Historical Fiction

Last call at the Nightingale book cover

Last call at the Nightingale

Katharine Schellman

MYSTERY Schellma Katharin
Historical Fiction, Mystery

"New York, 1924. Vivian Kelly's days are filled with drudgery, from the tenement lodging she shares with her sister to the dress shop where she sews for hours every day. But at night, she escapes to The Nightingale, an underground dance hall where illegal liquor flows and the band plays the Charleston with reckless excitement. With a bartender willing to slip her a free glass of champagne and friends who know the owner, Vivian can lose herself in the music. No one asks where she came from or how much money she has. No one bats an eye if she flirts with men or women as long as she can keep up on the dance floor. At The Nightingale, Vivian forgets the dangers of Prohibition-era New York and finds a place that feels like home. But then she discovers a body behind the club, and those dangers come knocking. Caught in a police raid at the Nightingale, Vivian discovers that the dead man wasn't the nameless bootlegger he first appeared. With too many people assuming she knows more about the crime than she does, Vivian finds herself caught between the dangers of the New York's underground and the world of the city's wealthy and careless, where money can hide any sin and the lives of the poor are considered disposable... including Vivian's own"--

Anne M's picture

Set during the height of Prohibition, Vivian Kelly, an Irish orphan seamstress loves going to the Nightingale bar to dance and have a few drinks. It is her place and her friends place; she belongs. But all of this is threatened when a body is found in the alley. Vivian finds herself on a quest to save the Nightingale by solving the mystery even if it is best not to get involved. If you are looking for a breezy read this summer, this book is for you. Fans of Amy Stewart's Kopp Sisters mystery series will enjoy this one too. -Anne M

Horse book cover


Geraldine Brooks

FICTION Brooks Geraldin
Historical Fiction

"A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history Kentucky, 1850. Jarrett, an enslaved groom, and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. As the nation erupts in civil war, an itinerant young artist who has made his name painting the racehorse takes up arms for the Union. On a perilous night, he reunites with the stallion and his groom, very far from the glamor of any racetrack. New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a 19th equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance. Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly drawn to one another through their shared interest in the horse - one studying the stallion's bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success. Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred, Lexington, who became America's greatest stud sire, Horse is a gripping, multi-layered reckoning with the legacy of enslavement and racism in America"--

Anne M's picture

I enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ “Horse.” It read fast, I suppose like it’s main subject, one of the greatest racehorses in US history, Lexington. I loved the central idea: what parts of our history seem so important at the time they occur, then forgotten and discarded, only to be found with new meaning. This story centers on a discarded painting of a horse and some equine bones in a Smithsonian storage facility. From that idea, people, places, events are vividly captured on the page: this horse is important in so many different ways. The novel recreates the relationship between Jarrett, an enslaved horse trainer and Lexington, as well as those who come into contact with the painting of Jarret. There was something disjointed and uneven about the narrative, especially the interplay between the past and present. While Jarrett’s story in the 1850’s and 1860’s was deeply rich, the other characters seemed like afterthoughts, there only to make the connection from the past to the present. Perhaps that is the point. Brooks is trying to draw attention to and bring to life through fiction an individual that was unnoted and forgotten but central to racing history. I’ll be thinking more about this at length, which is all I ask of a book. -Anne M

Trust book cover


Hernán Díaz

FICTION Diaz Hernan
Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

"An award-winning writer of absorbing, sophisticated fiction delivers a stylish and propulsive novel rooted in early 20th century New York, about wealth and talent, trust and intimacy, truth and perception. In glamorous 1920s New York City, two characters of sophisticated taste come together. One is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; the other, the brilliant daughter of penniless aristocrats. Steeped in affluence and grandeur, their marriage excites gossip and allows a continued ascent -- all at a moment when the country is undergoing a great transformation. This is the story at the center of Harold Vanner's novel Bonds, which everyone in 1938 New York seems to have read. But it isn't the only version. Provocative, propulsive, and repeatedly surprising, Hernan Diaz's TRUST puts the story of these characters into conversation with the "the truth"-and in tension with the life and perspective of an outsider immersed in the mystery of a competing account. The result is an overarching novel that becomes more exhilarating and profound with each new layer and revelation, engaging the reader in a treasure hunt for the truth that confronts the reality-warping gravitational pull of money, and how power often manipulates facts"--

Anne M's picture

What a book! There are many books that use the differing perspectives of a storyline, but I’ve never read anything quite like this. “Trust” is divided into essentially four different books about a marriage between a wealthy financier and an heiress philanthropist. Set in New York during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the first book is a fictional account of the marriage culminating in the aftermath of the 1929 crash and the wife’s treatment for mental illness. The context of this fiction is that it is widely read throughout New York and everyone knows who the book is about. The second part of “Trust” is the autobiography of Andrew Bevel, a response to the novel to clear his name and explain his own financial genius as well as his contributions to the country. Then there is the third part of the novel, a memoir by Ida Partenza, Andrew Bevel’s ghostwriter, who provides a completely different insight into the Wall Street tycoon. Lastly, we have the diaries of Mildred Bevel. Nothing aligns. Nothing adds up. Small details are threaded throughout but are so distorted, they only bear little resemblance from narrative to narrative. It is so compelling, so well written, and such an important narrative about the concept of truth. -Anne M

Black cloud rising : a novel book cover

Black cloud rising : a novel

David Wright Faladé

FICTION Wright Falade David
Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

By fall of 1863, Union forces had taken control of Tidewater Virginia and established a toehold in eastern North Carolina, including along the Outer Banks. Thousands of freed slaves and runaways flooded the Union lines, but Confederate irregulars still roamed the region. In December, the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of these former slaves led by General Edward Augustus Wild-a one-armed, impassioned abolitionist-set out from Portsmouth to hunt down the rebel guerillas and extinguish the threat. From this little-known historical episode comes Black Cloud Rising, a dramatic, moving account of these soldiers-men who only weeks earlier had been enslaved, but were now Union infantrymen setting out to fight their former owners. At the heart of the narrative is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master, raised with some privileges but constantly reminded of his place. Deeply conflicted about his past, Richard is eager to show himself to be a credit to his race. As the African Brigade conducts raids through the areas occupied by the Confederate Partisan Rangers, he and his comrades recognize that they are fighting for more than territory. Wild's mission is to prove that his troops can be trusted as soldiers in combat. And because many of the men have fled from the very plantations in their path, each raid is also an opportunity to free loved ones left behind. For Richard, this means the possibility of reuniting with Fanny, the woman he hopes to marry one day. With powerful depictions of the bonds formed between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage, Black Cloud Rising offers a compelling and nuanced portrait of enslaved men and women crossing the threshold to freedom.

Anne M's picture

David Wright Faladé's deeply intimate portrait of Sergeant Richard Etheridge's experience in the Union Army as part of the African brigade. Newly freed, Sergeant Etheridge's mission, as well as his company's, is to face familiar territory and people as the Union tries to ensure its stronghold in North Carolina by removing rebel guerrilla fighters and their sympathizers. Etheridge's position there is complex--he is out to prove himself. He desires to be seen as a son by his paternal father, his former owner, as worthy as his other half-siblings. He desires to be seen as a brave soldier to his commanding officers in the Army as they speak about abolition but don't fully see their soldiers as equals. He also wants to be seen as his cousin Patrick's contemporary, a family member, a friend. Etheridge's desires of self-worth radically change through his experience fighting in North Carolina. It is a coming-of-age tale as Etheridge finds meaning in his life and this experience as well as learning to let go. It is a fantastic novel. If you are a fan of Geraldine Brooks or Nathan Harris, this novel will appeal to you. -Anne M

Violeta : a novel book cover

Violeta : a novel

Isabel Allende

FICTION Allende Isabel
Historical Fiction

Violeta comes into the world in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. The ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. As the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known, Violeta's family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. She tells her story in the form of a letter, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women's rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and, ultimately, not one but two pandemics.

Becky's picture

In a novel spanning one hundred years and bookended by pandemics, Isabel Allende writes of class, political and gender tensions in the life story of Violeta. For fans of historical fiction and interesting protagonists, this is worth checking out! -Becky

Interview with the Vampire book cover

Interview with the Vampire

Anne Rice

Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Horror

The Vampire Chronicles, Book 1 The spellbinding classic that started it all, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author “A magnificent, compulsively readable thriller . . . Rice begins where Bram Stoker and the Hollywood versions leave off and penetrates directly to the true fascination of the myth—the education of the vampire.”—Chicago Tribune Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly sensual, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Alexander A's picture

Added by Alexander A

The book thief book cover

The book thief

Markus Zusak

Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

Hanna's picture

I've heard good things about this book for years, but I've never read it. Recently, it came up in an article, and I thought maybe it was time to give The Book Thief a try. (I do enjoy Mark Zusak's other books. I really can't believe it's taken me so long to get to this one.) Good news, ICPL has several copies, plus audio CDs, eBooks and eAudio, so if you're interested, you also check it out! -Hanna

The diamond eye : a novel book cover

The diamond eye : a novel

Kate Quinn

FICTION Quinn Kate
Historical Fiction

"The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story. In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son--but Hitler's invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper--a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour. Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC--until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila's past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life. Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever." --

Anne M's picture

Fast-paced! Action-filled! And a history PhD student that is an expert in 17th-Century Ukrainian history who works in a library and then volunteers as a sniper for the Red Army during World War II! So much of this book was interesting. Like all Kate Quinn books, I could not put this one down. -Anne M

Post Office book cover

Post Office

Charles Bukowski

FICTION/Bukowski, Charles
Humor, Historical Fiction

Review by Publisher: "It began as a mistake." By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers. This classic 1971 novel'the one that catapulted its author to national fame'is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.

Mykle's picture

An absolutely wild ride. It's fascinating to wonder how much of this story comes from Bukowski's real-life stint as a postal carrier. I hope none but I have my suspicions! -Mykle

Where the Crawdads Sing book cover

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

OverDrive Audiobook
Fiction, Historical Fiction

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life—until the unthinkable happens. Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Hanna's picture

Kya is an endearing girl who grows up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina while facing a pile of difficult circumstances. I'd recommend this book, for the setting, the character development, and the deeper thought it encourages about society. On top of that, I'd recommend the audiobook. The soothing southern lilt of the reader brought me back to childhood summers playing on the North Carolina beach. Any audiobook fan will tell you some recordings detract from the story, some fade into the background, and some create a little extra magic. Where the Crawdads Sing is absolutely the latter. -Hanna