We tried our hand at historical fiction with The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton this October. Although the historical parts were great, the novel wasn’t always up to our challenge. But that doesn’t mean were giving up on historical fiction altogether. We’ll recommend you some other works to delve deeper into the genre! We also have some discussion questions at the end in case you’re reading it with your own book club.
The Miniaturist was Jessie Burton’s first novel, so we can’t recommend you anything else by her just yet. She is working on new books though, so catch up with her again in 2016.
Starting with influences on Burton, she’s a big Hilary Mantel fan. Mantel writes highly esteemed historical fiction, taking on important people and periods in her novels. The most well known is Wolf Hall, so instead we’re recommending A Place of Greater Safety. It’s a novel about the French Revolution, using almost solely people who actually lived in that time. The book follows three young men – Georges-Jacques Danton, Maximilien Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins – who have all come to Paris to make a life for themselves and if you know anything about the French Revolution, you know this is not going to go well for them.
Look for historical fiction that takes place in The Netherlands and you’ll find a lot of titles with the word ‘tulip’. We’re going with The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker, because we’re fancy. In this novel, Francesca is a painter with a strict father. She goes to study the ways of Vermeer, but her father has told her she’s not allowed to see the boy she likes. Of course she doesn’t listen and this has many more consequences that she had foreseen.
We’re ending our recommendations with another novel that is historical fiction and magical realism in one. Alice Hoffman is supposedly the best at doing this, so we’re recommending her novel The Dovekeepers. It blends mythology with magic, set in the year 70. We’re in the Judean desert, following the lives of four women who all have their part in the Masada Massacre.
Possible Discussion Questions:
– What does the gift of the miniature house symbolize?
– Is the miniaturist human or magical? What does either option do to the story?
– What is the impact of the miniaturist being a woman?
– Do you think Johannes is a victim in this novel? Is he to blame for what happens to his family or not?