According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a historical novel is defined as “a novel that has as its setting a usually significant period of history and that attempts to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of a past age with realistic detail and fidelity (which is in some cases only apparent fidelity) to historical fact. The work may deal with actual historical personages…or it may contain a mixture of fictional and historical characters”.
10. THE REGENERATION TRILOGY
The Regeneration Trilogy comes in at number ten on this list. It is written by Pat Barker. It is the story of a psychiatrist called William Rivers. He treats many soldiers from the First World War. Just so you know, this isn’t some boring novel on some major war, it talks about mental illnesses, class, homosexuality and even creativity. The third book in the trilogy, The Ghost Road, won the Booker prize in 1995. The books remained very positive with the critics as well. If you are new into this genre, I would recommend starting with this book, because it should ease you into the ‘historical’ novels.
Property was written by Valerie Martin. It is a very honest story. The novel was published in 2003. It talks about life on a slave plantation in the 1830s. The narrator of the story is Manon. She is a young married woman. The marriage is loveless and her husband is the owner of the plantation. She rebels against everything wrong with her. In a way, she happens to be the pioneering feminist. This novel won the Orange prize. It is a short novel and remains widely unknown for some reason. It made it to number nine on this list for a reason of course.
8. I, CLAUDIUS
This novel was written by Robert Graves in 1934. It is basically an autobiography of the fourth Roman Emperor. The writer presents the history of Claudius’s predecessors including Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula. Claudius’s various disabilities are also discussed which is why he remained shielded from public in his early adulthood. The writer presents him as a courageous figure though. The book remains a classic, though the writer said that it was meant for commercial gain only.
7. THE BLUE FLOWER
This particular novel is written by Penelope Fitzgerald that was published in 1995. She died five years later and it talks about the life of a German aristocrat of the eighteenth century, Friederich von Hardenberg. The novel revolves around his love for Sophie von Kuhn. She is only twelve years old when he falls in love. They get married even but she dies two years later because of Tuberculosis. This novel is regarded as one of the best novels she ever wrote, but it still didn’t make the Booker list in 1995.
Pure is a novel by Andrew Miller. It talks about the life a young engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte. He has to oversee the destruction of the Church of Les Innocents and also the clearance of the cemetery. The novel also talks about major conflicts of Enlightenment. It is superbly put in words. It is the eighteenth century Paris boys and girls and the sights and sounds described in the book are fantastic. While reading this book, you really don’t feel the need to visit Paris, but it also makes you feel the need to visit Paris even more.