6 Fictional Novels Based on Real History

As a history fan, it is fun to read a fiction novel that is based on real historical events. The historian in me likes to see how an author weaves the story around real events and how those events impact the plot. These books give you an opportunity to use your history knowledge in a different way and it can help spark your own creativity.

1.Pillars of the Earth

This Ken Follett novel is set around the aftermath of the Whiteship disaster and the battles of the succession crisis of 12th century England.

The story centers around the building of a fictional cathedral and the lives of those involved in the town. The political intrigue is heightened as the power brokers of England battle for the throne and allegiances change affecting the building of the great cathedral.

Ailena is one of my favorite female fictional characters. She was strong and smart and although she struggles she is brave for facing all of her obstacles the way she did. Love her.

This is book one of three in a series although the series is loosely connected and will not require you to commit to reading all three (sometimes you just don’t have the time to read an entire series). Plus, I haven’t read the others and have no recommendation. If you are interested in them, my husband recommends them. : )

Pillars of the Earth


2. Passing Under Heaven

Justin Hill writes a beautiful story about a young girl in Tang China who pushes the boundaries of acceptability and becomes a famous poet. The novel was meticulously researched and the images of the cosmopolitan Tang Dynasty are vivid and enchanting.

Part love story, part female empowerment, part heartbreak, the heroine of the story experiences it all and helps showcase the fall of the great dynasty into civil war. Your modern sensibilities will be wishing for the characters to act in a more modern way but one aspect of the book that I really appreciate it is that I walked away thinking, “the author got it right now matter how irritating that is.”

Passing Under Heaven

This book cover is absolutely beautiful. I almost didn’t include the cover because the blue did not photograph with my camera but the color of the cover is reason enough to get this book.

3. The Fortune Hunter

Daisy Goodwin created a beautiful and believable love triangle in 19th century England. When Empress Sisi needed a guide during her vacation to the English countryside, the new budding romance between Bay Middleton and Charlotte Baird is threatened.

This story uses real life people and the reports of a real life love affair but with no way to prove the actions of those involved, Goodwin created a lovely story of what happens when real people meet the glamour lifestyle of royalty.

When I was finished with this book I actually did some additional research into the characters because I loved them so much. They are written so well and I appreciated the introduction to the budding new technology of photography.

Screenshot (44)

4. The Girl from Everywhere

Heidi Heilig created a wonderful story about a time traveling ship that utilizes historic maps as its mean of travel. As long as the crew has the map they can go there. But when Nix realizes her father is after the one map that could change her entire life she has trouble reconciling her feelings.

Set around 1868 Hawaii we get a rare glimpse of the old Hawaiian royalty and life before it was modernized and Americanized. The exotic, tropical environment feels enchanting and a little foreign which only helps makes the story more compelling.

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5. Fatherland

The Nazi’s won the war and fascism rules Europe. Yet a murder mystery among the old, Nazi elite set events into motion for the world to discover the truth about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Robert Harris wrote a compelling crime novel that will make you sit on the edge of your seat as the action speeds up and how it will turn out will keep you guessing. The Nazi’s won the war after all so there is no telling how things will end.

I’ve read a couple of stories set in a world of Nazi dominance and this by far is my favorite setting. The elements that Harris wrote about felt right but he also didn’t get world build too much. He illustrated exactly what the story needed and didn’t get into the details of what life was like.

Screenshot (42)

6. Outlander

Diana Gabaldon has made an entire career writing about the lives and sagas of Jamie and Claire Frazer but the first book in the series is my favorite and the one I recommend.

impeccably researched, Gabaldon fully immerses you in the time and culture of 18th century Scotland. I always marvel as the minute details included that illustrate what life must have been like and often wonder what her office must have looked like at the end of writing this novel.

Claire, a time traveling WWII nurse, is stuck in 18th century Scotland, where she meets Jamie Frazer. Their love story takes time and is sweet and realistic. The last quarter of the book doesn’t entirely hold my attention as it seems too dramatic compared to the rest of the book but I still list this book as worth reading, especially for the history.

Screenshot (43)


Apparently, I am drawn to blue book covers. : )


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2 responses to “6 Fictional Novels Based on Real History”

  1. Thank you, thank you….AND…thank you for this post!!!! I have consumed all the books I have in my house and I am craving something new to read…..and I love fictional novels based on real history. decisions, decisions, decisions….let’s see…which one should I pick?
    Passing Under Heaven inspires me 🙂


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