Bookish Discussions

Historical Fiction Recommendations

We all know I’m a lover of historical fiction. If I’m not reading a Victorian classic, I’m reading a book set in the Victorian period.

I thought I’d talk through some of my favourite historical fictions – I’m trying to branch these out a little and not repeat myself (but, of course, I would 100% recommend The Familiars and The King’s Witch).


The Conviction of Cora Burns

I read this one recently and absolutely loved it. 415b1d93-10d8-492f-8cb3-1785edafce11-5760f2bf-f2dd-49d2-9c87-dc962a783a43

Birmingham, 1880s. Born in a goal and grew up in a workhouse, Cora has always struggled to control the violence inside her. Where can Cora’s life possibly take her when she released from her prison?

I really loved this. A brilliant book which looks at insanity and psychology from a Victorian perspective. Is insanity hereditary? or is it a reaction to our surroundings? Nature vs. nurture? Mix this with photography, and how multiple likeness can show a similar trait in criminals, you’ve got a fantastic book that examines social and cultural issues of a Victorian industrial city.


The Confessions of Frannie Langton

A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this gripping and intense read that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the streets of Georgian London.

Confessions was such a compelling read. Sara Collins really knows how to write a story. I think what makes this one so unique is the slave narrative. It was interesting to examine how being a slave affected the psyche of someone their whole life – it raises question of guilt and revenge and justice. It was a sensitive and emotional story of a working-class black woman in Georgian England.

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The Foundling // Can Bess Find Her Child?

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I’m heading off to Stacey Halls’ author event at Waterstones this evening. I’ll be listening to her chat about her debut, The Familiars, and her most recent novel, The Foundling. I didn’t want to go without having read her newest work, so I dedicated the weekend to it.

So… It’s London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she never knew. But her daughter has already been claimed, by her…

Less from a mile from Bess is Alexandra, a wealthy housebound woman, who is persuaded to hire a nursemaid to take care of her daughter. Her past is threatening to catch up with her, and will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart…

It sounds like a lot, right?

It was brilliant. Halls writes such captivating stories. She has quickly become a favourite author of mine, writing such tense and atmospheric historical fiction. Her writing style is simple but elegant. It’s enchanting and addictive. I flew through it in two days, which could have easily been one, because I couldn’t get enough of these characters.

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The Familiars aka My Dream Book:

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I just knew I would love this.

It’s about witches, set in Lancashire, involving a fox, with greenery on the cover. It’s me to a T.

I just didn’t expect to love it *this* much.

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance, she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help deliver her baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft. Is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

We all know witches are My Shit. I love reading about them. I like to see how witches are characterised throughout history, which literature luckily documents. From a 21st-century perspective, with movements like #MeToo in mind, writers take on the image of the witch in a very different way than their ancestors. Stacey Halls questions how we view the witch.

Just because a woman is skilled, bold and authoritative, does that mean she is a witch?

Does an unorthodox woman – one who does not adhere to patriarchal standards and who actively defies their husband – count as a witch? Should she be punished?

Halls, from both a historical and modern perspective, tackles the ever-present debate that surrounds the image of the witch. Are they supernatural or elemental? Are they just working-class women, or can they also be middle-class? Is witchcraft just a woman’s craft? Does deformity equal witchery?

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