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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2019 in Books: Favourite Reads II

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…okay, so I’m back with part II of my favourite 2019 reads. Let’s save the introduction and get straight into it!


I read Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton and *loved* it. This is yet another historical fiction murder mystery (but just before the Victorian period, haha, but very close). It’s 1826 and crowds gather to watch Frannie’s trial for murder. The testimonies are damning – slave, whore, seductress – and they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

I liked this for multiple reasons: it tackled class issues, racial issues, LGBTQ+ issues in a society that cared very little for these groups. It raised some very interesting questions, like “what constitutes as a criminal?”, “when should someone feel guilty?” and “can some actions be justified?”. It was a very thought-provoking book. I just had some difficulties with the F/F romance – not a lot of chemistry between the two.


So next is the heartbreaking non-fiction by Jeremy Dronfield: The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz. Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, father and son, have managed to survive the Holocaust together, only being separated for a few years in between. Dronfield, relying on extensive research and family history, has traced the story of these two men and has brought it before us.

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Reading Update #3:

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The last time I spoke to you I had just finished listening to the audiobook of Alone in Berlin. I was still reading William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (which, by the way, I still haven’t touched).

I’ve managed to read two books since then.

I started Halloween night with The Virago Book of Witches edited by Shahrukh Husain, which is an anthology of short folkloric stories from all over the world that examines the idea of a witch. From a woman who is passionate, caring and nurturing to a woman who is evil, cannibalistic and possessive. It has stories from all over the world, from varying centuries and decades, from various story-tellers.

I’m really interested in how different cultures and different times define the witch. There is no fixed definition of the witch, and beliefs/tradition take liberty with that, positioning the witch as something their culture should inspire to be like or to be the complete opposite of. It was a mixed bag of depictions and I learnt how different cultures view the figure.

I’m also really interested in how the witch has been passed on through the mode of story-telling. This book contributes to that by documenting how the witch has been told previously, through verbatim and through translation. It was interesting to see how Husain grouped the stories, and how the Irish, for example, saw the witch as a sort of blessing.

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