We have a firm grasp of our history, but there is no way how we could track every single detail that happened across the 6,000 years or so. That leaves more than enough room for Historical Novel, a genre based on some facts that happened or people that actually lived – but with a little twist of the author’s imagination.
I will present 5 suggestions (naturally good books to read) from this genre. Not that it is my favorite, but these books have a certain undeniable charm. Are you ready?
1. The Egyptian by M. Waltari
Ancient Egypt has been a favorite destination of many tales and also a serious historical research. Mika Waltari put a great deal of effort in producing a novel which bears no errors in depicting the life of Egyptian people at that time – even scientific historians acknowledge he did a good job.
The main character, royal physician Sinuhe, tells a story of the rise, rule and fall of the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty. The story is being told retrospectively in exile and is based on an Egyptian “Fairy Tale” called The Story of Sinuhe.
Waltari did a wonderful job not only by his description of general life in Ancient Egypt, but also by including his imagination and came up with a story of a monotheistic Pharaoh who was constantly threatened by the Hittite king Suppiluliuma and eventually overthrown for his beliefs.
2. The Count of Monte Christo by A. Dumas
The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Christo are the two most popular books from this French writer. Both historical novels, both filled with adventure, noble men and based on the events in the early 19th century that occurred in France.
The year is 1815. A young man named Edmond Dantés is betrayed by his foes and imprisoned, only to emerge 14 years later with plans for revenge – but he has to make some friends first and so he is returning favors to those who have been kind to him before.
Dantés disguises himself as Count Monte Cristo and unrecognized by his old enemies, executes a different revenge on all of them. He then leaves for an unknown location with his new lover, leaving justice and plots behind him.
3. The Name of The Rose by U. Eco
An Italian monastery faces a series of mysterious deaths. Although they have been officially classified as demonic possessions, there is one person who strongly disagree – William of Baskerville, a guest in the monastery who originally went there to attend a theological dispute.
William, along with his apprentice Adso of Melk, uses logic and reasoning to solve the problem – something pretty much unheard of in the 14th century. The Name of The Rose very closely monitors a scholastic method of investigation – open mind, facts and observations, intuition and empirical approach.
Umberto Eco came up with an interesting story of reason beating religious beliefs on the religion’s home stadium. But don’t worry, this novel is not offensive in any way, so you should read it regardless of your beliefs.
4. The King Must Die by M. Renault
Old Greece is another perfect background for historical novels. Mary Renault gladly took the opportunity and wrote about the adventures of a Hellean hero named Theseus. He traveled across various places in the ancient Greece:
Renault focuses on creating an acceptable story from the archeological and historical point of view, rather than repeating the old Theseus myth.
Theseus encounters many adventures during his travels. He grows up in Troizen and then sets of to gather life experience. He comes from royal blood and has gods Poseidon and Apollo watching his steps.
The King Must Die is similar to The Egyptian in one way – excellent and plausible historical point of view on the lives of regular citizens.
5. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
The main storyline spins around the love of a Christian women Ligia and a Roman patrician Marcus Vincius.
Fictional characters (like both main protagonist) nicely mix with real historical ones, such as Nero, Claudius Petronius (the Arbiter of Elegance) or Tigellinus, the prefect of the mighty and influential Praetor Guard.
Sienkiewicz is famous for his catchy writing and Quo Vadis stands at the top of his works.
You have to admire the work and effort authors put in good historical novels; it’s a bit harder than general fiction, because you have to do your homework and provide readers with solid facts and only then you can add your own tweak of the reality.
However, when successful, the result is an outstanding piece of literature – and the 5 books I’m recommending were more than successful. I hope I’ve extended your wish list and…
Thank you for reading!
More Interesting Stuff