A personal top 5 of historical fiction

I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and enjoy reading it whenever I can. There is some debate about exactly what historical fiction is (and I’ll write another post on that again soon!) but broadly, I treat it as fiction using real or imagine characters taking part in historical events. Pretty broad brush I know!

Anyway, I think these are my top 5:

1. Fatherland, Robert Harris. I may have broken my rule straight away as this takes places in an imagined time period, a counter-factual re-imagining of the past, but it is utterly compelling storytelling.

2. Biggles, W.E. Johns. This needs no introduction. The rip-roaring and utterly spiffing adventures of a First World War pilot, from cocky, brash youth, to weary veteran within a few short months. A terrific read (although sometimes rather overly elaborate and occasionally “of their time”!)

3. Sharpe, Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell is a master of narrative, combining rigorous research with a real flair for writing. Probably single-handedly made the 95th Rifles as well-known as they are today

4. The Shardlake Series, C.J. Sansom. Not normally my time period, but this is gripping stuff. Sansom brilliantly recreates Tudor England, as his eponymous hero battles mysteries, treason, and factional politics.

5. The Man from Berlin / The Pale House, Luke McCallin. A very recent entry, these mysteries set in the Balklans as the frontiers of the Reich are being slowly rolled back have engrossed me. It is a very rare thing indeed to make you care about a German officer, in World War 2, but McCallin’s hero, Gregor Reinhardt, is no ordinary Nazi. A policeman surrounded by a world and system he despises, these novels trace the difficult choices he has to make.

So those are my favourites, what are yours?


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