I have been on a historical fiction kick lately, which means that I’m sort of learning things while reading, which is kind of nice. Most of my reading is done via audiobook now because I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and read. Instead, I listen to books while commuting between jobs, or when attempting to tidy my ever-messy home.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – I loved this book for being uncompromisingly feminist, with strong female characters who were smart, driven, and willing to break the rules to get things done. If you get a chance to listen to the audiobook, the narrator is amazing.
Synopsis: Two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard – This was another audiobook that had a great narrator and an interesting cast of characters. The story begins with a seemingly disconnected collection of stories about people working at a top secret military base, but it comes together as the character stories begin to overlap. If you are looking for big reveals or major plot points, this isn’t the book for you. This is a book about small personal moments wrapped around one big historical moment.
Synopsis: In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Sam Cantor, June’s new paramour, is a young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where June works and understands the end goal of the facility only too well. June’s roommate, Cici, is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now.
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Rayburn – That cover though! Okay, so anyway, I love a funny historical mystery, and I love Veronica Speedwell. The character dynamic of Veronica and Stoker is amazing. I really enjoyed the twists in the story, and am so glad that there are more books in the series to keep me going.
Synopsis: After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry. But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters – I love reading about how intensely serious people used to be about spiritualism and the like. This book definitely makes a statement about the treatment of women, then and now, and the expectations that men have of us.
Synopsis: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis – Mental health and its treatment in the early days of psychological discovery are absolutely fascinating to me. Stories about asylums and sanitariums intrigue me because I am fascinated by the lengths we went to contain rational emotion. Women who lost babies, men who experienced the horrors of war, children who were abused… all of them shut away and told that they were “crazy” for feeling hurt, angry, lost, or damaged.
Synopsis: Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes.
Here are a few more great historical fiction titles that you should check out:
Do you go on genre binges? What are you reading right now?