Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group started by Trina from Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. Each month they provide a topic to the group whose members then select books to recommend on that topic. January was Historical Fiction. Ummm, better latest than never, right?
The was the first series of books I thought of for this topic. Lee was a scholar of Victorian London, and she knows her details. However, the books aren’t too Dickensian and depressing, but instead have a young woman working as a spy for a woman-run spy agency who make use of the sexism of the day which meant that young women were often ignored or thought to be too dim to get up to trouble. There’s a lovely romance, where Mary struggles with maintaining her independence though she wants to have a relationship. Mary is also a mixed-race, Irish-Chinese woman, which creates its own set of mysteries and problems for her in Victorian London. Highly recommended.
Erdrich provides a counter-narrative to the white settlers of The Little House books, where she here tells the story of Omakayas, a young Ojibwa girl living around the 1840-50s. I think that both are important to understanding the history of the U.S. and some of the issues were are still seeing today. Erdrich demystifies Native life, by giving us the specifics of Ojibwa lifestyles and day-to-day interactions. It is lovely, and important.
We follow the story of the Sarajevo Haggada, a priceless Jewish codex, which is being restored by a woman in the 1990s. She finds little marks in the book which provide the entrance for the stories about the people who have been associated with the book over the course of its existence.
The Historical Fantasy Section
Ok, so I’m not that good at books without magic. Here are some of my favorites that are strongly rooted in a well-researched historical location and time period, but they have some magicky bits.
These are always given as “Jane Austen with magic” and the first one is, but the later ones are so much more than that. Kowal sends her characters all over their world and explores inequalities of the time, sometimes using magic as a metaphor for that inequality. They are excellent books.
Set in 15th Century Brittany, these books follow three girls who are the daughters of the god, Death, aka they are assassin nuns. I learned a lot about history I didn’t know in addition to getting a good ol’ story, so that gets a win in my book!