5 Historical Fiction Books That'll Teach You Something

Historical fiction is the best way to fall into history. It's the closest thing we have to a time machine (currently, anyway) and it's likely you'll learn something. More often than not, it makes you appreciate the times we live in (you thought 2017 was bad? Try 1944). 

Here are 5 books that will have you Googling 12th Century cathedrals and prosecuting war crimes: 


1. The Storyteller

By Jodi Piccoult

The Storyteller flips between history and modern day, as it tells the story of Sage, a baker and a loner, who befriends a friendly old man. This "friendly" old man, Josef, asks her to kill him. Josef was a Nazi SS, while Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, and Josef wants to repent for his sins. The Storyteller journeys through World War II, comparing Sage's grandmother's experience to Josef's. The story is fascinating, raising so many questions about the persecution of war crimes, sins and forgiveness.


2. The Last Kingdom (series)

Bernard Cornwell

He may frustrate you, but it’s impossible not to love Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Born a Northumbrian, raised a Dane but fighting as a West Saxon leaves Uhtred in an awkward predicament. The Last Kingdom novels journal Uhtred's experience as he attempts to navigate his way between viking and Saxon. But while he doesn't quite fit in anywhere, he is an unbeatable War Lord which makes him invaluable to both sides. The series is Bernard Cornwell’s take on Alfred the Great’s story and they will have you hook, line and sinker.


3. The Pillars of the Earth

Ken Follett

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to consider themselves well-read. Ken Follett is an extraordinary writer and The Pillars of the Earth is a modern day classic. It has characters you’ll hate, romance, tragedy and shows the harsh realities of living in the 12th Century.


4. The Liberation

Kate Furnivall

Set in my favourite part of Italy, the Amalfi Coast, which was devastated - as most of Italy was - after the Second World War. Caterina Lombardi personifies Italy's struggles, as she fights to survive and to protect what remains of her family. As she becomes desperate, the lengths become more extreme, and she finds herself mixed up with the hated British and American troops. Love, murder, secrets ‒ all the makings of a great book.


5. Burial Rites

Hannah Kent

Burial Rites was Aussie Hannah Kent's first novel (so you should read this to support a young Aussie). It is based on the true story of Agnes, the last person to be beheaded in Iceland in 1829 - a woman, no less. Condemned for the brutal murder of two men, she goes to live out her last days on a farm and the story unfolds. The bit that makes this book so interesting is the underlying discussion of how smart and intelligent women were feared. It’s an interesting story, as is the research you’ll no doubt do afterwards.