Angela’s Favourite Historical Novels


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Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?

I certainly do. In fact, it’s probably my favourite genre of all. A really good historical novel is like a time machine into the past. It opens a window into vanished worlds and forgotten lives.

I have loved reading historical fiction ever since I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books in the school library when I was a teenager.

So I was delighted to hear that a new poll has been launched to find the nation’s most popular historical novel.

The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It’s one of the UK’s top literary awards. Past winners have included Andrea Levy and Hilary Mantel, who won the first Prize with “Wolf Hall”.

Now readers are being invited to nominate books throughout November via www.walterscottprize.co.uk.

A shortlist of the top 10 will then be published in early December, and the poll will open for voting. The novel with the most votes will be revealed in January 2020.

There are so many historical novels I have enjoyed that I cannot narrow it down to just one title. So here are four of my favourites.

Dorothy Dunnett

In my opinion the greatest historical novelist of them all. Dorothy famously started writing because she ran out of books to read. She wrote 14 epic volumes across two series set in the 15th and 16th centuries and did more than any other historical novelist to define the genre. She is acclaimed for the depth of her research and her accuracy and attention to detail. It all begins with “The Game Of Kings”.

Harry Thompson

From an author who wrote many novels to a writer who penned only one. But what a book to be your only one! Harry Thompson died aged just 45 only a short while after he published “This Thing Of Darkness”. It’s a fabulous, spell-binding novel of Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle and one of my favourite books ever.

Sarah Dunant

“The Birth Of Venus” is set in Florence in the 1490s and is a dazzling story of art, passion and secrets. Sarah Dunant is a very visual writer and really brings Renaissance Florence to life.

Mary Stewart

My copies of “The Crystal Cave”, “The Hollow Hills” and “The Last Enchantment” are falling apart, I’ve read them so often. Does Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy count as historical fiction? It does to me – I love it!

You can read more book reviews here.

Angela Gilchrist

Angela is Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. Her passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. Her favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.