Top 10 20th-Century Historical Fiction Novels | TheReviewGeek Recommends

There are so many amazing books that take place in the 20th century, a tumultuous time in world history, marked by significant events and social transformations. Historical fiction novels set in this era offer readers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in compelling stories that blend fiction with real-world events. So, if you’re looking for any historical novels that place during this time, why not check out these ten 20th-century historical novels?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Set in post-World War II London, where author Juliet Ashton is searching for inspiration for her next book. She receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey and they begin exchanging letters. Through this correspondence, Juliet learns about the Society, a group of people who started as an alibi when they were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans during the occupation.

She is drawn into their world and sets sail to Guernsey, discovering the impact of the war on their lives and forming a deep connection with the Society’s members. This charming and heartwarming novel showcases the power of literature to bring people together and the connections that can be forged through unexpected circumstances.

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

Resistance Women follows Mildred Fish, an American graduate student who marries a German economist in 1930s Berlin. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power and spread their propaganda and violence, Mildred and her friends, including Greta Kuckoff and Sara Weitz, realize they must take action and resist.

Mildred becomes an intelligence gatherer for her American contacts while Greta and Sara risk their lives to gather information from officials within the Nazi regime. Based on a true story, this novel shows how ordinary people can become heroes and fight for justice and liberty in the face of oppression and evil.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a powerful historical novel set in the 1960s. Baptist preacher Nathan Price moves his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959 to spread the Christian gospel. The book is narrated by Nathan’s wife and their four daughters and represents their experiences in Africa over three decades. The family carries with them their beliefs and customs from home, but their inability to adapt to the new environment leads to catastrophic consequences.

Kingsolver paints an evocative picture of the political and cultural turmoil that characterised the period, as well as the impact of colonialism on the African people.

Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch

Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch is an intriguing novel that revolves around a family secret. The story follows the protagonist, Sarah, as she uncovers a hidden truth that has been kept from her for years. As she delves deeper into her family’s history, Sarah unravels a web of lies, betrayal, and long-held secrets.

With each revelation, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her loved ones. Set against a backdrop of suspense, the book explores themes of trust, forgiveness, and the complexities of familial relationships. Lynch expertly creates a captivating narrative that keeps readers enthralled until the very end.

Strumpet City by James Plunkett

Strumpet City by James Plunkett is a sweeping and immersive novel that transports you to early 20th-century Dublin. Set against the backdrop of a city in turmoil, the story revolves around the lives of a diverse cast of characters, from labourers to aristocrats. Plunkett vividly portrays the social and political upheavals of the time, including the 1913 Dublin Lockout and the Easter Rising of 1916.

The story follows the main protagonist Fitz, a hard-working loyal and abused trade unionist, an isolated but well-meaning O’Connor and destitute Rashers Tierney. Through the intertwining narratives of the characters, the book explores themes of poverty, injustice, and the class divide. Strumpet City offers a realistic look into one of the most pivotal moments in Irish history.

The Social Graces by Renée Rosen

The Social Graces invites you into the glittering world of Manhattan’s elite in the late 19th  and early 20th century, at a time when women had limited rights and status was everything. The story revolves around the lives of two women, Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor, as they navigate societal expectations, scandals, and fierce competition.

Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, spanning three decades and based on true events, this captivating novel explores the intense rivalry between two complex women as they push boundaries and discover what truly matters.

Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer

A darkly comedic novel, Under the Frog, transports you to 1950s Hungary and through the tumultuous years in Hungary from the end of World War II to the anti-Soviet uprising in 1956. The story follows a group of young basketball players, led by the charismatic Gyuri, who strive to escape from the oppressive political climate of their country.

Amidst the backdrop of totalitarianism, they embark on a quest for survival, seeking food, shelter, and romantic relationships. Filled with wit and humour, the novel offers a spirited indictment of the political regime while giving you a glimpse into the lives of ordinary individuals trying to navigate through extraordinary times.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A tale set against the backdrop of World War II, All The Light We Cannot See follows 12-year-old Marie-Laure and her father as they flee the walled city of Saint-Malo, taking with them a valuable and dangerous jewel from the Museum of Natural History where her father works.

Meanwhile, in a German mining town, orphan Werner Pfennig and his sister find solace in a radio that brings them stories from distant places. Werner’s talent for working with radios eventually leads him to join the Nazis’ efforts to track down the resistance. Through the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner you follow them through their struggles and their capacity for kindness during the darkest of times.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set in the harsh environment of Alaska during the 1920s, The Snow Child follows a childless couple, Jack and Mabel, who are struggling to make a life in the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. One winter’s night, they build a snow child, which comes to life and brings joy and wonder into their lives.

Against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, Ivey invites you into the lives of a couple are is drifting apart as they try to survive the harsh Alaskan Winter. The Snow Child is a tale of Magical Realism as Jack and Mabel try to understand and come to terms with a seemingly magical gift that has been placed on their doorstep.  

The Paris Mystery by Kirsty Manning

The Paris Mystery takes you on a thrilling journey to 1938 Paris. Charlotte “Charlie” James, an ambitious reporter, is determined to prove her worth to her boss at The Times. In her quest for an exclusive scoop, she befriends the influential Lord and Lady Ashworth, hoping to make connections in high society.

However, at Lady Eleanor’s grand Circus Ball, a shocking murder takes place, leading Charlie to navigate the elite world of Parisian parties, couture, and wine bars in search of the killer. As she delves deeper, long-held secrets begin to unravel, putting Charlie’s own hidden truths at risk. The Paris Mystery is a captivating mystery that offers a glimpse into the glamour and intrigue of pre-war Paris.

Historical fiction set in the 20th century offers readers a chance to explore significant events, social change, and personal stories through the lens of fiction.

What is your favourite 20th-century historical fiction novel? Comment below and let us know!

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