When I’m in a reading slump, or feel as though I need an escape from the world, I tend to gravitate towards historical fiction. There’s something about diving back into a different era that makes me forget about what is happening in the real world, and helps bring back my passion for reading.
I have read some great historical fiction over the last few years, the best of which I have compiled into a list for you! These books are by brilliant Aussie authors, but the books themselves are not necessarily set in Australia. Also, the majority of the ones on this list are backlisted titles, which means you should be able to find them quite easily!
- The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier
Set in 1932 against the backdrop of coastal Western Australia, this book follows the Hass family as they become accustomed to living in Dongarra; a far cry from their previous city life. The arrival of Lily Hass’ brother Tommy throws the family into emotional disarray, and secrets threaten to bubble to the surface as tensions rise. This book is inspired by the author’s own family history, which I also found compelling.
- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Inspired by the classic The Secret Garden, this book follows Cassandra as she grieves the loss of her beloved grandmother Nell. Set between current day and the early twentieth century, we follow Cassandra as she discovers her family history, particularly that of mysterious authoress Eliza Makepeace. If you enjoy vast, character-driven historical fiction you should pick this one up.
- The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers by Kerri Turner
No matter what Kerri Turner writes, it is always a five-star read for me. I am also proud to say that she is an Underground Writer’s alumni! The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is inspired by true events, particularly that of the 1917 Russian Revolution. It follows a few dancers from the prestigious Romanov’s Imperial Russian Ballet, chronicling their experiences as the country turns against its royal family and thrusts those associated with them into danger. Turner’s experience and knowledge as a ballet dancer certainly shows itself in this book, and the writing is stunning.
- The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht
This is another one inspired by true events, in this case the War Brides of WWII. Hannah is taking her grandmother, Sarah, back to Australia for the first time since Sarah married an American serviceman during the war. This dual timeline story divides its time between present day and the 1940s, and I really enjoyed the way the two narratives tied together.
- The Sisters’ Song by Louise Allan
If you’re after emotional historical fiction, then you need to pick up this one. The story of Ida and Nora are inspired by the author’s family history, and touches on themes of motherhood, jealousy and the cruelty of the hand life has dealt us. I was devastated by the end of this book, and it is one that I often think about even two years since reading it.
- Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe
Stone Sky Gold Mountain is the only new release on this list, and follows siblings Ying and Lai Yue as they settle in Australia to make a new life for themselves during the Gold Rush. The life they had envisioned is not what it seems and they soon find themselves settled in Maytown, a melting pot of cultures that don’t all necessarily get along. When Ying befriends Meriem, house girl to local sex worker Sophie, it sets into motion a series of events that end in tragedy. Stone Sky Gold Mountain addresses themes of culture, identity and belonging, all the while immersing the reader in the harsh yet beautiful landscape of outback Australia.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
I FINALLY picked up this book in 2020, after having it on my shelf for years. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long, and I can now see why it remains firmly in the Dymocks Top 101 after all these years. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, I highly suggest you do it!