Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Historical Fiction

So I was honestly going to do this on Tuesday, but I was babysitting and my laptop died and then I went out to see The Imitation Game last night (it’s great, watch it) so yeah now I’m finally getting around to it!

  1. The Lady in the Tower – Marie Louise Jensen. One of the first historical fiction books I ever read.
  2. Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson. In my top 5 all time favourite book list! Maia and Finn are just fantastic.
  3. The Wreck of the Zanzibar – Michael Morpurgo. One of my favourite Morpurgo books (see a trend here?) – it’s even signed! It’s told in a diary.
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Read for my book club, it’s an epistolary novel and details post-WWII London and Guernsey. Fantastic characters and great all round book.
  5. Raven Queen –  Pauline Francis. This one is about Lady Jane Grey, or, as you may know her, the Nine-Day Queen. Her tragic story is made even more so by a character called Ned. I bawled.
  6. True History of the Kelly Gang  – Peter Carey. Whilst my other English Lit and Lang friends may disagree, I think that True History is a great book. Told in the style of Ned Kelly (so, no punctuation really) from his Jerilderie Letter, Carey really brings Ned and his gang alive.
  7. The Book Thief  – Markus Zusak. One of the most famous WWII novels out there after the release of the film (and indeed before), The Book Thief will hopefully make you both smile and cry. Just enjoy it.
  8. Bracelet of Bones – Kevin Crossley-Holland. Whilst not my favourite book, definitely a good one for Norse history and myths.
  9. Atonement – Ian McEwan. Just read the review. That’s all I have to say. (Oh, and then, of course, read the book.)
  10. A Brighter Fear – Kerry Drewery. Only recent history (from 2003 to be exact), A Brighter Fear is still a testimony to the recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Definitely not made rosy. it’s an interesting and at times heartbreaking read.

I absolutely adore historical fiction, and so should you! Even contemporary novels, such as The Great Gatsby or Black Beauty are amazingly awesome and definitely worth a read.

Extra book: Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. Read it. Cry. Talk to me. Cry again. 😀 

PS: all hyperlinks are to book reviews on my other blog 🙂

Raven Queen by Pauline Francis

Raven Queen by Pauline Francis

Raven Queen by Pauline Francis

Raven Queen tells the tragic, true story of Lady Jane Grey, who’s life was cut short when she was just sixteen years old, from her beatings from her parents, to getting betrothed and married to Guildford, falling in love with her soul-mate, Ned, and eventually becoming Queen before Queen Mary took the throne after. Then, if follows her right up to her death, from Ned’s point of view.

I have always felt sorry for Jane – no one deserved to be beheaded, especially for not having committed a crime, and not for one so young. I liked Pauline Francis’ version of Jane – the spirited, witty girl, with a very devout love to her God. I am not a religious person myself too much – I do not know what I believe – but Jane’s love has showed me even more how and why religious people believe, and how much they will do for their love. Although the idea of loving a God that much scares me a bit, I think that it is divine to have someone whom people think they are looking out for them.

As the title suggests, ravens play a part in Raven Queen. At the start of the book, Jane saves a raven who is caught in a trap; ravens peck at the dead outside Traitor’s Gate; and, right at the end, not one raven comes to peck at Jane. Ravens are often thought of in bad luck and death, and I think that this book changed that – they are just birds, trying to survive, much like the rest of us.

Jane’s relationship with Ned was a heartfelt one – she loved him, but not his faith, as he was Catholic whereas she Protestant. But still, she loved him, and he her, more than his own faith. Their love was there until her death day, and I think that their love was a really astounding one.

The cruelty of Jane’s parents made me feel sorry for her – they were cruel, whipping her when she simply disagreed, and they gave her to Guildford when her greatest fear was being Queen. I do not know any parents who would do such a thing, and the idea of it scares me.

Jane knew – in the book, at least – that becoming Queen would ‘bring [her] to [her] knees’. Although she was young, she was not naïve, and I admired her for that. She was brilliant, really intelligent, and her teacher, Doctor Aylmer, was brilliant also, helping her with her studies and overcoming the shock of finding out Ned’s faith.

And the plot twist at the end – in which we discover that Ned is, in fact, the executioner for Lady Jane – nearly made me cry. Jane’s biggest fear of being executed was how many blows it would take for her head to be off – she was terrified of a botched death. And Ned knew that the final gift he could give her would be having a clean death, with one, simple swipe of the axe. Although it would be taking his one love’s life, it would also being saving her from a painful death, and I think that that is a great love – for, if you cannot be together in life, but one must die, you should live for the lost love.

Finally, I found the dual point of view very interesting – how Jane’s side of the story was told in past tense, whereas Ned’s in present. It brought even more feeling into the story, how Jane had written it down before she died she that she may be remembered as more than just a line, whereas Ned was still alive. However, I thought that, right at the end, when Jane says, “One day, I may just be sentence in a history book,” it was a bit much. I understand Pauline’s reasoning for writing this book, but I do not think that Jane would have said that, and it made it a bit cheesy, whereas the rest of the book had been brilliant. On the other hand, this is just a line, and I felt that the rest made up for it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Raven Queen. It has made me think, and I know that Lady Jane Grey and her fictional Ned will stay with me for a long time.