Feature image credit: @harperviabooks
As a lover of historical fiction, I couldn’t wait to pull together my summer 2020 #TBR list. There are so many fabulous historical fiction books coming out, it was hard to narrow the list down. But after much consideration, here are 9 of my most anticipated historical fiction books of summer 2020.
See the books that won our She Reads Awards for the Best Historical Fiction Books.
The Color of Air by Gail Tsukiyama
Alternating between 1918 and 1935, The Color of Air follows a Japanese American community living in and around Hilo, Hawaii, and working in the sugar plantations. Daniel Abe left Hawaii years before to work as a doctor in Chicago, but has returned home in 1935 for reasons he does not want to disclose to his family. Daniel’s uncle, Uncle Koji, is overjoyed that Daniel has returned but believes the time has come to tell Daniel some long-held family secrets. However, just as Daniel arrives, the formidable volcano, Mauna Loa, reawakens and threatens their lives and unearths family secrets that have been long buried.
Estelle by Linda Stewart Henley
Before he was well-known and revered for his paintings and other artwork, Edgar Degas spent five months in New Orleans in late 1872 and early 1873. In this dual timeline tale, the lives of two women living a century apart intertwine. Searching for inspiration in the earlier timeline, Degas paints Estelle, Degas’ sister-in-law and Creole cousin. In 1970 while renovating a New Orleans house that she inherited, Anne Gautier stumbles upon a journal by one of her ancestors who knew Degas. Filled with intrigue, art, and family connections, Estelle explores Degas’ time in New Orleans.
Fast Girls by Elise Hooper
Fast Girls shines the light on three little-known American female Olympians who doggedly pursue their dreams to compete in the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Berlin Olympics, the first integrated Olympics. These women must each overcome their own personal obstacles and roadblocks in order to have their time on the Olympic track and defy those who think women (and people of color) should not compete. Chock full of historical details and stories about various Olympians and the grand event itself, readers will love the stories of these strong, determined women. Hooper has produced another fascinating and intricate book that kept me engaged from beginning to end.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
Set in the beautiful and historic New York Public Library, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is a dual timeline tale about two women living 80 years apart who both must deal with the theft of valuable books from the library’s collection. While investigating the missing books, each woman makes discoveries that may alter her life forever. Readers will eat up the details about the superintendent’s apartment in the library (in earlier eras they were able to live in the library!) and other less-known tidbits about this iconic and historic building. I am a huge fan of Fiona Davis, and this is her best book yet.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel is set in 1950’s Mexico and is a mixture of gothic, horror, and historical fiction. As the book opens, Noemi Taboada receives a startling and distraught letter from her recently married cousin begging Noemi to come rescue her from certain doom. The cousin lives at High Place, a mysterious mansion in the Mexican countryside, and Noemi sets out to investigate her cousin’s concerns. Soon after her arrival, Noemi realizes that something sinister is at play at High Place. I have been seeing this much-anticipated novel everywhere.
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees
Set in Germany following World War 2, this historical fiction tale follows Brit Edith Graham as she joins the Control Commission, tasked with setting up schools in ravaged German towns. Before she leaves London, she is recruited by the OSS to spy and send back intelligence through recipes she gathers as she travels. Rees brings the post-war country to life – the devastation to the cities and towns, the rush to find war criminals, the lack of food and shelter, and the underground Nazi movement that hopes to re-emerge. Beautifully written and masterfully detailed, this atmospheric book transported me to the streets of post-war Germany and entertained me with an intriguing cast of characters.
The Taste of Sugar by Marisel Vera
Vicente Vega and his family operate a coffee farm in Puerto Rico at the end of the 19th century on the eve of the Spanish-American War. As the story opens, Puerto Rico is under Spanish rule with Spain coercing Puerto Ricans into its war with the United States. In the midst of the tumult from the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico is also hit by the forceful San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899; together these two events decimate the livelihoods of Vega and his family and countless other Puerto Ricans who decide to head to Hawaii to work in the sugar plantations. I am eager to read this one.
Universe of Two by Stephen Kiernan
Universe of Two is the fictionalized story of Charlie Fisk, the man who designed and constructed the detonator for the atomic bomb. Recruited to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project, Fisk was ordered to create the detonator against his own beliefs, and when he had a crisis of conscience, his wife, not privy to the details of the project, encouraged him to finish up his work on the project. Following the detonation of the bombs on Japan, he and his wife spend their post-war years attempting to make amends for his contribution to the devastation wreaked on Japan.
We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall
Two women forge a friendship and summon up the courage to pursue their dreams and overcome adversity against the splendid backdrop of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Schnall skillfully weaves in details from the actual World’s Fair and includes a beautiful (and helpful) map of the fair at the front of the book. Historical fiction steeped in the spectacle and hoopla of the New York World’s Fair, We Came Here to Shine is a story about courage, friendship and having the strength and determination to achieve one’s goals. Once I started this one, I could not put it down.