Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Today’s top ten list is of my ‘Top Ten Favorite Authors in X Genre’, with my choice of X being Historical Fiction. I had to think about this one for a while because while I love historical fiction, I tend to love it in terms of individual titles more than authors who write only historical fiction. So this list is a mix of the two.
1. Elizabeth Chadwick – I discovered Chadwick several years ago and proceeded to read through everything she had written in a short period of time. I like her books because they’re historical but they are also just good stories, which often feel more like fiction even though they’re based historical events. I need to catch up on her more recent books soon, particularly the ones that center on William Marshall.
2. Sharon Kay Penman – Penman is one of those writers that I know I would love if I took the time to really dig into her books. Unfortunately, although I have several of them on my shelf, I never seem to find the time to read them because they are really long. But what I have read I’ve really enjoyed, and she deserves a place on this list.
3. Kate Grenville – Grenville has written a trilogy of books about early Australian history, two of which I’ve read and loved. The first in the trilogy, The Secret River, is an amazing book that brings to life this period in history and taught me so much that I didn’t know about Australia’s beginnings.
4. Diana Norman – I love books about early American history, and three of the writers on this list set their works during that period, including Diana Norman. The action of her Makepeace Burke trilogy shifts between the U.S. and England, but through the heroine’s unique perspective the reader gets a glimpse at life during the turbulent colonial period. This reminds me that I still need to read the third book in this series!
5. Sara Donati – The second writer on the list whose books are set in the early U.S., this time after the revolutionary war, Sara Donati picks up (loosely) on the story of James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans as she introduces the fictional village of Paradise in upstate New York, where English expat Elizabeth Middleton makes a new life for herself. I fell in love with the characters in these books, and the series explores many of the pivotal events and issues during a time period that spans several generations.
6. Beverly Swerling – The last of the American-setting novelists, Swerling has written a four-book series about early New York which covers from its earliest beginnings as a colony to the outbreak of the American Civil War. I’ve only read the first three books and should probably do a re-read of them all at some point.
7. Michel Faber – The next two writers on the list are ones from whom I must admit I’ve only read one novel each, but in each case they were works of historical fiction that really impressed me, so I have to include them. Faber’s book The Crimson Petal and the White tells the story of a Victorian-era prostitute, and it is a wonderful piece of writing. The beginning of that book is probably my favorite ever. Amazing.
8. Emma Donaghue – Slammerkin is an absolute tour de force of a novel, gripping and horrifying by turns. Again, it’s the story of an English girl who turns to prostitution at an early age, and what follows is..well, you have to read it for yourself to believe it. It’s a very affecting story that illustrates the limited choices available to women in those times, and it’s one that has stayed with me in the years since I read it.
And, finally the last two are writers who write historical fiction but more genre-based works. Still, I love how evocative their writing is of the time and place in which it is set.
9. Jacqueline Winspear – Her Maisie Dobbs series of detective novels take place in England after the first World War. I love this time period as well, and the themes of post-war society are explored in depth through the adventures and relationships of Maisie, a brilliant young woman who works her way up from the servant class and serves as a nurse during the war.
10. Georgette Heyer – Reading Georgette Heyer is like reading Jane Austen with a more wicked sense of humor and social skewering, if such a thing is possible. Her portrayal of upper-class Regency England is hilarious, and it’s hard to remember at times that she was writing from the distance of a hundred or more years, as she began her writing career in the 1920s. My favorite book of hers (so far) is Cotillon, but I recently won several more in a prize pack from Dewey’s Readathon, and I can’t wait to read them.
There you have it–my favorite authors writing historical fiction. I realize as I’m writing this that there aren’t many men on this list. I’ll have to remedy that soon.