Readers that are into historical fiction usually love a little drama or romance within actual real facts. These stories are set in completely different parts of the world that will make you want to buy several plane tickets by tomorrow, in order to experience all the landscapes described, without mentioning a time machine to experience those important moments in history. Reading these books you will be introduced to characters in history you never knew about such as Malinche and Princess Selma.
Here are ten novels that will take you from Ottoman Turkey to New Zealand in a heartbeat.
- Regards from the Dead Princess- Kenize Mourad
This novel portrays the life of Princess Selma, an Ottoman princess and Sultan Mourad’s V granddaughter. Selma was barely a teenager when her family was exiled from Turkey and they fled to Beirut. Being abandoned by her own father and disposed from all the family fortune, she had to grow up in a modest household whilst still behaving as an aristocrat and maintaining all the Ottoman customs. Moreover, being in an arranged marriage with a handsome Indian Rajah and moving to India. This is a story about a woman’s search for identity and happiness in a world where for women it was almost impossible.
Kenize Mourad built up this biography using all the facts she could find about her late mother and her long-lost family as well as her imagination. This is what you could call an act of love from a child to a mother she never met.
Here is a picture of Princess Selma (right) and her mother (left):
- Malinche – Laura Esquivel
Malinche is exposed as Malinalli, who becomes the mistress and interpreter of Hernán Cortés during his quest of the Aztec Empire since she believes that he is the returning God of her tribe, Quetzalcóatl. Esquivel uses this novel to display their passionate love affair and its destruction due to his unmeasured ambition for power and conquest. Although to this date Malinche is seen as one of the biggest traitors and contributors to the destruction of the Aztec Empire, this novel helps you justify her actions and experience love and dedication like no other. This is an opportunity to travel through the wild and virgin Aztec empire and how the Spanish both destroyed and built a new era.
The mural above was made by Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin and is located in Tlaxcala City, Mexico.
3. Inés of My Soul – Isabel Allende
Once again Isabel Allende takes us to her beloved Chile with this romantic and adventurous story about Inés Suárez. Being a seamstress in Spain she decides to flee to the New World since she had no prospects staying in her native country and to look for her desired freedom. During her voyage, she meets Pedro de Valdivia who was obsessed to conquer Chile and who eventually would become the first royal governor of this new colony. Inés joins him in this conquest, making her the first Spanish woman to set foot in this country. In addition, they build up together the new city of Santiago and faced all the challenges that would decide their separate destinies.
Portrait of Inés Suarez:
- The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
Allende forces us to experience the lives of three generations of the Trueba family. A family started by its main characters, Esteban and Clara, where they both start a generation of wealth and ambition. We can see in Esteban the type of ambition that moved all Latin-American men to succeed to a better life and upper class. When Clara and Esteban have their children, we meet Blanca, a girl who falls in love with a childhood friend but who her father did not consider worthy or talented for his little girl. However, from this union comes to life his biggest weakness his granddaughter Alba. A hippie involved in all of Chile’s political movements. This is a novel that involves magic, love and politics, respecting all the laws of magical realism and a story that will touch you forever.
- Of Love and Shadows– Isabel Allende
This is a love story between Irene and Francisco, a journalist and a photographer respectively. Both characters form an inseparable bond after they hear about a little girl with magical powers, but they actually discover a horrible crime under Pinochet’s regime. We get to experience the power of team work and the need to fight for human rights in a country ran by an oppressive government. We get to observe the fear people lived in and how censored the society had to be in order to survive. Using this union as their a weapon, Irene and Francisco find a way to survive as exiles but always with hope of going back to a Chile that respected dignity and where people did not have to live in fear.
- The House at Tyneford – Natasha Solomons
Elise Landau was a Jew living in Vienna in 1938 who was used to lavish parties until it wasn’t safe anymore and had to sacrifice everything. Becoming a parlor maid at Tyneford, England is a change that not everyone gets used to easily, but the real change comes when she meets Kit, the master’s son and everything is changed forever. With the story Natasha Solomons gets to illustrate the terror that lived in Elise by being a Jew refugee and not being able to hear from her family. Nonetheless, she also highlights the changes that England experienced because of WWII, giving the reader various perspectives to judge this atrocious war.
- 100 years of Solitude- Gabriel García Márquez
The master of magical realism reveals the multi-generational story of the Buendia family. The story involves the settlement of the utopic town of Macondo, a town that lived in its own world where the ultimate technologies were brought by the gypsies. All these visits affected the numerous generations recounted in this story. The reader becomes a witness of various self inflicted tragedies and unconventional unions, as well as the destruction of Macondo and the Buendia family. If you´re into generational sagas this is a classic that will move your soul even somehow becoming lost to all the magic involved.
- The Shadow of the Wind– Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This story is set in Barcelona in 1945, a city that was slowly healing from the repercussions of the Spanish Civil War. We meet Daniel Sempere, a teenage boy, son of a book dealer that was recovering from the death of his wife. Daniel soon encounters an unusual book called the Shadow of the Wind by an unknown author called Julián Carax. Obviously he gets obsessed with his writing and starts looking for other books by the same author only to discover that someone has been destroying all of his work. This is a novel that shows the power of friendship and how love can be something to hold on to or something that can easily destroy you.
- The house at Riverton- Kate Morton
The house at Riverton is a story about love, mystery and war. Grace Bradley was a house maid before the WWI at Riverton. She gets to witness a series of events, as a poet shooting himself that ties her up to the Hartford daughters forever, Hannah and Emmeline. Moving forward, we´re presented a ninety-eight year old Grace when she´s visited by a film maker in order to recount the events that happened during the summer of 1924 with complete accuracy. We´re then transported through Grace´s memory and all the secrets and mysteries that no one knew about are uncovered.
- In the Land of the Long White Cloud – Sarah Lark
Sarah Lark exhibits Helen Davenport, a governess within a wealthy family in London that wishes for a family of her own, however without prospects and family it became a very challenging task to fulfill. Nevertheless, she sees an advertisement that encouraged young girls to marry with New Zealand´s bachelors. Due to this publicity she begins a fine correspondence with a middle aged farmer and decides to change her life forever in this new a foreign land. Simultaneously, we have the lovely and adventurous Gwyneira Silkham, the complete opposite of Helen. When her family is visited by a New Zealand baron her hand is exchanged by a blackjack game and she couldn´t be more excited to move from the boring high society standards and to a land where she could probably be free from them. Although they were both so different, Helen and Gwyneria ran into each other during the trip to New Zealand and form a friendship that will last for the rest of their days no matter how many obstacles they had to face. This is a family saga that will make you imagine the beautiful New Zealand landscape and follow all the characters through their ups and downs and sense of adventure.