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Stella's Favorite Historical Fiction Books

Updated on February 18, 2012

If I had to choose, I guess my favorite genre to read is historical fiction. (yes I actually read which I sometimes feel is becoming a lost form of entertainment that is being replaced by playing with an iPad or watching videos on youtube –not that I don’t do that too haha)

The thing I like about this genre is that I get to imagine about scenery that describes a culture so different from contemporary society, but in addition what the characters do and think is surprisingly modern at times, that it captivates me. Here is a list of some of my favorite books from this genre.


The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

I read this book back in high school and it remains to be one my favorite books in my life. The story takes place during Renaissance Italy and follows the life of Alessandra, told in first person, as she recounts her life from the time when she is fifteen when her father brings a painter in from the northern Europe to paint the family chapel. As a closet artist herself, Alessandra is immediately drawn to the painter as well as his talents. We can assume that if she were born male, Alessandra would like to become a professional artist herself, but her family has other plans. Her father arranges a marriage for his daughter, which then forces her to distance herself from the painter she has become fond of…so the question becomes what’s going to happen between Alessandra and the painter? Will she be happy with her husband? I feel that I am just emphasizing the romantic aspect of the book but the author does not forget to place it in an important historical time period during when the artistic movement in Florence came under threat with Savanarola’s preaching against immoral art. So there is a whole another question of what will happen to Florence’s future?

I feel like I just blabbered again, but what I like about this book is not only because it deals with fine art in addition to the Renaissance but I like the protagonist’s character. Although she lives in a time period where I assume it was easier for men to gain privilege in society, Alessandra tries to not let society’s philosophy on how women should be from letting her accomplish what she wants out of life. Along with Alessandra, I have always liked this author’s writing style. Dunant writes with an eye for detail and she paints for us what life might have been like in Florence with her beautiful use of similes and metaphors.


Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex

This is a historical fiction novel about the relationship between Isabella and Beatrice d’ Este together with how they came about extending their influence in the Renaissance Italian political world. Isabella d’ Este was a major patron of the arts and an influential political* figure during 15th century Italy. She was highly educated and ambitious, for she acted as regent when her husband, the Marquis of Mantua was away. Later in life, she persuaded King Louis XII to spare Mantua from French invasion. One of my favorite things about this book is the multipe third person limited point of view. Every other chapter is told from either Isabella or Beatrice’s perspective which helped me see each sister’s unique psyche. I also like how the author decided to portray Leonardo da Vinci as a quirky artist.



Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

This is another novel that competes for my affection as the top historical fiction book. Everything I enjoy about a story weaves together in this novel: there is adventure, romance, and suspense. Furthermore, it’s set in Ancient Egypt. Mara is a slave girl that lives during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. In order to gain her freedom, she agrees to becoming a dual spy, on the one side, for the Queen and on the other, for the Queen’s stepson who each are fighting to gain control of the Egyptian throne. At first Mara feels indifferent toward the political situation but as time goes on, she starts to fall in love with one of her masters as well as believing in his plans to restore the stepson to his right to rule. As Mara is about to reveal her feelings, they discover she was working under cover for both sides…then what’s going to happen?? It’s that kind of story. I can’t say anymore, except I highly recommend this book :D.


Ramses: Son of Light by Christian Jacq

This is what one reviewer writes at the beginning of this book:

“Officially Christian Jacq was born in Paris in 1947. In fact, his real birth took place in the in the time of the pharaohs, along the banks of the Nile, where the river carries eternal messages… Who could ever tell that Christian Jacq, Ramses’ official scribe was not writing from memory?—Magazine Littéraire”

I cannot agree more. This is volume one in a five volume series that is fictional account of Ramses II’s life as the critic from Magazine Littéraire writes, the details the author provides to illustrate to us for example, the gardens or the food are convincing enough that it feels as though the author witnessed Ancient Egypt for himself. I also think Jacq knows how to write a story because the pace in this book is just fantastic. It seems as though there is a new plot development every other page and as readers, we are always being kept on our toes.


Sarah by Marek Halter

My last book I chose is Sarah, which is a fictional narrative which follows Sarah, Abraham’s wife (from the Old Testament) along with how she came to be a mother to Isaac as well as supporting Abraham as he becomes a leader in a new religion that believes in one true God. The thing I liked about this book is that it gives a reason why Sarah gave birth to a child so late in her life. Before she became Sarah, she was Sarai, who was the daughter of a lord of Ur in Ancient Mesopotamia where she was going to be wed off to some man who she had no interest in. To avoid this marriage, Sarai consumes a potion that makes her barren. As a result, she exchanges her life as a wife for the life as a priestess in the temple. Later she encounters Abram (Abraham), they marry, but then she struggles to come to terms with the fact that she cannot conceive. The novel describes her as a woman we can relate to or have empathy for and separate her from the idea that she is this famous person from the bible.

Well, that’s my list of historical fiction books. What do you guys think? Are there any historical fiction books that you like?




Stella's Favorite Historical Fiction Books byStellaSee is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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    • StellaSee profile imageAUTHOR

      StellaSee 

      6 years ago from California

      Hi Claudia thanks for visiting! I've heard of Ayn Rand because she wrote the Fountainhead but I didn't know she was from Russia..interesting I haven't heard of We the Living but I'll go check it out.

    • StellaSee profile imageAUTHOR

      StellaSee 

      6 years ago from California

      Hi epigramman, thanks for your invite! I'll check that out then. And thanks for commenting!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      6 years ago from Mexico

      I love reading historical fiction as well. I haven´t read any of the books you recommend, but I should say you would love "We the Living" by Ayn Rand, an excellent historical fiction. Ayn Rand escaped communism in URSS and wrote this book that shows the way people lived there at the time. Very impressive, romantic and captivating, I was truly touched by it.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      6 years ago

      Stella Stella Stella - you rock my world here in ontario canada - first I see you give my buddy a rave review at his record cover hub and then I see your ANDY WARHOL inspired avatar and then there is you - so full of passion and intelligence and good humor - Mister Zavala and I are running a FB group called LET'S JUST TALK MUSIC OR CINEMA and we would love to have you join if you're so inclined - bring your karaoke with you - and my name is Colin Stewart with the same profile photo - just go to my homepage and scan down and you will see the group title to click for a direct link - hope to see you there and sending warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time 3:10am

    • StellaSee profile imageAUTHOR

      StellaSee 

      6 years ago from California

      I love the Birth of Venus! I still read it from time to time. If you like Sarah Dunant books, I recommend her In the Company of a Courtesan book too. Thanks for visiting Judi!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      I love to read historical fiction too, although the only book on your list that I have read is "The Birth of Venus". I shall come back to your hub next time I have some spare time to read!

      Voted up and useful

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