Day 6 of the Blogmas2019 and giving awards this whole December month! Today is about the best historical fiction that I have read in 2019.
One year ago I did not read any historical fictions anymore. When I was a teenager and young adults I had read lots and lots of historical fiction and then …stopped. Listening to audiobooks has reignited my love for the genre and today I will have a list with four honorable mentions and two winners!
The honorable mentions go to:
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
I read it in one sitting and it is a long book (120.000 words). I left my body’s imprint on the couch by the end of the day.
But that’s how enraptured I was.
Reading about Ireland tumultuous past was enlightening. I may live in Europe and have some notions taught in school about Ireland’s fight to get free from England’s dominion I never had such detailed information. I lived the same experience while reading From Sand and Ash about the part played by the church in Italy in protecting countless Jews during WWII.
“Every day it’s another terrible story, another unforgiveable event. The whole country is under immense strain, yet there is an odd hopefulness mixed with the fear. It’s as if all of Ireland is coming awake and our eyes are fixed on the same horizon.”
Amy uses a similar “technique” as Ken Follett when he is writing his historical books: giving us solid historical facts, insisting on key events in the grand scheme of history while making it fascinating and human as we are following individuals living these events. This is not a non-fiction retelling of major events. This is a very human tale of people living in that century and experiencing first hand all the fights and inner struggles of Irish people.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta has the knack to tell History with a big H through people’s stories. THEY make history. She has you walking into her character’s shoes and makes you live history like no history book can do.
Ruta Sepetys is one of these authors whose writing seems effortless. It is fluid, precise, conveying so many emotions and visuals in few words that none of them seem superfluous but every one is necessary. Her prose is one of the most powerful that I have read. You will find several quotes below as I just want to highlight Ruta’s profound writing.
In The Fountains of Silence, the characters are once again built to perfection. By the end of the book you won’t want to leave them, wanting more. A glimpse of their future. Like getting a postcard with a few news every Christmas. Imagine: “Hi we got married on the coast in that small church overlooking the sea.” “Hi we got our first daughter and she does look like my mother. She is the sweetest baby ever.” “Hi…”.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T Sullivan
I forgot to breathe so many times when Pino was faced with impossible life threatening situations and like a magician pulled a rabbit out of his hat and saved his life and that of others!
I cried, many times. Because war comes with death. Death of innocents, of children, of friends, of beloved ones.
I just could not stop listening to the book! I even found excuses to do chores like gardening, walking the dog, anything to plug my earbuds and resume that extraordinary story! I think if I always find such wonderful stories my garden will for once be seedless this year!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.”
Sometimes I don’t have better words than these of the synopsis to express the essence of a book.
This is a book of survival and it was a punch in the face.
And my winners are:
I know this book was published in 2016 but as I read it in 2019 I decided to keep it on my list because it simply blew me away!
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
We will follow the journey of four main characters walking through the woods, evading Russian soldiers and bombing. Losing some of them on the way to the harbor.
Every one of them has secrets. Some really astonishing. All heartbreaking, Alfred’s included.
I was riveted by their stories. I wanted to guide and protect them. I wanted them all to be saved. But this is war and nothing is certain anymore.
I don’t have enough talent to express what Ruta Sepety made me live for two days. I can’t convey with enough strength and conviction all the beauty, the intensity, the sadness, the cruelty, the desperation of this formidable story.
I still have shivers and tears hearing in my head Jeorjeana Marie playing Joanna and whisper shouting: “Opi!” “Opi!”
I finished this book late at night and did not found sleep for a very long time, too entangled in their destinies and broken by their fate.
Just read or listen to it.
Published in 2019: The Huntress by Kate Quinn
I could gush hours about this story. About the down to earth and extremely efficient writing. About its complex and ingenious structure. About the exceptional fate and acts of some characters. About …so many things!
Every character is fascinating but I confess that my favorite was Nina, even if Jordan was a close second.
Kate Quinn chose a particular perspective to tell Nina’s story : the story of the Night Witches and I found it absolutely fascinating and brilliant! It made me look after all the information I could find on the Night Witches, wanting to know if these women had existed or were a figment of Kate Quinn’s imagination! To my great delight, these women existed!
The Night Witches were a Russian regiment of night bombers composed solely of women! And these women had a much higher success rate than their male counterparts!
Nina, seizing her chance, forcing luck, joined this regiment. I adored all the chapters narrating the birth of this special force, the comradery between the “Sistra”, their training, their iron will, their audacity. What they went through and all their exploits were some of the best parts of the book!
It gave us a unique insight in Nina Markova’s personality.
Every character had secrets of his own, some personal cross to bear, some guilt to live with. They were complex and flawed. They were brilliant and courageous. They simply were human.
If you want to know more about the Night Witches, here is a link to a very interesting article: https://www.history.com/news/meet-the-night-witches-the-daring-female-pilots-who-bombed-nazis-by-night