Historical Fiction Not Set in WWII

Evidently I am really in my historical fiction blog post era, because I have made so many historical fiction posts recently. I know that a lot of people say they don’t like historical fiction, but a lot of times that is because what they believe historical fiction is is those romantic thrillers set in World War II. You know-those ones with women walking away on the covers. But while I was writing my Empty Theatre review a few weeks ago, I was thinking about how there are so many interesting historical fiction books that take place in a variety of different time periods and settings. So I thought it would be fun to share some of the amazing historical fiction novels that do not take place during WWII. These take place in a wide variety of time periods, some are fun and some are serious. But they are all books I have read and loved.

Empty Theatre by Jac Jemc

This was the book that inspired this post, so of course I had to include it! Empty Theatre is a fictionalized biography of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. It is a rollicking romp of a book, and is an excellent audiobook for those who are interested. I really enjoyed it because it manages to take its characters seriously while also recognizing the ridiculous. It manages to point out some of the seriously silly things people did historically without diminishing the intelligence of the people who did truly believe it. You can read my full review of this campy extravaganza here.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Danvers, Massachusetts was once the site of Salem Village, where over 300 years ago, teenage girls incited chaos by accusing many women in town of being witches. Fast forward to 1989, where the Danvers High School girls field hockey team has gone from losing every game to winning against the best; all by practicing witchcraft. But everything comes with a price; will they be able to handle it when the magic starts taking on a mind of its own? This book is an absolute romp (I am using that word a lot, but it’s true!); it cleverly and deftly explores growing up, sexuality, and what it means to be a teenage girl.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

I recently wrote about The Confessions of Frannie Langton in my post on sapphic historical fiction. Enslaved since birth, Frannie has experienced a multitude of horrors, and has been accused of killing her master and mistress. Set to die, Frannie has confessions to make about the terrible things she was forced to do, the truth about her former masters, and her love for her mistress. It is a relatively unusual book, but certainly interesting and worth the read.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys is basically the queen of YA historical fiction, and I really appreciate the way she chooses to write about the lesser known parts of history that deserve to be heard. But many of her books are set in World War II. However, The Fountains of Silence is my favorite book of hers, and it is also set after the war, during Spain’s dictatorship under Francisco Franco. It follows two teenagers, Ana, a native of Madrid, and Daniel, the son of an oil tycoon from Texas, as they both fall in love and uncover dark secrets the government is keeping. I promise it is much better than I just made it sound, especially because Sepetys’ voice is entrancing and sure to pull you into the streets of Madrid and the mystery at hand.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint is a novelization of the life story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a woman who lived in the 17th century and despite the challenges of being a woman in that time period, became an incredibly successful painter. It is also a novel told in verse, a medium which taps into the deep well of emotions as Artemisia is raped, carries through with a painful trial, and is betrayed by her father. It is a really powerful read which I would definitely recommend.

An image of blue flowers on a white background.

Other honorable mentions include: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. For your convenience, I have a full list of these books and more on my Bookshop.org profile. If you buy a book through the link, it is no additional cost to you, but helps me cover the cost of running this blog!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. What is your favorite historical fiction novel? Is there a time period you wish more people wrote historical fiction for? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Historical Fiction Not Set in WWII

  1. I LOVE historical fiction! One of my favourite genres. You can learn so much about various historical events or time periods from reading it. It’s always interesting to see what an author can bring to a major event, especially one that’s covered so often such as WW2. My favourites are The Book Thief and The Kite Runner! Loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! The book thief and the kite runner are both really good! It has been so long since I read either of those though. Obviously I am also a big historical fiction fan. I love history, but I love how historical fiction can bring humanity into the history.

      Liked by 1 person

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