5 More Historical Fiction Recs for Your TBR
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Last week on Unabridged, we released episode 251: Diving Into History with Historical Fiction Book Recs for 2023, and Ashley and I both offered up some recent historical fiction books we just loved.
Because I've read some fabulous historical fiction this year, I thought I'd share a few more recommendations!
Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
I've never read McCarthy's work via audio before . . . until now. And I'll be honest: I sort of want to re-read all of his books now in that format.
McCarthy's work is so dense that I assumed it would work for me only in print since I'm a stronger reader that way. But there was something about revisiting All the Pretty Horses in audio (narrated by Frank Muller) that emphasized the rhythm of McCarthy's writing and highlighted that gorgeous, spare description. I just loved it.
Rereading the story of John Grady Cole was just a joy. He's a teenager on the cusp of adulthood who travels from his home in Texas across the border to Mexico with his best friend, more to escape than to reach a new destination. They get work on a large ranch working with horses . . . and Grady is pulled into a relationship with the owner's beautiful daughter, with unexpected consequences.
Eleanor Shearer's River Sing Me Home (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"'Tell us your story. . . . How you get here?'
"Rachel went first. She let it all pour out of her. It was easier, now. It had grown easier each time she retold it, re-stitching the pieces of her life together. . . ." (317).
"Freedom mean something different to me" (360).
I read Eleanor Shearer's River Sing Me Home this month with @readwithtoni, and it was such a rewarding reading experience. Shearer's novel explores the life of Rachel, an enslaved woman in Barbados. After the announcement that England had ended slavery on the island and the subsequent realization that absolutely nothing would change, Rachel makes a desperate escape and finds herself on an unexpected journey to find the children who had been taken from her.
Shearer's book is wide ranging as Rachel travels across Barbados and, eventually, to British Guiana and Trinidad, finding joy and sorrow and, ultimately, the realization that each of her children must now follow their own paths.
The prose here was so lovely, and I was engaged deeply by Rachel's story and by so much history I didn't know.
Laura Spence-Ash's Beyond That, the Sea (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Thanks so much to Celadon Books for this ARC of Laura Spence-Ash's debut novel, Beyond That, the Sea.
I absolutely loved this story, told from multiple points of view of an American family, the Gregorys, and the young British girl they take in at the height of World War II.
When Beatrix Thompson's parents decide they'll send her away, for her own safety, as they face the daily threat of bombing in London, they have no idea that the family with whom she lives will truly become a second family for their young daughter.
The mother, Nancy Gregory, is joyful at being able to raise the daughter she wished she'd had. Her boys, William and Gerald, suddenly find common ground as they help to care for this new important figure in their lives.
Of course, no one can predict just how long Bea will be away or just how important this time in her life will be.
Spence-Ash does a beautiful job depicting the agony of Bea's parents' decision, the way they delight in the childhood their daughter can now have and mourn at the fact that she's growing up without them.
August Wilson's Fences (Bookshop.org)
I talked about this one in my post, "6+ Classics by Black Authors," along with some other works of historical fiction.
Kevin Wilson's Now Is Not the Time to Panic (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Kevin Wilson is just a joy. I've loved every book of his I've read and fully intend to read the rest: Now Is Not the Time to Panic, which I listened to thanks to Libro.fm, cemented him in my mind as an auto-read author.
Now Is Not the Time to Panic is the story of a girl who is striving to do something that will help her make a mark on the world. She's often alone, an outsider in her small, rural town, until a different sort of boy moves there for the summer.
Together Frankie and Zeke create a work of art that they distribute, widely, around Coalfield, Tennessee, expecting the creation to be its own reward. Then, people start paying attention, and their artwork has consequences they never could have anticipated.
Decades later, a reporter has uncovered Frankie's connection to the phenomenon and wants to write a story, so Frankie is having to contend, again, with what she created and with the ways it spiraled out from what she and Zeke first intended.
There's something about this book that feels deeply true, that captures what it's like to be someone different in a small town, particularly in the 90s. The audiobook, read by Ginnifer Goodwin, is excellent.
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