The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

I finally see what all the fuss has been about. The Help is an excellent book. Stockett pulls you into another world, long ago and far away. The story unfolds through the eyes of three very different woman and the reader grows to love and root for each one of them. They are good women caught in a cultural trap that seems to have no escape. Working together and risking their lives, they manage to make a small difference.

When you finish the book don't forget to watch the movie!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (2012)

In England, sixteen-year-old Laurel witnesses a shocking crime during a summer house party. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress living in London. As the family gathers at the ancestral house for her mother’s 90th birthday, Laurel tries to discover what really happened so many years ago.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton goes back and forth from the present to WWII London following the life of her mother and two other people. A VERY satisfying ending. I cannot stop thinking about it.

For other books where the past impacts the present, check out our bibliography.
 
 

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (2009)

This is the kind of book you can't stop thinking about once you finish it. It's about war, political unrest, struggling to survive, family, and mostly about love. Well-developed characters struggle through the many changes in 20th century Poland. The author skillfully goes back and forth from World War II era to 1992. Eventually, the reader is surprised by the melding of these two worlds.

Lots of tears. Lots of triumphs of the human spirit. I can't wait to read more from Pasulka. Check out A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True today.

In January, our multicultural celebrations will feature Eastern Europe. Check out the programs to learn more about the countries and cultures in this region.

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (2005)

The Widow of the South is based on the true story of an unlikely hero from the Civil War era. Carrie McGavock eventually becomes known as the Widow of the South after her house is appropriated for use as a hospital by the Confederate army just prior to the devastating Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, where 9,200 men were killed or terribly wounded in less than a day.

The prose is a bit meandering and I was not always clear where the author was going, but toward the end the story comes together when Carrie makes her courageous stand for the fallen and their families.

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (2011)

Bess Crawford is a nursing sister in France during World War I, but she finds time during leave in England to become immersed with the secretive Ellis family and to take it upon herself to help solve a murder or two when she isn't tracking down a child who looks suspiciously like the long-deceased Ellis daughter.

Read A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd today.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (2008)

What a charming story written by Mary Ann Shaffer! Written as a series of letters written between the characters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is set in 1944 in London and the island Guernsey at the end of WWII. The characters survived the war under diverse circumstances, creating a story about characters you really care about.

If you enjoy reading about life during WWII here is a list of novels set in during this time period.

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani (2012)

Equal of the Sun is a fascinating tale that will truly transport you to another time and place… an aspect of historical fiction that I especially enjoy. Author Anita Amirrezvani transports us to 16th century Iran for a story which is both political intrigue and a moving portrait.

The novel is based for the most part on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, who assumes control of late-16th-century Iran after the sudden death of her father, the Shah. Despite the chaos, Pari manages to bring peace to the kingdom with the aid of Javaher, a eunuch and trusted political adviser.

I think you will enjoy reading about the incredible history of the Iranians. Check out our list of other Novels Based on Real People.

For more about the book visit the author’s website.

 

The Mysterium by P.C. Doherty (2012)

History, mixed with sinister mystery and, well plotted too, is like a jewel in the crown. Hugh Corbett in the King Edward's I service is forcibly retained to solve a series of brutal murders. The streets of Medieval London reek with bloody minded gangs and high born assassins. You do not have to read the other books in the series to appreciate The Mysterium, but you may want to after reading this.

Read The Mysterium by P.C. Doherty.

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson (2008)

If you like a good old-fashioned historical novel, this is the book for you. In 1928, three young women set out from England to India. Rose is 18 and going out to be married to a man she barely knows. Her best friend Victoria always feels like the dumpy, unattractive second fiddle. She is hoping to find her own romance. And Viva, the twenty-five-year-old woman who accompanies them as their chaperone, is hoping to find out the truth about her own childhood spent in India.

Checkout East of the Sun by Julia Gregon today.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb (2011)

The Ballad of Tom Dooley, the latest tale in Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad Series, retells a story that most people only know through the old Kingston Trio song of the same name.

The ballad recounts a tragedy in the North Carolina mountains after the Civil War. Laura Foster, a simple country girl, was murdered. Tom Dula (as he is referred to in the dialect of the mountain folk) was hanged for the crime.

It makes for a good story but this novel is more of a character study…and not a nice one in the lot! Still, I enjoyed reading it.

Check here to see if The Ballad of Tom Dooley is available and find other books by Sharyn McCrumb. 

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Doc by Mary Doria Russell (2011)
Forget Val Kilmer (Tombstone), Dennis Quaid (Wyatt Earp) or Victor Mature (My Darling Clementine). This is the story of the real Doc Holliday, a well educated Southern gentleman who is exiled from his Georgia family when tuberculosis strikes. Sent to the west to recover, Doc ends up in Dodge City where he first meets his friend Morgan Earp and his upright, teetotaler brother Wyatt.

In Doc, the events before the Earps and Doc move to Arizona are played out against the wild cattle town of Dodge City where money and politics are already the powers that be. After a slow beginning that fills in Doc’s early days, this colorful and eventful story tells the story of the friendships that become a second family for the gentlemanly Doc. As the disease takes over his life it becomes almost another character in this poignant western story.

Crown of Dust by Mary Volmer

Crown of Dust by Mary Volmer (2010)

A new contribution to the literature of the women who won the Wild West, Mary Volmer’s first novel is set during the California Gold Rush where daring souls labored for long days digging and panning. Each has a history and they keep their own counsel. They ask few questions and give wide berth to one another, so when young Alex arrives in town disguised as a boy her secrets remain hidden. As the story unfolds and Alex’s troubled past is revealed, the story becomes golden indeed. Mary Volmer beautifully captures rugged living and fortune-hungry optimism of the American frontier.

Read an excerpt on this book on the author's website.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees (2010)
For those who have enjoyed Little Women, this imagined story of Louisa May Alcott's life is a good read. In her first novel, McNees invents a youthful love affair for the writer, who never married, and explores how Alcott struggled with the conflict of her public ambition and personal life.

The family, never financially secure, moved to Walpole, Massachusetts, in 1855, to take up residence in a house offered by a relative. The Alcott sisters begin to make a life by meeting other young people, including Joseph Singer, the son of the owner of Walpole's dry goods store. Joseph and Louisa are drawn to each other but, as you will see, their relationship is doomed. All Louisa really wants is a room somewhere in Boston where she can make a living from her writing. Marriage, as she sees it, is slavery. The Lost Summer… is the kind of romantic tale which Alcott herself might have written, one in which love is not a solution to life's trials.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009)
Good read about New York City in the 1970s. The descriptive writing of the author makes this book. The 1970s era was a heart wrenching time for many people  and a reminder of what the Twin Towers were and the grief brought to America with 9/11. The author hints at historical events during the time of the story, but doesn't bog down the reader.

For more about the book check out the New York Times book review.

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis (2010)
These two volumes follow the adventures of Michael, Polly, and Eileen, thee time traveling historians who have gone back to 1940 to observe how the average Londoner withstood the Blitz. Armed with knowledge of the exact time and place of bombings, the three should be safe observers.

In a time of crisis, though, how can anyone remain an interested but dispassionate observer? The feel for WWII era England is wonderful and, though very long and detailed, this is the sort of book you can lose yourself in.

For even more novels set in World War II check out our bibliography.