Bibliophiles will already be aware that 23rd April is not only St George’s Day but is also Shakespeare’s birthday (and death day!). With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at some of the historical fiction coming to shelves near you this year – how many of these will be making an appearance on your TBRs?

All Our Yesterdays – Joel H Morris | out now, pub 12th March

We had to start our list with this one as we mentioned the Bard and this is about Lady Macbeth. This debut novel is set ten years before the events of Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth and follows the fate and ambition of Lady Macbeth.

Blurb: Scotland, 11th Century. Born into a noble household and granddaughter of a forgotten Scottish king, a young girl carries the guilt of her mother’s death and the weight of an unknowable prophecy. When she is married at fifteen to the Mormaer of Moray, she experiences the violence of a sadistic husband and a kingdom constantly at war. To survive with her young son in a superstitious realm, she must rely on her own cunning and wit, especially when her husband’s downfall inadvertently sets them free.

Suspicious of the dark devices that may have led to his father’s death, her son watches as his mother falls in love with the enigmatic thane Macbeth. Now a woman of stature, Lady Macbeth confronts a world of masculine power and secures the protection of her family. But the coronation of King Duncan and the political manoeuvring of her cousin Macduff set her on a tragic course, one where her own success might mean embracing the very curse that haunts her and risking the child she loves.

The Tower – Flora Carr | out now, pub 5th March

This debut novel is set in 1567, when a pregnant Mary Queen of Scots was held hostage at Lochleven Castle while her young son, James has been taken into the custody of the very men that have imprisoned her.

Blurb: Scotland, 1567. A pregnant Mary, Queen of Scots is dragged out of her palace by rebel lords and imprisoned in the isolated Lochleven Castle, an ancient fortress surrounded by a vast lake. Her infant son and heir, James, has been captured by her enemies. 

Accompanying Mary are two inconspicuous serving observant, ambitious Jane and romantic, quick-tempered Cuckoo, who endeavour to keep their mercurial mistress company while sharing the space of a claustrophobic room over the course of their eleven-month forced stay. Their hosts want them dead. They'll settle for Mary's abdication.

After Mary reluctantly surrenders her throne, her closest friend, the reserved, devoted Lady Seton, is permitted to join the captive women. Against the odds, as they hatch a perilous getaway plan, the four women form a bond that transcends class and religion, and for Jane and Seton, becomes something even deeper. At the centre of it all is Mary--calculating, charming, brave, and unbowed. Flora Carr's thrilling, feverish debut is a celebration of resilience, a meditation on the meaning of power, and a testament to the unshakeable strength of female friendship, starring one of history's most charismatic leaders.

The Passionate Tudor – Alison Weir | Pub, 7th May

Another Queen Mary, the aforementioned Queen of Scot’s cousin, Mary I aka Bloody Mary takes centre stage in this book from Alison Weir. Her latest historical fiction promises to give Mary Tudor the attention she deserves.

Blurb: Born from young King Henry’s first marriage, his elder daughter, Princess Mary, is raised to be queen once it becomes clear that her mother, Katherine of Aragon, will bear no more surviving children. However, Henry’s restless eye has a devastating influence on the young princess’s future when he declares her a bastard and his marriage to her mother unlawful. In hopes of a male heir, he marries Anne Boleyn and banishes Katherine and Mary from the royal court. But when Anne too fails to produce a son, she is beheaded and Mary is allowed to return to court as the default heir. At age twenty, she hopes in vain for her own marriage and children, but who will marry her, bastard that she is?

Yet Mary eventually triumphs and becomes queen, after first putting down a seventeen-year-old usurper, Lady Jane Grey, and ordering her beheading. Any hopes that as the first female queen to rule Britain Mary will show more compassion are dashed when she embarks on a ruthless campaign to force Catholicism on the English by burning hundreds of Protestants at the stake. But while her brutality will forever earn her the name Bloody Mary, at heart she is an insecure and vulnerable woman, her character forged by the unhappiness of her early years.

The Titanic Survivors Book Club – Timothy Schaffert | 2nd April 2024

Yorick, a librarian who should have been on the Titanic, never boarded but finds his name on the lists of those lost at sea. He uses the opportunity to start again by heading to Paris and opening a book shop, but he soon finds himself being pulled into a world of other people who should have boarded but didn’t, joining a secret society of Titanic survivors.

Blurb: A remarkable tale about the life-changing power of books, following the Titanic librarian whose survival upends the course of his life.
For weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, Yorick spots his own name among the list of those lost at sea. As an apprentice librarian for the White Star Line, his job was to curate the ship’s second-class library. But just as he was about to board to tend to his library throughout the passage, a superior takes his place, leaving Yorick stranded at the dock.

The Titanic was not Yorick’s first brush with death, but as with every near-miss he manages to escape into the world of books. After he learns of the ship’s sinking, he takes this twist of fate as a sign to follow his lifelong dream of owning a bookshop in Paris. It’s at his shop that he receives an invitation to a secret society of survivors where he encounters other ticket-holders who didn’t board the ship. Haunted by their good fortune, they decide to transform their group into a book society, where they can grapple with their own anxieties through the guise of discussing contentious works such as The Awakening or The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Of the ragtag group of survivors, Yorick finds himself particularly drawn to the wealthy candy heiress Zinnia and the mysterious and alluring Haze. Yorick feels like an outsider looking in, falling hopelessly for Haze as Haze courts Zinnia; a tangled triangle of love and friendship forms between them. Yet with the Great War looming, their close-knit group is shattered, only brought back together once the death of a fellow book club member leaves them wondering what fate has in store for each of them.

Elegant and elegiac, The Titanic Survivors' Book Club is a dazzling ode to love, chance, and the transformative power of books to bring people together.

Unsinkable – Jenni L Walsh | out now, pub 9th January

Another story featuring a Titanic survivor, Unsinkable follows the life of Violet Jessop, who really did survive the Titanic, and Daphne, who represents women working as agents during the war.   

Blurb: Violet Jessop is Miss Unsinkable.
After her mother becomes too ill to work, the responsibility to provide for the family falls to Violet as the oldest of nine. When the world enters the Great War, she serves as a nurse, helping men who could very well be her brothers. Working as a stewardess and wartime nurse, Violet not only survives a shipwreck but also two sinkings, one on the infamous Titanic. No one can understand why she would return to sea, but something keeps drawing Violet back to the tumultuous waters, where she struggles to put the tragedies of her past behind her and pursue a life and love all her own.
Daphne has survived calamity of her own.
Daphne Chaundanson grows up as an unwanted child after her mother died in a tragedy. She throws herself into education, collecting languages like candy in a desperate attempt to finally earn her father's approval. When the Special Operations Executive invites her to be an agent in France in World War II, her childhood of anonymity and her love of languages make her the perfect fit. She sees it as an opportunity to help the country she loves and live up to her father's expectations. But the dangers of war challenge Daphne in ways she never could have expected, and the secrets from her own past must be faced for her to truly have a future beyond the conflict--if she can survive it.
Inspired by true stories of Violet Jessop and the thirty-nine women of the Special Operations Executive. Two unsinkable women. Two stories of survival, family, and finding one's own happiness. One connection that reshapes both their lives forever.

James – Percival Everett | out now, pub 19th March

If you were a fan of Huckleberry Finn as a child, you’ll want to add this one to your lists. It is a reimagining of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but from the point of view of Jim, an enslaved man.

Blurb: When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a man in New Orleans, separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father, recently returned to town. As all readers of American literature know, thus begins the dangerous and transcendent journey by raft down the Mississippi River toward the elusive and too-often-unreliable promise of the Free States and beyond.

While many narrative set pieces of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remain in place (floods and storms, stumbling across both unexpected death and unexpected treasure in the myriad stopping points along the river’s banks, encountering the scam artists posing as the Duke and Dauphin…), Jim’s agency, intelligence and compassion are shown in a radically new light.

Brimming with electrifying humour and lacerating observations, James is destined to be a major publishing event and a cornerstone of twenty-first century American literature.

The Warm Hands of Ghosts – Katherine Arden | out now, pub 13th February

From the author of the Winter Night Trilogy, a fantastical story of Russian history and folklore comes this, a historical fiction with fantasy woven in about WWI.

Blurb: January 1918. Laura Iven was a revered field nurse until she was wounded and discharged from the medical corps, leaving behind a brother still fighting in Flanders. Now home in Halifax, Canada, Laura receives word of Freddie’s death in combat, along with his personal effects—but something doesn’t make sense. Determined to uncover the truth, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital, where she soon hears whispers about haunted trenches and a strange hotelier whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could Freddie have escaped the battlefield, only to fall prey to something—or someone—else?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped in an overturned pillbox with a wounded enemy soldier, a German by the name of Hans Winter. Against all odds, the two form an alliance and succeed in clawing their way out. Unable to bear the thought of returning to the killing fields, especially on opposite sides, they take refuge with a mysterious man who seems to have the power to make the hellscape of the trenches disappear.

As shells rain down on Flanders and ghosts move among those yet living, Laura’s and Freddie’s deepest traumas are reawakened. Now they must decide whether their world is worth salvaging—or better left behind entirely.

Long Island – Colm Tóibín | published 7th May

The sequel to the popular Brooklyn featuring Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl sent to America to give her the opportunities her mother and sister never had. We now pick up with Eilis years later, now living in Long Island with her husband Tony and their two daughters.

Blurb: Eilis Lacey is Irish, married to Tony Fiorello, a plumber and one of four Italian American brothers, all of whom live in neighbouring houses on a cul-de-sac in Lindenhurst, Long Island, with their wives and children and Tony’s parents, a huge extended family that lives and works, eats and plays together. It is the spring of 1976 and Eilis, now in her forties with two teenage children, has no one to rely on in this still-new country. Though her ties to Ireland remain stronger than those that hold her to her new land and home, she has not returned in decades.

One day, when Tony is at his job and Eilis is in her home office doing her accounting, an Irishman comes to the door asking for her by name. He tells her that his wife is pregnant with Tony’s child and that when the baby is born, he will not raise it but instead deposit it on Eilis’s doorstep. It is what Eilis does—and what she refuses to do—in response to this stunning news that makes Tóibín’s novel so riveting.

The Underground Library – Jennifer Ryan | out now, published 12th March

This is the story of three women during WWII in London who are all connected through their work at the Bethnal Green Library.

Blurb: When new deputy librarian, Juliet Lansdown, finds that Bethnal Green Library isn't the bustling hub she's expecting, she becomes determined to breathe life back into it. But can she show the men in charge that a woman is up to the task of running it, especially when a confrontation with her past threatens to derail her?

Katie Upwood is thrilled to be working at the library, although she's only there until she heads off to university in the fall. But after the death of her beau on the front line and amid tumultuous family strife, she finds herself harboring a life-changing secret with no one to turn to for help.

Sofie Baumann, a young Jewish refugee, came to London on a domestic service visa only to find herself working as a maid for a man who treats her abominably. She escapes to the library every chance she can, finding friendship in the literary community and aid in finding her sister, who is still trying to flee occupied Europe.

When a slew of bombs destroy the library, Juliet relocates the stacks to the local Underground station where the city's residents shelter nightly, determined to lend out stories that will keep spirits up. But tragedy after tragedy threatens to unmoor the women and sever the ties of their community. Will Juliet, Kate, and Sofie be able to overcome their own troubles to save the library? Or will the beating heart of their neighbourhood be lost forever?

Looking for a book featuring the definitive guide of UK heritage? Keep an eye on our socials and the website – the 2024 Hudson’s Guide is coming soon!




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