Every year thousands of our readers vote for their favorite books of the year in the She Reads Awards. Find out more about the books that were nominated and see which book was voted the Best Historical Fiction of 2022.
The winner of the Best Historical Fiction of 2022 is . . .
The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken
The year is 1929 and Stalin’s activists have just arrived in Katya’s village. At 16 years old, Katya watches as neighbors disappear and those who resist the collective are never heard from again. A man-made famine grips the Ukrainian countryside, and chances of survival become slim. Decades later, a young woman discovers her grandmother’s diary and learns the truth of her family’s harrowing past. A story centered around the power of love and the resilient human spirit, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv provides hope for a better path forward even in the darkest of times.
The nominees for Best Historical Fiction of 2022 are:
A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
A Woman of Endurance takes place in Puerto Rico during the era of plantations and the slave trade. Pola, an African woman, is sold into captivity for the purpose of producing children to work as slaves. After enduring extreme hardship and a brutal event, Pola is left disfigured and is subsequently sold for almost nothing to another plantation which allows her to find some sense of security in her horrible world. The author does not shy away from graphic depictions of the violence inflicted on Pola, but she also focuses on the strength of the human spirt and the effects of community and fellowship.
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Stolen from her home country of China and taken to the United States to work in a brothel, Daiyu arrives in the 1880s American West and has to find her way in a foreign land. Reinventing herself again and again, Daiyu works to outrun her past, even disguising herself as a boy to avoid abuse on the streets. When intense anti-Chinese sentiment travels across the country, Daiyu relies on her previous selves to survive the ever-growing racism and violence.
Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
After fleeing Glasgow, talented needleworker Isobel Gamble and her husband Edward try for a fresh start in the New World. But when Edward volunteers to be a medic aboard a departing ship, Isobel is left to fend for herself in this new country. As the weeks pass, Isobel becomes drawn to Nathaniel Hawthorne, a young man haunted by his past choices and the blood on his hands. This story follows Isobel and Nathaniel’s relationship amongst the backdrop of 19th century America, exploring the country’s complicated past, historical accusations of witchcraft, and the bond between muse and storyteller.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Set in 1960s America, this is a story about a woman who breaks the mold and becomes a nation-wide inspiration for women and girls everywhere. Elizabeth Zott is a scientist at Hastings Research Institute, where she meets and falls in love with the exceptional Calvin Evans. Refusing to live in his shadow, Elizabeth works hard to make her own discoveries that will revolutionize the science world. But when life rearranges the plans she made for her future, Elizabeth finds herself the host of a new cooking show, Supper at Six. As her show becomes more popular, Elizabeth encounters opposition from those who fear her powerful influence. Because Elizabeth isn’t only teaching women to cook—she’s teaching them to break barriers.
Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu
This multi-generational tale begins in 1938 China when a mother and her son must flee the rapidly approaching Japanese Imperial Army. The one solace amid the hardship is their beautifully illustrated scroll containing ancient fables; this manuscript provides them hope as they are forced to move from place to place. Spanning decades and continents, Peach Blossom Spring reveals that one’s past is never quite forgotten and that physically leaving a place does not erase the mental scars.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
In this dual timeline story, Civil Townsend hopes to make a difference in her community by working as a nurse at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic in 1970s Alabama and serving those desperately in need of care. But when one of her first jobs involves putting 11 and 13-year-old girls on birth control when neither girl has even kissed a boy, Civil is compelled to fight this injustice. Years later, Dr. Townsend is ready to retire but these stories from her past refuse to stay hidden.
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
The Christie Affair is a mystery centered around the sensational and scandalous chain of events that led to Agatha Christie’s disappearance for 11 days in 1926. Told through the eyes of Agatha Christies’ husband’s mistress, a story of secrets, revenge, and lust emerges, resulting in a startling murder. The story is told from Nan O’Dea’s perspective, who is a fictional character based on someone real. Readers learn of Nan O’Dea’s early life in Ireland and England, in the care of the nuns and the priests and covers the period of days when Agatha Christie went missing.
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye tells the tale of Mila Pavlichenko, a Russian bookworm who ultimately becomes the world’s deadliest female sniper, nicknamed “Lady Death”. Following her 300th kill, news of her shooting prowess catapults her into the spotlight, and she is sent on a goodwill tour to the United States where she befriends First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. But when two enemies unite to destroy her, Mila finds herself caught up in a deadly struggle to survive.
The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw
From an early age, Aleen Cust loved animals and dreamed of working with them when she became an adult. But few women in the 1800s pursued such a career, and Aleen’s family was very much against this pursuit. Eventually, she goes against the wishes of her aristocratic family and enrolls in the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, where she encounters a variety of obstacles both from her family and her classmates that she must overcome. However, she perseveres to become the first female veterinary surgeon in both Ireland and Britain.
The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
Ava works as a librarian at the Library of Congress until she is recruited by the U.S. military to spy during World War II. She is sent to Lisbon to pose as a librarian while gathering intel for the war effort. Meanwhile, Elaine is working in Lyon helping to operate a printing press run by the French Resistance, but the Nazis are frantically searching to locate the press and silence the printer. As the war continues, the two women begin communicating through coded messages and work to help win the war.
The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
As the Second World War rages on far away, Fenna Vos performs onstage as the assistant to a wayward escape artist. Secretly, Fenna is the mastermind behind their act, finding comfort in the elusion of traps and a controlled environment. But when Fenna is summoned by British military intelligence and is asked to create escape aids to circumvent the Germans, she joins the MI9 team as an inventor. Her new job tests her loyalty, and she soon comes to face the dangerous treachery of escaping one’s own past.