 seasons of The Tudors, I believe it’s worth sticking it out. It grows on you. The characters grow deeper and more complex. I actually learned a lot about the period, especially what turns out to be the very significant religious clashes of the time. The series does well in showing how each queen made her mark in history. So despite my original review, I’ve decided it’s worth some eye rolling to see the history of King Henry VII’s reign come alive.

Original Review:

Although I’m a fan of many of the

Willow Run

By Patricia Reilly Giff

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Oct 2, 2014

This historical fiction book is about Meggie Dillon's life.  To help improve the family's income, Meggie's family ups and moves to Willow Run, Michigan, during WWII. Her father has obtained a job working on war planes at night to help the war effort. Because they are moving into a small apartment they have to leave her German grandfather behind in New York.  Meggie soon realizes that she misses him but quickly meets other kids in the same circumstance as hers.  Then, coming home one day to a military car parked outside, she learns that her older brother is missing in action, and Meggie must

The Maid's Version

By Daniel Woodrell
Star Rating

Rated by Jed D.
Aug 27, 2014

Forty-two people were killed in the 1929 dance hall explosion in the fictional Ozark town of West Table, Missouri. Alma, a maid for one of West Table's richest families, knows just how it happened. For being such a slim book, Alma's story spans many decades, and weaves in numerous suspects; mobsters from St. Louis, persecuted local gypsies, or maybe an overzealous preacher. Alma’s memory of the event drifts in and out of focus as she ages, jumping back and forth in time, while either leading the reader to the culprit or describing another victim of the horrible explosion.   

The Maid’s

The White Princess

By Philippa Gregory

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Jul 31, 2014

The White Princess is the fifth of Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, this one focusing on Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.  Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the War of the Roses, to become Henry VII.  To unite the York and Lancastrian families, Princess Elizabeth was forced to marry Henry VII, whom she believed to be the murderer of her love, Richard III.  Henry VII was suspicious of everyone and everything around him, making one wonder how anyone could have had a very satisfactory life. 

Ms. Gregory has created fear and

The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller
Star Rating

Rated by Jo F.
Jul 17, 2014

This is a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a retelling of the Iliad all in one masterfully told epic. Miller at once succeeds in adding depth and substance to Achilles and Patroclus and also preserving the dramatic feel of the war that is the backdrop to their relationship.

Patroclus is awed and then befriended by Achilles, a young prince who is the opposite of Patroclus: easy in his young body, beautiful, privileged. As their friendship develops into a love affair, they are carried along by the fate that we know propels them toward a tragedy. Miller develops her characters with a sure


By Jim Crace
Star Rating

Rated by Megan C.
Apr 15, 2014

An unconventional telling of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness, Quarantine grips the reader in a mysterious world of deception and dream. We follow six characters' sojourn in the desert: a merchant and his wife, a wealthy but barren Jewish woman, an elderly Jewish man suffering from a tumor, a madman from the east, a philosophical young Greek, and Jesus the Galilean. It is a believable work of historical fiction with a twist of suspense. At the end the reader is left to interpret the meaning of events.

Crace's writing holds nothing back, exposing his characters' raw and unflattering motives

The Witching Hour

By Anne Rice
Star Rating

Rated by Diane H.
Dec 6, 2013

If you’re in the mood for a long book and like family histories with a supernatural twist, try The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. While the story is set in the same world as her vampire series, there are no vampires in this book. Instead, the tale of the Mayfair witches is told from their beginning several hundred years ago to the present.

Those familiar with the vampire stories will recognize the Talamasca, whose motto is “we watch and we are always here,” and who play a significant role in the Mayfair witches’ story. The Talamasca are an order of scholars who study the supernatural. They are

Jul 24, 2013

Two librarians from the Johnson County Library, Christine Peterson and Gregg Winsor, discuss Bernard Cornwell's novel "1356" and some other favorites from the historical fiction genre. Listen to the discussion, or check out the books they discussed here.

Historical Fiction Boot Camp

Rated by Helen H.
May 31, 2013

Historical Fiction is set in the past, either before the author’s birth or at least 50 years in the past. The main characters are generally fictional but the settings are usually real and attempt to accurately capture the history, manners and social conditions of the times. Attention to historical facts and detail is imperative.

Get reading some of our favorite essential picks from the Historical Fiction genre »

Follow along with us on Facebook this month for an in-depth introduction to the Historical Fiction genre. Each month we’re suggesting books, posting quizzes and infographics, and

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Apr 17, 2013

Never growing beyond two feet and eight inches, Mercy Lavinia "Vinnie" Bump spent much of her life hidden by her parents. However, when she impressed legendary showman P.T. Barnum, she suddenly became the world's most unlikely celebrity. In this fictional autobiography, Vinnie recounts her life, her travels with Barnum, and her wedding to co-worker and fellow tiny superstar, General Tom Thumb, and much, much more. This tiny woman lived a huge life.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Rated by Michelle H.
Apr 12, 2013

Train Dreams is a weird little book. Only 116 pages but sweeping in scope, it tells the story of Robert Grainer, born in the late 1800s, orphaned and sent to live in the Pacific Northwest where he becomes an itinerant laborer, finds a wife and has a daughter, and experiences happiness so surreal it surely can’t last. It doesn’t. What remains of Grainer’s long life is a story distilled into only the most essential telling.

Author Denis Johnson combines humor with tragedy in such a way to make the poignancy of Train Dreams more tender than can be imagined. If you’re like me, you’ll want to ride

Mar 24, 2013

The Shoemaker’s Wife is a love story set in the early 1900’s, first in the Italian Alps when Enza and Ciro meet and leave a very distinct impression on each other, then later in New York City where they meet up again by chance. Both of their lives are shaped by their childhoods - Ciro being raised in a convent by nuns with his brother after his father passes away, & Enza as the oldest child of five with the pressure of keeping her family financially afloat. When a scandal causes Ciro to leave the convent and come to America, he becomes an apprentice to a shoemaker and quickly learns the trade

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Rated by Jared H.
Mar 11, 2013

How far would you go to know the truth about your father? When orphan Carver Young discovers a letter written by his father, he becomes caught up in the hunt for a notorious killer who just may hold the keys to his past. Receiving help from friends, a famous Pinkerton detective, and even Theodore Roosevelt himself, Carver will discover that perhaps it is better to leave the past buried.

I love a good mystery and this story is just that. Set in the turn-of-the-century New York, Ripper is a fun and exciting mystery tale that seems to have it all: chases, intrigue, the crazy mentor, roof-top

QB VII by Leon Uris

Rated by Diane H.
Dec 5, 2012

QB VII is a work of historical fiction that was written in 1970 and that takes place from the 1940’s to 1967. QB VII is a courthouse in London where a good portion of the book takes place. Before getting to the trial, the story follows the lives of Dr. Adam Kelno, a Polish doctor who was in the infamous Jadwiga Concentration Camp during World War II, and Abraham Cady, an American author who wrote about the Holocaust. Both men are haunted by their pasts.

Through the course of the book we are given glimpses into different parts of the world during the first half of the twentieth century

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Aug 30, 2012

The Chaperone is Laura Moriarty’s fourth novel and her first historical fiction. As the title suggests, Moriarty created an unforgettable heroine in an ordinary and conservative chaperone, Cora Carlisle. Cora is a respectable and sensible mother and wife of a prosperous Wichita lawyer with a seemingly perfect life. To everyone’s surprise, Cora volunteers to chaperone fifteen-year-old mischievous Louise Brooks, the future silent movie star, to New York City to study modern dance in the summer of 1922. However, Cora has her own reasons why she wants and needs to go to New York City. Most of the

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Aug 20, 2012

It’s been 24 hours since I’ve finished Code Name Verity, and I am still staring at a wall, recovering.

We first meet our heroine as a prisoner of war in Occupied France, writing down everything she knows about the Allied War Effort to hand over to the Nazis.  She is beaten and starved and in mental anguish over the probable death of her best friend, Maddie, the pilot who crash-landed their plane into France.  But despite the bruises and burns, our narrator is full of spirit and defiance and refuses to let her captors have anything without a struggle—even as she collaborates, she piques and

Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

Rated by Michelle H.
Jul 19, 2012

Despite the Colley family remaining neutral during the Civil War, the Missouri Union Militia sets fire to their home, leaving young Adair with only her two sisters. Together the three set out to navigate war-torn Missouri – an environment so inhospitable it makes Armageddon seem manageable. Adair is brave and intelligent, but the threats that surround her create an unbeatable monster. Once separated from her sisters, she’s sent to prison in St. Louis on charges of treason. Author Paulette Jiles dramatizes this little known piece of the Civil War – that women were held captive – with bold

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Jul 16, 2012

Surprisingly, this book is not about Prague, or its famous cemetery; in fact only about 100 out of 460 pages cover anything remotely relating to Prague.  The Prague Cemetery describes infamous hoaxes, forgeries and plagiarisms of the 19th century and how they fueled some of the most notable historical events that humanity would rather forget.   

Eco’s novel revolves mostly around the infamous, fictitious document, the Protocol of the Elders of Zion, a text first published in Russia in 1903, and which spread quickly around the world in the early 20th century and is still being published to

Watergate: a novel by Thomas Mallon

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Apr 29, 2012

 If you remember how Watergate unfolded, this fictionalized character study will read much easier than if you know it only as a political chronology. 

The author has flipped common perspectives about the era on end, and in this novel presents the Watergate events through the lenses of individuals caught up in the relentlessly growing scandal.  Mallon tells the story as it unfolds, without an omniscient narrator, and through people we know mostly second-hand, people who never wrote memoirs, like Fred LaRue and Rose Mary Woods…and Pat Nixon.   A few individuals you’d expect, like Richard Nixon

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Apr 6, 2012

This book is about a magic house towering above the Czech city of Brno. The house was custom built by a visionary architect for a Jewish-Catholic newlywed couple in the 1920s. The new house projects wealth, self-confidence, beauty and a new architectural form. The couple only gets to enjoy the house until the country is occupied by the Nazi army and the family has to leave everything behind and flee. Their lives as refugees continue from country to country. But the life of the villa does not end with the departure of its owners. New residents come one after another: The Germans are replaced by

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Mar 10, 2012

The Last Queen is a fictionalized autobiography of Juana of Castile, known to history as Juana la Loca, the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.  The third child of their Catholic Majesties is betrothed to Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, grandson and heir of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  (I had occasionally wondered how Spain got into the Netherlands. Now I know.)  Theirs was a grand teenage love at first sight.  But the courts of Spain are decorous and somber…. The courts of Northern Europe are quite a different matter.  Juana must fight for her marriage.

Fate interferes