Taghistorical fiction

Diane Armstrong – The Wild Date Palm

HQ Fiction, an imprint of HQBooks, a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers Australia P/L, Australia 2019
Cover design Darren Holt, HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover images: Magdalena Russocka/Trevillion Images; istockphoto; shutterstock

This book is based on WW1 era young Jewish activists, the Aaronsohns, who formed a secret spy ring to defeat their oppressive Turkish rulers and assist British forces in the Middle East.

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Mary-Anne O’Connor – At the Going Down of the Sun

Published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, Australia, 2024
Cover design by Nikki Townsend Design @ penguin Random House Australia P/L
Cover images by Natasza Fiedotjew/Trevillion Images, RockingStock/Alamy Stock Photo, Andrew Kitching/Alamy Stock Photo, Adobe Stock

This historical fiction takes in the period immediately pre-World War I and during the war, with a reflective epilogue dated 1921. The author vividly depicts the closeness and class consciousness of Adelaide society at the time, with its typically restrictive views on the lot of women and its notions of respectability and decorum.

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Paul Morgan – The Winter Palace

Penguin Books, Australia, 2024
Cover design Christa Moffitt, Christabella Designs © Penguin
Cover photography by Drunaa/Trevillion Images, Radoslaw Maciejewski/Shutterstock

Paul Morgan’s dark tale of events during World War II in Poland, Siberia and then the Middle East and finally with reference to Australia, is told in the first person by heroine Elisabeth and in the third person about her husband Anton. This literary device serves to inject a graphic immediacy to both stories, as if, in fact, we are seeing them with equal intimacy.

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Kate Thompson – The Wartime Book Club

Published by Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 2024 (an Hachette UK company)
Cover design Becky Gibbery
Cover photographs Lauren Rautenbach/Arcangel; Shutterstock

This is the sort of book that is often described as a ‘sweeping historical romance’. For me, however, what is remarkable about this excellent book is the way the author helps us to understand the intensity and horror of Occupation.

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Steve Matthews – Ted Watts’ Diary

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2023
Cover design Think Productions

Steve Matthews’ Hitler trilogy was inspired by a personal connection that led him to visit Auschwitz. This latest stand alone, still a war story but in a different theatre, is also born of personal connection.

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Tania Blanchard – A Woman of Courage

HarperCollinsPublishers,  Australia, 2023

I think the thing about historical fiction that appeals to so many readers is the way it ties the present to the past. In writing a story about the growth of the suffragette movement in late 19th century and early 20th century Britain, Tania Blanchard has cogently placed the advancement of women’s rights on a continuum which includes the modern reader’s world.

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Catherine McCullagh – Resistance and Revenge

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2023
Cover design Think Productions

This author is known for her World War 2 fiction. This book retains the period, but moves into the speculative scenario of an occupied Britain in 1941.

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Robyn Cadwallader – The Fire and the Rose

Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, Australia, 2023
Cover design Sandy Cull, gogo gingko
Cover images: Colourful ink by chavanon chalermchon/Alamy Stock Photo, black ink by Wilawan Khasawong/Alamy Stock Photo.

Set in the tempestuous world of the 13th century in England, Robyn Cadwallader’s The Fire and the Rose is a love story told within a bigger picture of politics and society.

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Suzanne Leal – Running with Ivan

Angus&Robertson, an imprint of HaperCollinsChildrensBooks, Australia, 2023
Cover design by HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover illustration by Hope McConnell

This novel for young readers brings together the author’s interests in 20th century German history and in the nature of family. Told in the youthful voice of Leo, the story takes place dually in Australia in 2002 and a span of years leading up to and during World War 2.

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Harry Treasure – King’s Spur

Austin Macauley Publishers, London, 2023
Cover design not acknowledged

In this historical fiction, Harry Treasure paints a graphic picture of the harsh and demanding lifestyle of the Victorian mountain cattlemen and their families around the turn of the 20th century. Unlike some in the genre, this is entirely a work of the author’s imagination.

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Paul Ashford Harris – Love, Oil and the Fortunes of War

Ventura Press Australia, 2023
Cover and internal design by Deborah Parry Graphics

In bringing together three figures from British late 19th/early 20th century history Paul Ashford Harris has created a monumental tale of historical fiction. The work delves into the military, the political and the personal in its central story as well as entertaining us with a myriad of interesting ‘side issues’ of the times.

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Ben Hobson – The Death of John Lacey

Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2023

This is a tough, rough read, masculine, spare and utterly brilliant.

Set between 1847 and 1870, the story follows the parallel stories of two sets of brothers – Ernst and Joe Montague and John and Gray Lacey.

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Steve Matthews – Hitler’s Resurrection

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2022
Cover design by Think Productions

This is final book in Steve Matthews’ Hitler trilogy and can be read as a stand-alone, though much of it is better contextualised if you have read the first two, Hitler’s Brothel and Hitler’s Assassins.

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Natasha Lester – The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre

Hachette, Australia, 2022

The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre is the fifth of Natasha Lester’s World War 2 stories and she has adopted a fresh format.

Barbie speaks to Natasha Lester about The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre
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