2022 was a stellar year for historical fiction – so many titles in the genre released, and I worked my way through as many as I could. I love that the historical fiction transports me to another time and place, and I had a blast spending time all over the world as well as across many decades.
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It was really hard to narrow down the list to a reasonable number, but I eventually did. Here are the best of the genre for 2022 (listed alphabetically):
Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper
Set in the Philippines during World War 2, Angels of the Pacific focuses on the Angels of Bataan, a group of U.S. Army and Navy nurses who courageously endured four years in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp after the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Philippines. I knew very little about this part of World War 2 and enjoyed learning about what these poor souls endured though it is a tough read at times. Hooper’s writing is beautiful and dropped me right into the lives of these courageous women and demonstrated their bravery in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. I have loved all of her books, but I think this one is her best yet.
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner
In 1950s London, Bloomsbury Books, a bookstore that sells new and rare books and that has existed for over a century, is run by men and guided by the general manager’s 51 rules. But following World War 2, Vivien, Grace and Evie, three strong women working at the store, strive to modernize the store’s ways and chart their own paths in a male-dominated world. Interacting with literary greats such as Daphne de Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Peggy Guggenheim and more, these three women push the boundaries of the early 1950s. I loved everything about this one from the literary setting to the characters to the book’s resolution.
The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman
The Codebreaker’s Secret is a fabulous addition to the World War 2 historical fiction subgenre. After helping crack the German Enigma code, Isabel Cooper is sent to Pearl Harbor’s Station HYPO, its code breaking center, to help break the Japanese Magenta codes in an attempt to win the war. Two decades later, a young journalist is sent to Hawaii to cover the opening of the Rockefeller’s latest project and is roped into the hunt for a prominent guest who goes missing. While searching, she uncovers a wartime secret that she must work to unlock. This dual timeline tale merges together seamlessly, and the Hawaii setting and focus on breaking Japanese codes during the war make this a unique and worthwhile read.
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
This historical thriller is set during the time period leading up to Romania’s 1989 revolution and the ousting of its charismatic but brutal leader, Nicolae Ceausescu. Insulated and living in constant fear, Romanians must survive under the oppressive regime that governs their country. Sepetys vividly depicts life there during this time period, a period many will be unfamiliar with, and how one man managed to fool the world for far too long. I have not stopped thinking about this book since I finished it; it is truly stunning.
Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah
20-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier spent her junior year abroad in postwar 1949-1950 Paris, and in Jacqueline in Paris, Mah brings to life Bouvier’s time there, and its impact on the rest of her life. Thrilled to be away from the societal pressure of New York, Jacqueline falls in love with Paris’s social scene – the cafes, theatre and art - while also slowly realizing that the city is struggling with the aftermath of World War 2. This beautifully written story transported me to a Paris with which I was unfamiliar and focused on a lesser-known time in Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s life that is often glossed over.
The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull
The Last Grand Duchess delves into the buildup to the Romanovs’ demise, the numerous factors that contributed, and what life was like for them as their world closed in around them, while breathing life into the family, particularly the children who were punished for the behavior of their out-of-touch parents. I learned so much as I read this gripping account of the buildup to the Romanovs’ execution; this book is a must read for anyone interested in history.
The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
The Librarian Spy takes place in Lisbon, Portugal and Lyon, France during World War 2. Ava works as a librarian at the Library of Congress until she is recruited by the U.S. military to spy during World War 2 in Lisbon, Portugal. Meanwhile, Elaine is working in Lyon helping to operate a printing press run by the French Resistance. As the war continues, the two women begin communicating through coded messages as they each work to help the Allies win the war. This is such a fabulous read. My Patreon group read and loved it, and I second that.
Love & Saffron by Kim Fay
Set in the 1960s, this epistolary novel is such a fabulous read. Incorporating the history of the era, food, and personal tidbits, two women bond and become close friends as they correspond about their lives. Filled to the brim with humor and heart, Love & Saffron is a joy from start to finish. It is historical fiction at its finest, and I highly recommend it!
The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Fiona Davis sets each of her historical fiction novels in an iconic New York City building, and her latest takes place at the Gilded Age home of industrialist Henry Frick. The Magnolia Palace gains momentum as Davis weaves the Frick family members into the story and provides interesting details and stories about the odd family who created one of New York City’s finest museums. I love the Frick Collection and enjoyed learning more about the Frick family themselves. I am a huge fan of Fiona's books, and this is her best book yet.
Marmee by Sarah Miller
Sarah Miller’s Marmee retells Little Women from the perspective of the four girls’ mother, Margaret March known to them as Marmee. The novel traces Marmee’s own personal growth, as Alcott’s novel does for the March girls, and is at its strongest when revealing her struggles with loneliness while her husband is absent, her sadness at the war’s horrific impact on civilians, and her profound grief when she loses a daughter. Marmee is a beautiful book that can be read as a standalone or as a companion to Little Women.
The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman
Written in a dual timeline format, The Matchmaker’s Gift follows Sara Glikman, a Jewish matchmaker ahead of her time in the early 20th century who begins her matchmaking when she is 10 and finds her sister a husband. When she dies, she leaves her journals to her granddaughter Abby who is a lonely divorce attorney. When she continues to delve into her grandmother’s journals Abby realizes that she may be following the wrong path and that she needs to make some changes. This delightful, feel-good book drew me right in, and I did not want it to end. It is another one that I highly recommend.
Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck
This is a TOUGH read; one that I doubt I would have picked up if I did not like the author’s books so much. Virginia and Violette are incredibly brave women whose stories deserved to be told. I often wonder as I read these types of books how I would have fared in similar situations; I doubt as well as these two women. This is a book well worth reading but have tissues at the ready.
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. But when one of her first jobs involves putting two young girls on birth control, 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 when she finds herself having to explain to her daughter what happened and why. This incredibly sad story highlights what happens when those in charge think they know what is best and take matters into their own hands.
The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers
Myers’ debut historical-fiction novel follows a young seamstress who unearths terrible secrets that a local tobacco company is hiding from its consumers and its employees. Her detailed descriptions of working in a cigarette factory combined with the hindsight of understanding the harm knowingly caused by tobacco and tobacco executives make this a compelling and sometimes haunting read. I haven’t read many stories about the tobacco industry and its refusal to acknowledge to the public the harm caused by cigarettes.
The White Girl by Tony Birch
Birch does a thorough job explaining what it was like to live as an Aboriginal person in the 1960s and the countless hardships they endured while also weaving these heartbreaking details into a beautiful tale of family and the lengths people will go to in order to protect each other. I loved Odette, and her strength and perseverance against all odds will stay with me for a long time. It is a very powerful novel.
I would love to hear your favorite historical fiction titles of 2022. Please comment below with all of your thoughts and recommendations!
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