Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted every week by the Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten list is the Top Ten Books I'd Give to Readers Who Have Never Read X, and the idea is that you can fill in the X with any genre or type of book that you like. I'm going to fill in the X with literary historical fiction.
Everybody probably has a sense of what historical fiction is, of course, but I'd define literary historical fiction as being those novels set in a different time period that, like literary fiction, are elegantly written. They are often marked by complex and nuanced character development and layers of meaning. A friend of mine once described literary historical fiction as "those depressing novels that make everyone cry!" Well, I admit, sometimes that's an accurate description ... but I don't think literary historical fiction is ALWAYS depressing! In fact, literary novels set in the past can be hopeful, enlightening, and even humorous.
Here is my list, then, for Ten Gateway Literary Historical Fiction Books:
1. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
2. Possession by A.S. Byatt
3. Roots by Alex Haley
4. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
5. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
6. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
7. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
8. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
9. Atonement by Ian McEwan
10. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
What other novels would you suggest to get a reader started in literary historical fiction?