I (tried) read the Top 15 Goodreads Historical Fiction 2020…I give up (Part 2 of 3)

Be sure to check out my first post of this series so you have any idea what is going on.

I’m just speechless about my conclusion of this “experiment” I’m doing, but before I share some of my thoughts, let me review the next five books I read briefly.

The Book of Longings

So I understand this first book I read is controversial (it literally tells the fictionalized story of the wife of Jesus), but I found it also lacked any sort of historical realism or religious theology. It felt most of the time like the author read a Wikipedia article about an aspect of Jewish or Christian teaching and was like, “Yep, I’ll put that into my book without actually understanding any of the philosophy behind any of this.”

I kept trying to suspend my disbelief because, after all, this book is fiction. But the whole point of historical fiction is that it’s grounded in real history, and this book is more like a fantasy book of how the author wants Christian philosophy to be like, not what it was. It didn’t help that none of the characters felt like real people and instead stereotypes of the points the author was trying to make.

My Rating: 1 Star

The Mirror & the Light (Thomas Cromwell, #3)

This is the third book of the Thomas Cromwell series, starting with Wolf Hall (which they also made a TV series for).

This is the first book of the series I’ve read (I probably should have read the first two books first, but too late now), so it’s unfair for me to rate/review it completely unbiased, but here we go. This is an exceptionally written book, filled with political intrigue and surprisingly detailed historical context.

It humanizes characters I’ve learned about in history class, and I especially adored examining Thomas Cromwell as a character, as well as historical figures like Henry VIII and his daughter Mary. Though all the different characters named Thomas seriously confused me. However, it isn’t my type of book. I prefer books which focus on a few characters in detail instead of a lot of characters in general. I also am not a fan of books entirely about political intrigue. Saying that, just because this is not my type of book does not mean it’s not an excellent historical fiction which definitely deserves to be on Goodreads’ Awards this year.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Where the Lost Wander

I won’t say this book does anything new which other westerns have not done better before, but I did enjoy it. It contrasts a sweet love story between a white woman and a half Indian caught between two worlds, and the harsh reality of traveling out west doing the 19th century.

Naomi’s character began feeling too modern, which is my pet peeve in historical fiction, but by the end of the story I found she fit more into her era. John Lowry, the main love interest, was by far my favorite character: stoic but also incredibly insecure and good. A lot of characters die of disease and other types of death, so don’t go into this expecting all happiness and romance. But it’s a nice story and one I enjoyed reading.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Night Watchman

Set in the 1950s, this book follows a Native American tribe and their fight to stop dispossession of native lands by the government.

I feel bad disliking this book, both because I loved the setting of Native American tribes in the 1950s and because it is inspired by the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, an Indian who fought for reservations’ rights. However, there are so many characters and subplots that after a while I stopped caring about more everything. I really liked Thomas’s character, and Patrice was interesting as well.

I liked the idea of how some Indians wanted to assimilate outside of reservations while others refused to leave. But the plot moved like an inch-worm, and a lot of the sub-plots were tied together by pretty loose threads. The end was also pretty unsatisfying, as it felt like nothing had been achieved or concluded of the main plot.

My Rating: 2 Stars

The Henna Artist

Set in 1950s Jaipur, India, this follows a clever but impoverished young woman who rises up in power due to her amazing gift of henna. I actually predicted for this book to be my favorite, because I love henna art and I am really interested learning about India.

I really loved the beginning of this book. 1950s India lends itself to a complex social system and culture, between the conflict between British and Indian, and tradition and progressive ideas. I adored learning about the culture, and despite the book having so many characters, I still found it understandable because we were grounded in Lakshmi’s perspective. However, as the story continued, I found all the characters, especially Lakshmi, continued to make stupid decision after stupid decision. It slowly wore me down to thinking the book was average, and then finally hating it by the end. I feel really bad about this because it had such an amazing start, but by the end I disliked it.

My Rating: 2 Stars

See the source image

I have spent the last two weeks reading ten books on the Goodreads best historical books list, and not only do I have five more from their original list, but Goodreads ended up adding five more books to their list of top books for the semi-finals!

My point is, I give up! I don’t want to force myself to continue reading books which I don’t like. My vote of the ten books I did read definitely goes to Deacon King Kong by James McBride. While not a perfect book, I really enjoyed it and it was the only book I gave above a three star. I can also see The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel deserving the award (even if I personally didn’t like it), but that’s about it.

Have you read any of these books? Do they look good to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

8 thoughts on “I (tried) read the Top 15 Goodreads Historical Fiction 2020…I give up (Part 2 of 3)

        1. That was a book I didn’t like.

          I guess you are right- classics as historical fiction. Not all classics may not be considered historical yet- due to how recent they are

          Liked by 1 person

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