The best historical fiction books to read in 2022, as recommended by our Books Editor

The best historical fiction books can make the past seem as immediate as the present day and teach us valuable lessons...

Eight covers of the best historical fiction books to read in 2022
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What is it about the best historical fiction books that makes them so enduringly popular? Their obvious appeal is a fascination with the past and how the times in which characters live affect their stories. But the best historical fiction also shows us that some themes are universal and resonate across the centuries. 

So what are the best books to add to your list this year? Our team of books editors and avid readers have chosen some fantastic novels from recent years, alongside brand new titles they've read recently, covering everything from Victorian theatre to the plague of dancing in 16th Century Strasbourg. 

Whether you prefer to read your books in print, or love to use your digital device (you can read any of these books on both the best eReaders or the best Kindles as well as buying them in paperback), these are the historical fiction books that should be on your reading list this summer...

Best historical fiction books to read in 2022

Historical fiction encompasses an enormous time frame, so to make it easier for you to find the best historical fiction books for you we've grouped our picks by era: Pre-19th Century; Victorian and Early 20th Century; World War II and Mid to Late late 20th Century. You can jump between these categories using the navigation bar.

Pre-19th Century

A must for history buffs—there's everything from Greek myths to royal courts and the lives of ordinary folk in the 1700s.  

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1. Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Jennifer Saint's debut, Ariadne, was a retelling of Greek myth from a woman's point of view and Saint has repeated the same trick here, taking on the Trojan War from the perspectives of three women who are just outside the main action. Elektra explores how women must fight to shape their own lives and the effects of trauma passed down through generations. This is a strong and compelling tale told by three distinct voices. 

Read it because... Saint is a beautiful writer and able to conjure new, vibrant life into one of humanity's oldest stories.

A line we love:  “I wondered how many of them had wives waiting for them, mothers and daughters perhaps. What would those women think if they could see their menfolk, as they stood guard over us, the weeping, grieving survivors of Troy?


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2. The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

In Strasbourg in 1518 a woman starts to dance in the city's central square. She dances for days, never stopping. Other women join her. The authorities declare a plague, an emergency, the touch of the devil. 

On the outskirts of the city pregnant Lisbet lives with her husband and his mother. The family are beekeepers. Her best friend Ida is nearby. Then Lisbet's sister-in-law returns, having been sent to a nunnery in the mountains for an unspoken crime. The atmosphere of the city works its way into the lives of the three younger women. This is a book of sex, desire and forbidden love. 

Read it because... As with her previous novel, The Mercies, Millwood Hargrave takes an intriguing, female-focused moment of real history and weaves a heartbreaking story into it.  

A line we love: “Beneath the blue and burning sky, Frau Troffea lifts up her hands, and begins to dance.”


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3. The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

It is 1643 and England is at war with itself. One soldier, however, is walking away from the battlefield and towards his Norfolk home and his ill father. Thomas considers himself a rational man, above superstition, and he is not just concerned with his father's sickness, but with his sister's increasingly fraught letters, peppered with mentions of witchcraft. As Thomas starts to untangle the mystery, he faces up against something ancient and evil. 

Read it because… A thrilling and atmospheric story. The mist will seep into your bones and the woodsmoke will cloud in your hair. 

A line we love: “I felt cold at her words. People here did not welcome talk of the devil.”


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4. Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter by Lizzie Pook

On the coast of Western Australia, a community makes their living by recovering pearls from the sea. Charles Brightwell is one of the best in his trade, but then one day he goes missing from his ship whilst out at sea. Eliza Brightwell, his daughter, refuses to believe he has been murdered and sets out to discover the truth, ripping away the civl facade of their town and finding darkness within. 

Read it because… It's a rich evocation of a little-looked at time and place and Eliza is a heroine with spirit and guts. 

A line we love: “A pearl has a glow like a fire or a lamp, she learned that early. It is a siren song in the shape of a stone, sending men to lengths they never dreamed they'd go.”


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5. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Delving into the Elizabethan era with great flair, Maggie O’Farrell’s story is inspired by the life of Shakespeare’s beloved son. When a young girl falls ill one summer day in 1596, her twin brother Hamnet is desperate to find help. But with both their parents at work far away, it becomes clear that only one child will survive the week. Will the family’s love be enough to hold them together despite their grief? Moving and beautifully written, it's also a popular book club book (opens in new tab)

Read it because... If you love award-winners, this brilliantly imagined novel is one for you, having scooped the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction, the Fiction Prize at the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards and the 2021 Dalkey Literary Awards novel of the year. Lyrical and vivid, the characters leap off the page.

A line we love: “Cruelty and devastation wait for you around corners, inside coffers, behind doors: they can leap out at you at any moment, like a thief or brigand.”


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6. Rose Nicolson by Andrew Grieg

It’s the winter of 1574 and deadly forces are at play in Edinburgh. As clashes between reformers and those loyal to Queen Mary of Scots tear apart the land, lowly student William Fowler seizes his chance to make his name. Becoming tangled in the world of Scotland’s exploitative elite, Will and his friends arrive at the heart of a powerful conspiracy. Andrew Grieg’s turbulent tale of unshakeable ambition and conflicting loyalties takes the reader on a vivid and unforgettable journey.

Read it because... It's a brilliant combination of historical fiction and the best romance books (opens in new tab)—and Rose is an intriguing heroine.

A line we love: "My lofty resignation of minutes before was succeeded by a black dread of being taken by the sea, sinking down into nothingness or worse."



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7. Daughters Of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Already being heralded by critics, Daughters Of The Night is a chilling murder mystery set in the dark underbelly of Georgian London. Caroline “Caro” Corsham is awaiting the return of her politician husband from France when she happens upon the body of a well-dressed lady in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. When it transpires that the woman was a high-class prostitute, the police lose interest in the case, and it’s up to Caro and thief-taker Peregrine Child to track down her killer. A delectable whodunnit oozing with menace and lively period language.

Read it because... One of the best thriller books (opens in new tab) on this list, mystery fans will rejoice in Shepherd-Robinson’s evocative prose filled with well-researched historical details, complex characters and beautiful depiction of Georgian London. 

A line we love: “In the wrong hands a secret is a weapon.”


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8. A Net For Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

Based on the true scandal that rocked the court of James I in the 17th century, this richly layered story seizes attention right from the opening page. With her beauty and family connections, Frances “Frankie” Howard has the position in society that Anne Turner, for all her wit and talent, can only dream about. Yet when the two women meet under the oddest of circumstances, they soon realize that combining their attributes could help them to open powerful doors in the court, doors that others may be seeking to keep shut at any cost… Colorful, characterful and a true celebration of women, this is a debut that warrants a lot of attention.

Read it because... With scandal and drama in abundance, this entertaining historical fiction centers around female friendship, politics and power struggles in the court of James I. A debut novel filled with rich imagery that’ll keep you turning the pages.

A line we love: “I meant no insult to him, but it is a foolish woman who puts her whole trust in her husband.”


Victorian and Early 20th Century

This section includes our top historical fiction picks from the mid 1800s, through to the 1930s, an era when many of the best period dramas are set and unsurprisingly some of the best historical fiction books, too. 

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1. The Mad Women's Ball by Victoria Mas

The Mad Women's Ball was a best-seller in France. It's now been translated into English and made into a film for Amazon Prime. Set in 1885, it is rich, gothic and combines both hope and horror. 

Dr Charcot is the toast of Paris, displaying his skills as a hypnotist on so-called mad women at the Salpêtrière asylum. Many of the women have no mental health issues whatsoever, they were merely headstrong daughters or wives whose husbands had grown bored. Once a year the hospital holds a ball. For the elite of French society it's the ultimate invitation. For the patients it means much more.

Read it because... It's very moving and the suffocating constraints of both the asylum and of 19th Century society are terrible and shocking. 

A line we love: "Far from the image of hysterical women dancing barefoot through the icy corridors, the atmosphere that prevails is the silent day-to-day struggle for normality."  


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2. Violeta by Isabel Allende

This is a grand, sweeping novel by the acclaimed Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende, covering a whole swathe of history and with a fascinating heroine. Violeta's life is extraordinary and is touched by most of the events of the last century. She's born in 1920, just as the Spanish flu pandemic reaches home in South America. By the 1930s, her wealthy family have lost everything in the Great Depression. Violeta's life winds on, taking in wars, revolutions and the fight for women's rights. Everything is here and it's brilliantly told. 

Read it because... Isabel Allende has been writing highly-praised novels since 1982 and Violeta, published this year, is her best yet. 

A line we love: “In this country there are always calamities, and it’s not hard to connect them to some life event." 


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3. Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth 

Zillah is black, British, and an orphan raised in the slums of Victorian London. Stardom, in the variety theatres, is her way out and she is prepared to make many sacrifices to get where she wants to be and to stay there. But when another performer disappears, Zillah senses danger - both for the missing performer and herself. 

Theatre of Marvels takes a winding, gas-lit path through Zillah's investigation, her rise through society, her two influential lovers and the Victorian criminal underworld. 

Read it because... the novel is as pacy and full of wonder as Zillah's stage shows, whipping points about race and class into a colourful detective story. 

A line we love: "'You don't have to be English to be a gentleman,' he said."


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4. Little Spark by Jo Turner

A debut historical mystery set in Italy in 1935, Little Spark centers around Eva and her pious mother Paola. With the country under the control of the fascist dictator Mussolini, Eva dreams of escaping to become a Hollywood make-up artist. Her reality is making cadavers presentable for the local priest. When a mysterious Englishman appears at the church while she tends the body of a young man, a chain of events unfold that turns her world upside down.

Read it because… This quirky mystery book (opens in new tab) conveys the atmosphere of mistrust in which everyone must be on their guard lest they fall foul of the fascist regime. And it delivers surprising revelations.

A line we love: "He wanted her to understand that men too can love a child to distraction."


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5. Spirited by Julie Cohen

Blending together supernatural elements with a historical setting, Julie Cohen brings us Victorians Viola and Henriette. After losing her father, the only thing that can lift Viola’s grief is photography—though her pictures seem to pick up spirits that are invisible to the naked eye... And after meeting spirit medium, Henriette, she is drawn even further into a very different world. Wonderfully written and evocative.

Read it because... For those who believe that true love conquers all, this haunting story set in the Victorian era is sure to delight with ghostly goings-on and themes that still resonate today.  

A line we love: "They were chilled here in this empty church, cold and clumsy, and Viola had to think very hard about sunshine, about violets, as the man whom she had promised to love forever put the ring of a dead woman onto her own finger."



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6. Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

Tremain negotiates the complexity and fragility of the human condition with great skill. Opening in 19th century Bath, a cast of distinctive characters, ranging from Doctor Valentine Ross, to doctor’s daughter and nurse, Jane Adeane, bring forth a tale of passion and soul-searching as Jane must choose between a conventional marriage and an affair with a female lover. Intertwined with their tale is that of eccentric British ‘rajah’, Sir Ralph Savage in Borneo and together, Tremain boldly explores our very human need for sanctuary and expression.

Read it because... Explore the world without having to step outside your door as this horizon-expanding novel takes you from places as diverse as Bath, London, Dublin, Paris, the west coast of Ireland and Borneo. Beautiful narration makes this story unputdownable.

A line we love: “We cannot shape the world according to the delights society decrees appropriate for us; we must be unconventional in our joys and find them wherever we can.”



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7. Mrs. England by Stacey Halls 

A fascinating novel charting the lives of ordinary women—this one set in what some consider the golden era of childhood. Ruby, a Norland nanny, enters the home of Edwardian couple, Mr and Mrs England, to look after their children. But as she adapts to life at Hardcastle House it’s soon apparent not everything is as it seems, and this is a house full of secrets and the family is anything but perfect. An intriguing, atmospheric story full of underlying menace. 

Read it because... It's another classic tale from the much-loved author of The Familiars and The Foundling. Halls has a wonderful gift for creating atmosphere and a sense of unease.

A line we love: "The room was so quiet I could hear my heart breaking, and it sounded like a daisy snapping at the stem."


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8. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The year is 1934, and Elsa Martinelli is living the life she always wanted as a wife and mother on a farm in the Great Plains of Texas. But when a devastating drought brings the community to its knees and Elsa’s husband flees, she must decide whether to stay and fight for her land or journey to California with her two children in search of a new start. As with all of author Hannah’s breathtaking books, The Four Winds is not only a mesmeric study of nature at its most beautiful and terrible, but also of the bonds that bind us to those we love.

Read it because... A story of survival that will leave you thirsting for more of this author’s work. Pour yourself a large glass of water as you read this heart-breaking portrait of the American Dust Bowl in the 1930s. 

A line we love: “Courage is fear you ignore.” 


World War II Era

Our selection of World War II fiction includes stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things as the threat of war looms ever closer and we've also included stories set in the immediate aftermath of the war.

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1. An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater

It is 1943 and Sara and her Jewish family have fled from Poland, taking refuge in an abandoned house in the hills behind Nice. Feelings of relief flower into a perfect summer and, for Sara, a romance with Alain, a boy from the local village. But as the Nazi forces get closer, can Sara hold on to the happiness she has found? 

Drinkwater has lived in France for many years and brings an incredible sense of place to the book, entirely fitting for a book about love (opens in new tab), borders and refuge. 

Read it because... A novel where the quality of the writing matches the intrigue of the story. An Act of Love is a beautiful book and the themes of displacement resonate with contemporary events. 

A line we love: “I could no longer sketch any mental scenario for my future. Here felt like home. This patch of France. At Alain’s side. Yet to be deprived of my family, to abandon them . . . I was torn."


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2. Under A Wartime Sky by Liz Trenow

Suffolk, 1936. When Kathleen begins work as a tea girl at Bawdsey Manor, she is initially happy to simply be doing her bit. With the threat of war hanging over Europe, the smartest minds, including shy physicist Vic, have gathered at Bawdsey to work on an invention that could tip the odds hugely in Britain’s favor. As the team’s progress gathers pace and local women are invited to become operators, Kathleen finds herself swept up in an exciting new world. But neither she nor Vic could have imagined what the future has in store. Engrossing and accomplished.

Read it because... Even if you’re a fan of books and films set in the time of WWII, this immersive novel is sure to add to your knowledge by shining a spotlight on part of British history that’s still relatively unknown. Moving, intricate and layered with detail.

A line we love: “She leapt to her feet and found herself face to face with a man unlike any she’d ever encountered, so unusual that she instinctively lowered her gaze for fear he might think she was staring.”


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3. The Berlin Girl by Mandy Robotham

It is 1938, and fledgling reporter Georgie arrives in Berlin to find the city overrun with Nazis. As she and fellow Londoner Max witness more atrocities with each passing day, it becomes clear to Georgie that the pair must do something—but how can they hope to ensure the safety of others when to do so will put their own lives at risk? By capturing with gut-lurching accuracy the tension and horror of a country on the precipice of war, bestselling author Robotham has created yet another richly detailed and poignant tale about the immense tenacity of the human spirit.

Read it because... This meticulously researched and suspenseful novel does a great job of presenting history from a different perspective, without a romantic storyline to distract. 

A line we love: “Well, it means dogsbody really, but they couldn’t very well put that in the job description.” 


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4. The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

It’s the beginning of the Second World War when Hetty, a young female museum curator and evacuee, arrives at Lockwood Manor with a large part of the Natural History Museum’s collection. She hopes to keep them safe, but there is something strange going on and when Hetty feels she is being followed through the corridors the book takes a more gothic turn. Part love story and part-mystery, this historical book is sure to draw you in.

Read it because... Part love story, part mystery, but all intriguing, this book is part of a long British tradition of haunting stories set in foreboding manors which influence the characters’ fate. A debut that’s great for curling up with on a stormy night.

A line we love: “Perhaps I could be like some desert plant, and these months together could be the rarest of summer rainstorms, could be all the water I would ever need to survive, to live on – but I knew that could not be true, for I was a creature of flesh and blood.”


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5. The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd

For Paris police detective Eddie Giral, the day the German forces march into Paris is a day he will never forget. Feeling helpless, he throws himself into investigating the murder of four refugees—people who no one seems to want to claim. But with Europe in turmoil and eyes everywhere, he must be careful. He must do what he can to survive, but Eddie soon begins to unearth a truly horrific conspiracy that goes right to the heart of the German leadership and must soon see the light of day. Tense, emotional and vividly written.

Read it because... This crime novel has it all—a flawed old-school detective who enjoys acts of defiance, atmospheric wartime Paris with its landmarks, jazz clubs and cafes and a beautifully wrought plot. Has the potential to be the first in a series, so start reading now.

A line we love: “A fraction of a moment after the heavy swing doors opened, a cannonade of music hit me like velvet bullets fired from a silver gun.”


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6. The Governess by Wendy Holden

In her first foray in historical fiction, Holden focuses on Scottish educator and governess, Marion Crawford, who soon took the young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret under her wing. Just what was Marion doing there when she had intended to teach in the slums, and why was she shunned from the Royal family years later? This intriguing fictionalization of real-life events offers a fascinating insight into the Queen’s childhood.

Read it because... If you’ve been gripped by The Crown, this different perspective on royal life will resonate. Plenty here for book clubs to talk about.

A line we love: “Everything was brown, from the desks with their lids and inkwells to the wooden forms and floorboards. Brown was the heavy Bakelite clock and brown the picture frame surrounding a bulge-eyed King George V and a flint-faced Queen Mary.”


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7. The German Heiress by Anika Scott

Set in Essen, Germany in 1946, Anika Scott’s extraordinary novel follows iron works heiress Clara as she desperately tries to evade the Allied authorities, accused of being complicit in her father’s wartime crimes. When Clara returns to find her hometown in ruins, she realizes that for her to have a future she must first face up to her past. Fans of The Tattooist of Auchwitz will be fascinated by Scott’s portrayal of post-war Germany in this tale of guilt and redemption.

Read it because... The best historical fiction books push us to see ourselves in the past and wonder what we would have done then. This heart-pounding debut does just that, questioning both morality and justice.

A line we love: “She had read the article below the picture, picked out words—incitement to war, support of a criminal regime, crimes against humanity—and they seemed to slap her awake after a long sleep.

The German Heiress by Anika Scott at Amazon for US$12.75 (opens in new tab)


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8. The Silent Hours by CD Major

Former history teacher CD Major was inspired to write this deeply affecting story after discovering what occurred in the French town of Oradour at the end of the Second World War, when losing Nazi soldiers were displaced and desperate. Told from the perspective of Adeline, a mute woman being cared for in a convent, Jewish banker Sebastien, who’s fallen in love with a local woman, and nine-year-old Tristin, newly arrived in the village with his family after they fled from Paris, it charts the events leading up to and after the devastating event that changed all their lives. A haunting yet captivating must-read.

Read it because... Based on a real event, this epic debut brings wartime France to life. An excellent read for Remembrance Sunday—keep a box of tissues handy.

A line we love: “When a German soldier is running at you, there's no point quoting Virgil at him, you're better off kicking a football in his face.”

Mid-Late Twentieth Century

Covering our most recent history, the literature of the mid-to-late twentieth century often explores social themes such as race, identity, class, gender and non-conformist behaviour.

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1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2021, this novel spans the 1950s-1990s. Set in the Deep South and California, it follows identical twin sisters Stella and Desiree, who grew up together in a southern black community. After running away at the age of 16 everything changed and 10 years later the sisters could not lead more different lives.

Read it because... It’s a rich exploration of identity and race, with a driving narrative and a fascinating cast of characters.

A line we love: “People thought that being one of a kind made you special. No, it just made you lonely. What was special was belonging with someone else.”


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2. Tell Me How It Ends by V.B. Grey

Grey brings to life a plot that is as dramatic as its characters, rich with 1960s period detail. Singer Delia Maxwell has been adored and envied since the 50s, although Private investigator Frank thinks Delia’s ambitious new assistant Lily is more obsessed than most. Despite his fears, however, Delia doesn’t seem concerned. With brilliant homages to film noir, this intriguing novel is packed full of tension.

Read it because... Fans of black and white movies will adore this read of revenge and manipulation as you’re transported to a world of glamour with a little seediness. 

A line we love: “Although her hair, always naturally wavy, is now a shining halo of blonde, and her heavily made-up eyes make her appear older, I recognize her instantly for who she really is.”



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3. Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

Clare Chambers’ tender 1950’s mystery follows Jean Swinney, a features writer on a local newspaper, whose world is turned upside down when she is sent off to investigate Gretchen Tilbury’s ‘virgin birth’. Her life quickly becomes intertwined with the charismatic Tilburys, though their story seems to be casting a darker shadow the more she looks deeper. A stunning novel that will steal your heart.

Read it because... Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, this is a proper comfort read with understated tragedy and mystery underscored by observations of suburban life.

A line we love: “Never before had she considered that all these experiences that had nearly demolished her had built her into something better.”


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4. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Just when the little village of Chawton think that they can finally start to put the devastation of the recently ended war behind them, they look set to be dealt another blow in the form of the sale of Jane Austen’s former home. Faced with the possibility of the estate being purchased, eight of the villagers band together to fight to preserve this historic site, calling themselves The Jane Austen Society. Uplifting and warm, the characters and charming settle can’t fail to bring a smile to your face.

Read it because... A cozy, feelgood debut about how a shared passion can bring people together, this will appeal to Austen fans and newcomers alike.

A line we love: “Reading, she now understood, had been her own choice of rebellion.” 


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5. This Lovely City by Louise Hare

In her atmospheric debut, Louise Hare transports us to post-war London with newly arrived jazz musician, Lawrie. Touring the music halls of Soho by night, by day he paces the streets as a postman—which is when he happens upon a terrible discovery and becomes the prime suspect. It soon becomes clear that the new arrivals from the Caribbean may not be as welcome as they’d been led to believe. A thought-provoking mystery that’s sure to get people talking.

Read it because... It’s easy to romanticize post-war Britain but this debut doesn’t pull any punches with prejudice and identity struggles at its core. Lots to discuss in this murder mystery—love story combo.

A line we love: “Stiff upper lip, put on a brave face and pretend that if you can ignore the horrors of the past and think only of the future, then you too will be all right.”


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6. She Came To Stay by Eleni Kyriacou

It’s London, 1952 and Dina has arrived from Cyprus with her brother, looking for a better life. When she meets the glamorous Bebba at the notorious Pelican Revue, she sees her chance to start really living. Only, Dina soon learns that everyone has a secret. This is an intriguing tale of friendship, betrayal and hope.

Read it because... Dark, atmospheric and complex, this debut is guaranteed to make you question loyalty and trust in your own life. Perfect as a long, cozy evening read.

A line we love: “I was growing to love it here, Soho especially, but when the cold weather swept in it brought with it this dense, filthy fog, full of shadows, and it made me uneasy.”


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7. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers disappear from a remote lighthouse far from shore. The door is locked from the inside, the clock has stopped and a ferocious storm has been noted in the log despite skies being clear all week. Nobody can work out what happened or why. Twenty years later, a writer approaches the wives of the three missing men and offers them the chance to tell their side of the story. But are they strong enough to face their deepest fears?  One of 2021’s most-anticipated novels, this chilling and atmospheric story more than delivers on its promise.

Read it because... Based on a real event that also inspired the film The Vanishing, this haunting story is both intriguing and filled with emotive descriptions of the ocean.

A line we love: “Jory knows loud seas and silent seas, heavy seas and mirror seas, seas where your boat feels like the last blink of humankind on a roll so determined and angry that you believe in what you don’t believe in, such as the sea being that halfway thing between heaven and hell or whatever lies up there and whatever lurks down deep.’’


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8. Liar by Lesley Pearse

Set in 1970s London, Pearse’s latest dark tale follows saleswoman Amelia White, who has ambitions to become a reporter. Luckily, these might just be about to become reality when she discovers a murdered woman’s body. Determined to report the truth amidst a media frenzy that spreads outrageous lies, Amelia convinces her paper’s editor to allow her to delve deeper. A superbly twisting and intense historical book that will have you gripped to the end.

Read it because... This might be the author’s 28th novel but it’s no less suspenseful, exploring a time period that few do, full of power cuts and dustbin collection strikes. 

A line we love: “It takes an accident or a drama of some sort to make people speak to one another. The hippie scene made it more friendly for a while, but that’s drifting away now.”