My Top Historical Fiction Reads of 2018

2018 has been my first full year of blogging on Sepia Tinted Window, and throughout the past 12 months I’ve read some incredible historical fiction novels. There’s been a great mixture of new releases and older books, and this post combines all my favourites.

For me, a favourite book is one that leaves a lasting impression – either because it was so hard-hitting, or because it filled me with so much joy. When creating this list, I didn’t want to focus on getting it to a nice round number, but rather on pulling together all the historical fiction novels that made me really feel something this year.

So without further ado, here are the best historical fiction books I read in 2018, listed in the order I read them. Click the cover images to read my full reviews of the books!

Winter of the World (Century Trilogy #2)

 

1. Winter of the World by Ken Follett

The second book in Ken Follett’s incredible Century trilogy, covering World War II from a variety of perspectives. This book gripped me, entertained me and had me in general awe of Ken Follett’s genius.

 

 

Homegoing

 

2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

A stunning, unique novel following the lives of Ghanaian half-sisters Effia and Essi and their descendants, covering 200 years of African and American history in an eye-opening and heartbreaking way.

 

 

Glass Roses: A Victorian Fairytale

 

3. Glass Roses by Britain Kalai Soderquist

A Victorian retelling of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, told in epistolary form. Yes, it is absolutely as delightful and heartwarming as it sounds!

 

 

 

The Nightingale

 

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I thought I was prepared for how heartbreakingly beautiful this tale of French sisters Vianne and Isabelle in WWII France would be.

I was wrong.

 

Dear Mrs Bird

 

5. Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce

This heartwarming WWII debut novel soared straight onto my all-time-favourites list when I read it back in July. If you’re looking for an authentic London Blitz novel that perfectly captures the essence of 1940s Britain, this is it.

 

 

Pachinko

 

6. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

An informative and engaging historical saga following the lives of a Korean family living in Japan throughout the 20th century. This novel taught me so much about a period in history I previously knew very little about.

 

 

Goodbye for Now

 

7. Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

I read M.J. Hollows’ emotional WWI debut just before Remembrance Day, which was the perfect time for it. M.J. Hollows captured the horrors of life in the trenches so well, along with the profound injustice of all the lives lost.

 

 

The Seven Sisters

 

8. The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

This may be my first Lucinda Riley novel, but I’m confident that I’ve discovered a new favourite author! I adored both storylines in this dual-timeline novel, and I can’t wait to read the other books in this unique series.

 

 

To round off 2018 on my blog, I would like to thank Feedspot for recently including Sepia Tinted Window in their list of Top 35 Historical Fiction Book Blogs, Websites and Newsletters To Follow! It is such an honour to be included amongst so many great historical fiction blogs and sites, which you can check out in their post!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of my posts this year – it makes me so happy to be sharing the historical fiction love! I wish you all a lovely holiday period, and I’ll be back in 2019 with more historical fiction books to share 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best booktubers for historical fiction recommendations

One of my favourite ways to get book recommendations is by watching booktube videos. Although I’m almost certainly going to be sticking to blogging for the time being (the thought of talking to a camera and sticking it on the internet terrifies me!), I’m subscribed to a fair few booktubers, and want to share with you some of the channels giving the best historical fiction book recommendations.

In the interest of keeping this post to a reasonable length, I’m sticking to my top 3 for now – but if you’d like some more recommendations, make sure to let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige!

So here, in no particular order, are my current top 3 booktube channels for fabulous historical fiction recommendations:

lucythereader

Lucy is a voracious classics reader, which is what makes her historical fiction reviews so interesting. Like me, she enjoys novels brimming with historical detail – and what I really love is that she compares the modern day author’s take on a historical period to that of an author who was writing at the time.

I love her discussions on how certain scandalous topics covered by historical fiction authors would have been censored in novels of the time, and I always head to her channel when I’m looking for an intelligent, in-depth review.

Books Michelle

Michelle is one of my favourite booktubers to watch at the moment! Her reading taste is pretty diverse, but she has a love of historical fiction and studies history at university.

What I love about Michelle’s reviews is that I can always trust them; she isn’t afraid to be critical of books she didn’t like, which I always appreciate. When Michelle says she enjoyed a historical fiction novel, I know it must be really good, and so it usually goes straight to the top of my TBR!

Hailey in Bookland

Hailey was the first ever booktuber I subscribed to, and her channel is one of my all-time favourites! I adore Hailey’s personality – she’s so hilarious and full of enthusiasm, and I think she would be the perfect bookish friend.

On Hailey’s channel you will find some great WWII book recommendations, which, as you know, is one of my favourite historical periods to read about. As Hailey mostly reads YA there are also a lot of historical YA recommendations, which I really want to read more of.

This post was so much fun to write! I love watching these amazing booktubers’ videos, so I wanted to give more people an opportunity to discover them 🙂

Who are your favourite booktubers to watch? Leave me a comment to let me know – I’m always looking for new channels to subscribe to!

Hamilton: A history-obsessed-musical-lover’s dream

I’ll be honest: I pretty much booked tickets for Hamilton because of the hype. I usually really enjoy musicals, and it seemed to be getting rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, so I figured I might as well see what all the fuss was about.

At this point I didn’t really know anything about it – but as the time went on, I learnt that it was a) about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, and b) a hip-hop musical told through rap.

I was more than a little concerned by now – especially since I’d been to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the previous month and found it majorly disappointing (please don’t hate me!). Because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had, once again, been blindly swept up in the hype. How on earth, I asked myself, can hip-hop and 18th-century history work?

Well let me tell you, reader: it works. As soon as the opening number reached its conclusion to rapturous applause, I knew this was going to be something special.

It did take a couple of songs for me to fully get used to the rapping – it’s not a genre I listen to often, so at first I found myself concentrating really hard in case I missed something important – but by the interval I was so completely enthralled that it felt oddly jarring to hear the audience members around me not speaking in verse.

Even with composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical and lyrical genius, the show would not succeed in being so utterly spellbinding without the phenomenal cast. Each and every member of the cast was incredible, pulling you in to the life story of a fascinating and flawed man.

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this on Sepia Tinted Window, but I’m a huge American politics nerd. I studied some American politics at A-Level, including the formation of the constitution, so imagine the joy it gave my inner 17-year-old self to hear Hamilton and Jefferson locked in an epic rap battle over the pros and cons of a more centralised government!

The historical costumes, too, are definitely worth a mention. Hamilton covers the period from 1776-1804, and the style of dress changed with the decades, from the robe a la Francaise in the 1770s and 1780s to the Empire waistline of the early 19th century. These are tiny details, but details I very much appreciated.

By the end of the production I was moved to tears, through a combination of the emotion of the music, the sheer power of the story, and not wanting the experience to end! Needless to say, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack non-stop ever since, and will continue to do so ad nauseum (hahaha just kidding, like I’d ever get sick of listening to it!).

So that concludes one blog post’s worth of obsessive fangirling about the BEST MUSICAL I HAVE EVER SEEN. If you haven’t seen the work of genius that is Hamilton yet, what are you waiting for?! I know I certainly won’t be “throwing away my shot” at another chance to experience it!

Photo credits: All from the Hamilton West End Twitter page

 

 

 

 

Children’s Historical Fiction: My childhood favourites

I was inspired to write this post whilst watching the lovely Ashleigh at A Frolic Through Fiction‘s video on her favourite childhood books. Filled with nostalgia, I began to think back over some of my own childhood favourites – and with this came the realisation that my interest in historical fiction developed at a very young age.

Today I’m going to share with you two of my all-time-favourite children’s historical fiction novels which helped ignite the passion for the genre I have today. Both are set during the Second World War; both contain unforgettable protagonists; and both introduced me as a child to some of the hardships of the period in a relatable and sensitive way.

Without further ado, let’s get in to the books…

Back Home by Michelle Magorian

Back Home

Most people will know Michelle Magorian as the author of Goodnight, Mister Tom – a novel I also loved – but my first taste of her writing was Back Home, the story of Rusty, who is returning to the UK in 1945 after being evacuated to America during the war.

This book was gifted to me for my ninth birthday, and I instantly fell in love with it. Rusty was a main character I could relate to so easily – at the time I was being bullied in school, so Rusty’s sense of being an outsider was something I was very familiar with. She’s such a strong and determined protagonist, and I remember finding her really inspiring.

In addition to offering young readers an insight into what life in Britain was like in the aftermath of the Second World War, Back Home also deals with issues relating to growing up. Rusty is twelve years old, just entering adolescence, so it’s also a great coming-of-age story for children to read. Basically, it’s an all-round great book!

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

Ah, Michael Morpurgo. From a very young age I discovered that his novels had the power to move me to tears. Private Peaceful, set during the First World War, is one such example – and another is this, a beautiful Second World War novel about one wilful girl and her wandering cat.

This story is set in the seaside village of Slapton in Devon, where twelve-year-old Lily and her neighbours are forced to evacuate from so that practice landings for D-Day can take place. Tips the cat is a central character – which instantly had me sold – as is Adie, the American soldier whose acquaintance Lily makes.

Both heartbreaking and uplifting, this story taught me a lot about the part Slapton citizens had to play in D-Day, whilst also featuring some very memorable characters and an adorable ending.

 

I hope you enjoyed this nostalgia-filled look at some of my very first historical fiction favourites! I’d love to know if you read historical fiction as a child, and if so, do share some of your own favourite books 🙂

 

My top 5 books of 2017

2017 has been such an amazing reading year for me. After a good few years of struggling to find the time for it, this year I felt that I properly got back into reading, which I am so happy about as it has always brought me so much joy.

Particularly since starting this blog in May, I’ve found some amazing reads this year, including some novels which I’m sure will remain all-time-favourites. A good portion of the books I enjoyed were historical fiction, but there are also a couple of novels from other genres which I really felt deserved a mention.

So without further ado, here (in no particular order) are my top 5 reads from 2017:

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot SeeThis was such a beautifully-written novel set in the Second World War. Focusing on the lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a budding young engineer in Nazi Germany, this story combined an intricately-woven narrative with rich historical detail. I’ll be recommending this book to anyone who likes well-researched historical fiction or beautiful prose, as it has both qualities in abundance!

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering HeightsI read this as part of Victober, as my mum had been telling me to read it for ages. All I can say is this: I need to have more faith in my mum’s book recommendations, because oh my goodness, I have no words to describe how much I loved this book! I completely devoured it; willingly losing myself in the dark atmosphere of the Yorkshire moors. This was my first Brontë novel, but I definitely plan on reading more in 2018.

3. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

The Constant Princess (The Tudor Court #1)I will admit to being a little apprehensive about this novel when I first picked it up. My last meeting with the Tudor period was, a little embarrassingly, history lessons in Primary school, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I had nothing to fear. This novel was a delight; bringing the politics and personalities of the Tudor family to life in a fast-paced, engaging style.

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveNo review of my year in reading would be complete without a mention for this incredible YA debut novel inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement. It really was one of those books which deeply affected me, lingering in my mind even when I wasn’t reading it. The message it gives is so important, and I feel as though I want to spread it as far and wide as possible by recommending that everyone reads this book.

5. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of ThunderThis was one of the first books I read in 2017, and it has stayed with me throughout the year. It’s a YA novel which follows Steffi, who doesn’t speak due to suffering from anxiety, and Rhys, a boy who is deaf. As someone who suffers from anxiety myself, I felt the issue was dealt with sensitively, and I could definitely relate to Steffi. This was a beautiful story, and I’m eagerly awaiting Sara Barnard’s next book.

I’m so pleased to have found these amazing books this year. I’d love to hear what you enjoyed reading in 2017, and I wish you all a great reading year in 2018!

My Favourite Period Dramas

I adore historical fiction in all its forms. From novels, to plays, to television programmes and films – give me a good piece of historical fiction in just about any format, and I will happily devour it.

Over the last week I’ve been binge-watching Victoria, ITV’s period drama about Queen Victoria’s reign. I’ve completely fallen in love with the characters and story, and have loved learning more about Victoria’s first few years as Queen.

Since I’ve been loving this series so much, I decided it would be fun to list some of my other favourite period dramas of all time.

1. The Crown

The Crown

Credit: Netflix

Sticking to the royal theme, the first series I absolutely MUST mention is The Crown, the incredible Netflix original series centring around Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. When I first started watching Victoria, I was pretty certain it couldn’t come close to matching The Crown – and although I am really enjoying Victoria, I think The Crown is still my favourite of the two.

The main reason I adore this show so much is the amazing acting, especially from Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth, and Matt Smith who plays Prince Philip. Their particular roles must be quite a daunting task, especially as the Queen is still the reigning monarch – but I really feel both actors are simply perfect for the roles.

I think what’s so interesting about this series is that it offers a rare glimpse into the lives of the royal family. Continuously in the public eye as they are, it can often be easy to forget that the Queen and her family are real people too. What this show does so well is to make us consider what it must have been like for Elizabeth the person to be thrown into the life of a reigning monarch at such a young age. Coupled with costumes to die for and a beautiful set, this is a series well worth watching.

 

2. Mr Selfridge

Mr Selfridge

Credit: ITV

This show was recommended to me by my mum (who also recommended Victoria – she knows me so well!), and is another that I thoroughly enjoyed. Throughout its four series, Mr Selfridge depicts the life of businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridges department store which opened in 1909.

What I loved about this show was the fact that it focused on the lives of the workers in the store as much as those of Harry Selfridge and his family. It really helped create a vivid picture of what it must have been like to work in one of the most exciting and forward-thinking stores of its time. I also particularly enjoyed the storylines centring around the developments in women’s rights.

My only slight negative point is that the final series of the show became quite dark and miserable, with too many sad things happening for my liking! This is only my personal preference, though, and I still enjoyed all four series a lot.

 

3. Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC miniseries)

Pride and Prejudice

Credit: BBC

Would any discussion about period dramas be complete without this, the absolute all-time best (in my opinion) adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? This simply has to be my ultimate favourite period drama; watching it is like having Jane Austen’s world come to life right before my eyes.

I can’t write about this adaptation without mentioning Colin Firth, who will always be my favourite Darcy. Jennifer Ehle, too, makes a perfect Elizabeth – and, to be honest, the whole cast seem as though they were meant for their roles, from the incredibly silly Mrs Bennet to the waffling Mr Collins, and the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

I love absolutely everything about this adaptation. The costumes and the sets are so authentic, as are the script and plot, sticking very closely to Jane Austen’s original novel. For these reasons, amongst others, this is a favourite Jane Austen adaptation of many Austen fans. If you love Pride and Prejudice – or if you love costume dramas in general – this is certainly the crème de la crème and a must-watch!

 

So there we have it – my top period dramas! Let me know if any of the above are favourites of yours, or if you have others that you love, because I’m always looking for new shows to watch! Also, this list focused on British period dramas, because that’s mostly what I have watched – but if anyone knows of any great international period dramas, do let me know.

Featured image Credit: ITV