There have been many great events in the history that have shaped the future of mankind. Be it the radical French Revolution or the World Wars, these incidents affected the lives of all the people around the world in one way or the other. It is in times such as these that are brilliantly woven into great masterpieces by the penmanship calibers of today’s modern writers. Writers today are able to capture the lives of the people that were drowned in the gushing waters of Revolutions. Be it Jhumpa Lahiri’s, The Lowland (based on the Naxalite upheaval in the 60s) or Ali Smith’s, How to be Both (based on the Italian renaissance period), contemporary authors today are willing to dig into the past and find the jewels of the historical eras.
These works of art are often the winner of many accolades and awards in various Literature Festivals all around the world. Though difficult in being understood, these novels are often to create a special place in the hearts of their readers. Three of such historical fiction books that have been awarded all around the world and have made a special place in my heart are as follows:
1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel:
Set in the 1500s, this book is about the rise of Thomas Cromwell, the poor lad of a drunken father of the working class family. Thomas Cromwell survives Wolsey’s fall from grace to eventually take his place as the most powerful of King Henry’s ministers. In that role, he oversees King Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries.
This archaic novel was the winner of the Man Booker prize 2009. This novel is not just about power and politics, this is the story of one man’s struggle to rise from scratch and become one of the most powerful of Britain. This novel, though complex in its structure is a must read for everyone who have a dream and a zeal to fulfill it.
First Line of the Book: ‘So now get up’, felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard.
2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton:
Only a few books are written in decades that just take away your heart and bury it into the book. One such book is ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton. Spanning over 832 pages, this book won the Man Booker Prize 2013 with the youngest writer who has ever won it. This book dwells into the Gold Rush of the New Zealand in the 1860’s of the Hokitika settlements.
If you like simple books with simple stories and simple characters then this book is definitely NOT for you. With around 12 protagonists and 6 different narrators, this book, even after 832 pages, makes you think, “Why did the book end so early”?
Astronomy plays a very essential role in this book. Based on the zodiacs and the planets, this book at its heart is the love story of the sun and the moon, personified as Emery Staines and Anna Wetherell. A conspiracy is hovering, all around this book, related to the murder of a millionaire.
This book starts from the end and ends at the beginning. Another cool thing about this book is that all the interactions between the characters in this novel are based on true occurrences between the planets and the constellations on the date specified in this book. Like if a character symbolizing the constellation Sagittarius interacts with a character symbolizing Mercury on 27 January 1866, it means Mercury was actually in the constellation of Sagittarius on that particular date.
First Line of the Book: The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.
3. The Narrow Road to The Deep North by Richard Flanagan:
Dorrigo Evans is an Australian war hero. He is has become famous and is invited on all the major TV shows. But what did he really achieve by the war. Or did he lose anything? Years later, he is now finding the answers to the questions he never asked but he always wished to. Set on the rail tracks of the of the Burma death railway are thousands of prisoners of war, learning to live in those most brutal of the times. Deriving its name from the famous Haiku poet Basho’s poem, this masterpiece is one man’s journey from fighting for the right to live, to the will to die as easily as possible. Dorrigo, now after so many years, has achieved everything in his life, but is still deprived from one thing. The owner of the red Camellia who comes in his dreams often but he is not able to recognize her face. His wife loves him, but it is not her love that he seeks. It is just the glimpse of his youthful memories that he is willing to lose it all again.
First Line of the Book: Why at the beginning of a thing is there always light?
The writers of these books have dug up into the past to make their readers feel what the people in those times felt. The writers themselves agree that it took them around 5 years just to research on the subject matters of their books. No history textbooks can make us feel the pain, agony, happiness and sadness of all those people who were affected by such revolutions, as much as these books can make us feel. Hence I would recommend all of you to read these books just to get a glimpse of the lives of those people.
By- Utkarsh Panwar