Feature Image Credit: @lhstanfill
2021 continues to be a fantastic year for historical fiction. There are books coming out by historical fiction greats as well as some newcomers. I found 10 titles that I cannot wait to read, and I hope you enjoy them too!
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Sept 14, 2021)
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead returns with a tale set in Harlem in the 1960s. The protagonist Ray leads a double life as a furniture salesman and fencer of jewelry until his two worlds begin to converge as Ray desperately works to keep them separate. A love letter to Harlem and a commentary on race and power, Harlem Shuffle brings to life 1960s New York City.
A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton (Sept 14, 2021)
Based on the true story of Cold War double agent Elizabeth Bentley, A Most Clever Girl chronicles Bentley’s life through her own eyes as told to a young woman who shows up on Bentley’s doorstep demanding answers to a secret she has learned about her own family. From her recruitment by the American Communist Party to creating the largest Russian spy network in the U.S., Bentley details her story and what happens when ideologies shift.
The Stolen Lady by Laura Morelli (Sept 21, 2021)
The Stolen Lady is a dual timeline tale about the art saved by the French during World War 2 with a particular focus on the Mona Lisa. Set in Florence in 1479 and during World War 2 in France, the book follows two women separated by centuries who hide the famous painting with unintended results. In 1479, Leonardo da Vinci paints his now iconic masterpiece, and a revolt against the Medicis leads to the disappearance of the painting. Hundreds of years later, a woman working at the Louvre is tasked with keeping the art and other treasures in the Louvre safe from the Nazis and finds herself trying to stay one step ahead of the Germans in a complex game of cat-and-mouse.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Oct 5, 2021)
Taking place over the course of ten days in the 1950s, Towles’ new book follows the adventures of three young men and a boy traveling across the United States. Emmet Watson returns home, delivered by the warden, from a work farm where he spent a year for involuntary manslaughter. Since his father had recently passed away and the family farm was in foreclosure, Emmet planned to pick up his brother and move west to find better prospects. However, two acquaintances from the work farm who stowed away in the warden’s car have a different plan in mind as the group sets out on the ultimate road trip.
When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble (Oct 12, 2021)
Two Feathers is a Cherokee horse-diver whose Wild West show loans her to the Glendale Park Zoo in 1926 Nashville. When a tragedy strikes one of Two Feather’s shows, she begins to notice strange things happening, ancient ghosts begin appearing and one of the zoo animal’s becomes ill. At the same time, Two Feathers finds herself avoiding an unwanted admirer and befriending Clive, Glendale’s zookeeper. Two must rally zoo employees, her fellow performers, and even the zoo owners to solve the mystery of the strange occurrences at the zoo.
Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (Oct 19, 2021)
Callahan’s beautiful, magical, and captivating new book Once Upon a Wardrobe delves into the question of what inspired C.S. Lewis to create Narnia. Megs Devonshire studies math and science at Oxford and relies on facts versus intuition; when her terminally ill brother George becomes infatuated with a new book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and implores her to find out how Narnia came about, Megs finds herself visiting C.S. Lewis, an Oxford don, and his brother Warnie hoping to answer George’s questions. Instead of providing her answers directly however, Lewis tells her stories about his own life growing up which she then relays each weekend to George. While Megs struggles to find the connections, George helps her understand the stories that Lewis relates and how they led to the creation of Narnia.
Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman (Oct 26, 2021)
Focusing on the role women played and the sacrifices they made during World War 1, Feldman crafts the tale of two sisters who volunteered at the Belgian Front. Ruth helps out in the medical field hoping to one day become a doctor while her sister Elise, a mechanic, works as an ambulance driver. Both find love amid the battlefields of World War 1, Ruth with a doctor and Elise with another female ambulance driver.
The Teller of Secrets by Bisi Adjapon (Nov 16, 2021)
Set in 1960s Ghana amid the country’s newfound independence, Esi, a half Nigerian-Ghanian woman, keeps the secrets of her various family members’ exploits. When she is punished for her sexual exploits, she begins to question the society she lives in and the different ways that men and women are treated and perceived. Struggling against the rigid patriarchal society, Esi works to find herself and live life on her terms versus under the strict control of the men around her.
Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (Dec 7, 2021)
This epic saga spans 50 years and tells the tale of the star crossed lovers, Jade and JungHo, who finds themselves constantly separated by fate and history. Opening in 1918 Japanese-occupied Korea, the story follows Jade as she is sold to a courtesan school who must then struggle to survive her new way of life. She first encounters JungHo on the streets of Seoul, and their lives continue to intersect even as their paths diverge. Beasts of a Little Land is a sweeping story that weaves in the Korea’s fight for independence from Japan while bringing to life the people impacted by this struggle.
The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly (Dec 7, 2021)
When 1958 is announced as the last year that debutantes will be presented to Queen Elizabeth II, this pronouncement sets off a flurry of letters to the palace by mothers who want their daughters to be part of this last historical group. The Last Dance of the Debutante highlights an era when seismic shifts were beginning to take place, and people were trying to hold onto the past as the future was arriving. Three women become friends during the debutante process, an elaborate schedule of extravagant balls and cocktail parties in this tale of friendship and glimpse into a bygone era.