Sunday, July 03, 2016

Past and present: historical novels with parallel narratives

Novels that alternate between historical and contemporary stories are hugely popular.  As modern characters explore their relationships to people and events from the past, readers are taken along on their journeys. We also get to see the historical events firsthand, through the perspectives of characters who lived through an earlier era.

The ten books shown below, all from 2016, fall into the "parallel narratives" category.  This is only a selection of what's available. I find it interesting to see how the cover designs position them in the marketplace.  Some emphasize the historical aspects, while for others, you'd have little idea from the outward appearance that a good chunk of the book was historical fiction.  Of note: the novels in this post were all written by women.  None by male authors come to mind immediately, though there must be a few out there.



1888 and 2014; literary fiction centering on a diary kept by blind doctor Zinaida Lintvaryova about her friendship with Anton Chekhov.



1885 and present-day; psychological suspense surrounding a real-life murder case from 19th-century New England, and a woman now living in the house that was the scene of the crime.



2010, 1945, and 1783: stories set in three historical periods intertwine in a tale about Jewish history and a long-lost manuscript for a mysterious Bach cantata.



2015 and 1955, the small-town Midwest and glamorous Hollywood, as a young Ohio woman learns the background to her mysterious, controversial inheritance.



1897 and today; while caring for her ill grandmother, a young woman finds herself compelled to discover the provenance of a broken sculpture she finds that depicts a woman from the Belle Epoque.



1919 and 1999; a woman trapped in a difficult marriage is inspired by her grandmother's bold, carefree life during the Jazz Age.



The WWII years and 2010; at her grandfather's request, a woman travels to Germany to recover something hidden there over 70 years ago, learning about her family heritage in the process.



1888 and present day; two young women over a century apart share a connection to the tragic Johnstown Flood, as well as genealogical link.



Present day and WWII; a modern journalist uncovers the shady history of a Portuguese town by reading a decades-old novel, whose story may not be fiction.



Present day and 18th-century; a high-powered Russian art expert and Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, are ambitious women in different centuries experiencing problems with their marriages.

12 comments:

  1. Could I add my book to this list please?
    Where Dragonflies Hover is split era ( modern & WWI) published by Choc Lit. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, AnneMarie! Looks great. I enjoy novels centering on old houses with history and secrets.

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  2. They all look so good!

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    1. I agree - I hope to read some more of these. The only one I've gotten to so far is The Imperial Wife (review to come!).

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  3. Such a gorgeous list. Making a note of all of them!

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    1. Glad to hear the list is helping you find some new reads.

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  4. I've been wanting to read The Imperial Wife so badly! This makes me want to bump it up on my TBR list. :)
    Also very intrigued by The Evening Spider - sounds like it has a lot of great potential.

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    1. The Imperial Wife is the only one of the group I've read so far. It was good but not what I expected, since the connection between the women is mainly thematic. I'll have a review up shortly.
      Evening Spider does sound good, though maybe not one I'd read late at night!

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  5. In the same vein, I just enjoyed reading M. K. Tod's prerelease of her new Time and Regret (WWI & 1990s). It will be out in August.

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    1. Thanks for that information, Lausanne, and the recommendation - I hadn't realized it was a dual-period novel.

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  6. The only book I've come across before is The House by the Lake. These all look great.

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    1. There are a lot of "house" books out there - good news for me, since it's a type I've always enjoyed.

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