Historical Fiction

Historical fiction book reviews

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis

Ava Carson will do anything to save herself. When she finds herself and her ten-year-old son, Toussaint living in a squalid family shelter, she is determined to get out and better their lives.

She plans to head to her estranged mother in Alabama but on reuniting with her former flame, everything changes for the worst.

Ava Carson has been running her entire life. Leaving an abusive marriage, she finds herself and her ten-year-old son Toussaint living in a horrendous family shelter. A place full of squalor, poverty and illicit happenings.

Determined to get out and better their lives, she makes the move for freedom. She plans to return to her childhood home in Bonaparte, Alabama and reunite with her estranged mother, Duchess. However, when reunited with her child’s biological father, Cass, her focus drifts.

Infatuated, she hesitantly welcomes communal living. She continues to follow the dreams of an increasingly maddening Cass, a former Black Panther, rebel and nefarious con man.

Things go from bad to worse as police interest in the property drives further paranoia.

As Ava falls deeper, Toussaint does too. He begins to lose himself and his childhood innocence amidst the unsettled madness.

A mother’s ambition and a son’s destruction

An emotionally charged story, The Unsettled is brimming with turmoil. Though the writing is vivid and descriptive, many characters are unlikable.

I particularly disliked Ava. Never truly satisfied, she’s selfish, weak and delusional. Her own needs come before her son too often, damaging him greatly.

Interestingly, it’s told in multiple narratives from the perspective of three generations. Ava and Toussaint in Philadelphia and Duchess in fictional Bonaparte, Alabama. This is a nice touch, giving a thorough background of generational trauma.

A heavy read, the novel explores difficult themes including poverty, racism, abandonment and abuse.

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis was released on September 26 2023 via Knopf.

I personally have read The Unsettled. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Household by Stacey Halls

The Household by Stacey Halls

An heiress supports a house for fallen women, trying to offer its residents a second chance. Here, they may rehabilitate, learn valuable skills and start afresh.

Each with their demons, these women must fight for change in their lives.

Many people’s worlds collide at Urania Cottage, a home for fallen women in The Household by Stacey Hall.

The cottage is remote and its residents are initially unknown to one another. However, they have one thing in common, each is desperate to change their life.

Angela Burdett-Coutts, a wealthy heiress is a benefactor of this unique venture. She is no stranger to feeling a lack of freedom in life, having been stalked for the last decade.

Among others, Josephine and Martha take refuge and work in the countryside home. They soon become friends in their quest for rehabilitation. However, they’re both looking for someone and the temptation to escape the confinements of the cottage appeals to many.

Mrs Holdsworth manages the home, trying to keep the women content and safe.

As their lives become entwined, the cost of freedom is high and each woman must navigate her circumstances.

A house of fallen women desperate for freedom

The Household by Stacey Halls is a wonderful novel focusing on female characters in Victorian England.

Told from multiple perspectives, the novel slowly explores these main characters and their differing personalities and troubles.

It illustrates contrasts between the social classes and the female experience and is inspired by Dickens’ House for Fallen Women. It features the famed novelist in a cameo alongside the reimagined Angela Burdett-Coutts. It’s fascinating how Halls brings these inspired and complex characters to life.

Among other things, it explores poverty, prison and prostitution and ultimately, the desperation for freedom.

This novel draws you in with interesting female leads and well-researched historical fiction. You cannot help but empathise with these characters’ tumultuous lives and personal woes.

The Household by Stacey Halls is due to be released on April 11 2024 via Manilla Press.

I personally have read The Household. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall

Two women are desperate to survive in post-war Berlin. One searches for her son amongst the ruins of the city and the other will play any side in order to get ahead.

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall illustrates the tales of tenacious women desperate to survive after the horror and destruction of WWII.

It’s 1948 and post-war Berlin has been divided into zones, the West controlled by the Allies and the East by the Russians.

The Russian blockade means over two million people rely on American air drops to survive. A plane lands every thirty seconds in West Berlin.

Anna Wolff lives in a confined East Berlin apartment with her mother, Luisa. The area has been devastated by Russians, fearfully commanding with restrictions, raids and rapes.

Anna’s three-year-old son, Felix, is missing and her old Russian flame has returned. Strange things keep happening and as she deepens the search for Felix, the more dangerous her life seems to become.

Ingrid Keller lives within the rubble of her father’s old circus with her husband, Otto. The former group wheel and deal to better their lives, doing anything for money and security. Ingrid risks it all working as a spy between the almighty powers.

The two women’s worlds collide while working at Tempelhof Airport. Both searching for answers, the airport is the ideal place to learn more about the intricacies and secrets of Berlin.

In post-war Berlin, the Soviets were desperate to get the Allies out of Germany altogether. Spies, corruption and kidnap are commonplace and nowhere feels truly safe.

It’s simple, survival relies on cunning and knowledge. In this desperation, the line between right and wrong has become blurred.

Post-war life during the Berlin Airlift

Inspired by the aftermath of the war during the Berlin Airlift, this historical fiction novel explores the lengths people will go to survive.

Told in multiple narratives, this novel brings the trauma and streets of post-war Berlin to life. The families within have been divided by the war, each individual with their own goals and trauma.

The novel is meticulously researched, drawing inspiration from real and extraordinary history. The world is atmospheric, transporting you to the harrowing scenes of the broken city. With shortages of coal, food, medicine and money, people are desperate and bereft of hope.

Orphaned children run riot in the ruins, Soviet soldiers cruelly keep control and everyday folk will do anything to survive the chaos.

Anna and Ingrid lead with their stories. Full of struggle, mystery and espionage, the novel keeps you on your feet at a growing pace with twists and turns. Each must battle their own demons and seek resolution as they navigate ruined Berlin.

Ultimately, this novel draws you in with its incredibly well-researched historical fiction and tenacious female leads.

It’s a spectacular tale of the lengths a woman will go to survive. Love is a powerful force and human will can be at its strongest in desperate times.

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall was released on October 31, 2023, via Hodder & Stoughton.

I personally have read Child of the Ruins. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal