18 Historical Fiction Novels That Will Transport You Back in Time

18 American Foods Foreigners Will Give Anything to Taste

Historical novels take readers on journeys into the past, immersing people in times gone by. Here are 18 captivating historical fiction novels that allow readers to explore past eras and experience how life was for different cultures:

Circe ( Madeline Miller, 2018)

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Miller’s mythical novel tells the story of the Greek sorceress Circe, a woman trying to prove herself in a male dominated world. While the story does reference Greek gods and heroes such as Helios and Hermes, Miller reimagines the existing myths surrounding Circe, particularly her encounters with Odysseus.

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee, 2017)

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Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family who migrated to Japan in the early 20th century. The powerful tale of an immigrant family is told through the eyes of Sunja who moves away with a gentle minister refusing to be bought after becoming pregnant by a man she doesn’t’ love. 

The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah, 2015)

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The Nightingale documents the story of two sisters who become separated from their family in World War II France. While heartbreaking in places, the novel is ultimately a hopeful story about the strength of women struggling under Nazi rule. Depictions of food shortages, violence and threats of deportation give readers a true sense of the sisters’ plight. 

A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles, 2016)

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A Gentleman in Moscow is the protagonist of the book who is forced to live in a small hotel in Moscow after the Bolshevik Revolution. The story begins in 1922 and goes on to span three decades of significant upheaval in Russian politics, allowing readers to see the human impacts of this tumultuous period. 

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911)

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This classic children’s novel tells the story of a young girl who discovers a hidden garden on her uncle’s estate. It’s primarily a story about friendship and hope as readers go on a journey with Mary Lennox and her friend Dickon in what is thought to be the early 20th century. With regular references to India, the story tells of the impacts of colonialism and loss through each character’s heartfelt story.

The Color Purple ( Alice Walker (1982)

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This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was brought to life on the big screen by Steven Spielberg and is a beloved book for many. This powerful and moving story is ultimately about the power of finding your voice during the years of racial segregation in the U.S, as demonstrated by the central character Celie.

Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell, 2004)

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Cloud Atlas is an ambitious novel that tells the story of six characters in different time periods, from the 1849 Pacific Ocean to a post-apocalyptic future. Mitchell provides a realistic portrayal of social issues and technology as well as the cultural norms of each era as he takes readers on a puzzling literary journey. 

The Book Thief (Markus Zusak, 2005)

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Narrated by Death, this touching novel tells the story of a young girl named Liesel who is about to go and live with foster parents in Nazi Germany. It’s a moving story about the power of words and the importance of looking for hope amidst the darkness of war.

Outlander (Diana Gabaldon, 1991)

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This historical romance tells the story of a 20th-century woman who travels back in time to 18th-century Scotland. It’s a story that has captivated readers around the world as Gabaldon meticulously recreates the social landscape of 18th-century Scotland.

The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett, 1989)

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This decorated novel is set in 12th-century England, a period marked by social upheaval and political intrigue. Follett cleverly recreates the daily life of peasants, nobles and clergy, taking readers to a world so unlike their own.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Mark Sullivan, 2017)

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky is based on a true story that follows the life of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager who becomes a spy for the Allies during World War II. The often harrowing story showcases the courage and heroism amidst the horrors of war as Lella joins the Italian resistance movement, helping Jewish families escape Nazi persecution.

The Night Watch (Sarah Waters, 2006)

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Set in 1940s London, this novel follows the intertwined lives of four characters during and after World War II.  The story offers a unique glimpse into the social and psychological impact of World War II on British society and takes readers on a journey with characters navigating a changed world.

The English Patient ( Michael Ondaatje, 1992)

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Though not classified as a fiction piece the book unfolds against the backdrop of Italy in 1945 during World War II. It portrays the lasting emotional wounds inflicted by the war through the perspective of an English patient grappling with profound loss.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane ( Lisa See, 2017)

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane delves into the lives of a mother and daughter spanning China and America. Haley, an adopted woman from China is on a quest to uncover her roots as the book intertwines with the story of Haleys birth mother, Li yan, navigating life in Yunnan province.

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr, 2014)

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All the Light We Cannot See takes place during World War II, primarily between 1939 and 1945. It follows two characters: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfennig, a gifted German boy recruited into the Nazi military. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the atmosphere of occupied France and war-torn Germany sharing details about daily life, and the dangers faced by civilians.

The Help ( Kathryn Stockett, 2009)

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The Help is a powerful novel set in Mississippi during the 1960s. It gives insight into the experiences of American maids working in white households as they confront issues of racism and inequality. The book was later adapted into a blockbuster Hollywood film in 2011.

Wolf Hall ( Hilary Mantel, 2009)

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Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winner offers a glimpse into the life of Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIIIs reign. The novel provides a perspective on the turmoil and political scheming in the Tudor era as it follows the King’s pursuit of an heir to secure his legacy.

The Paris Wife ( Paula McLain, 2011)

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The Paris Wife, a dramatized story of Hadley Richardson, the wife of Ernest Hemingway, whisks readers back to Paris in the 1920s. In addition to providing insights into 20th-century Europe and the connection between this famous couple, the book captures the essence of the Lost Generation.

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