20 Historical Fiction Books That Will Make You Cry
Heart-breaking Historical Fiction Books – These tragic historical fiction books use actual events to present tragic and inspirational tales, from the most horrific moments of World War II to a graveyard from the Civil War in Washington, D.C., to the South during the time of slavery. This collection of inspirational books was chosen with the aid of our other readers who enjoy historical fiction and contains both award winners and top sellers. Here are 20 historical fiction books that will make you cry:
20 Historical Fiction Books That Will Make You Cry
- The Book Thief By Markus Zusak
- All The Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr
- A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled Hosseini
- The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah
- Beloved By Toni Morrison
- Sarah’s Key By Tatiana De Rosnay
- We Were The Lucky Ones By Georgia Hunter
- The Dutch Wife By Ellen Keith
- The Butterfly And The Violin By Kristy Cambron
- Sophie’s Choice By William Styron
- Between Shades of Gray By Ruta Sepetys
- The Boy In The Striped Pajamas By John Boyne
- The Tattooist of Auschwitz By Heather Morris
- The Alice Network By Kate Quinn
- Lilac Girls By Martha Hall Kelly
- Flight of The Sparrow By Amy Belding Brown
- Orphan Train By Christina Baker Kline
- Cracking India By Bapsi Sidhwa
- Sold on a Monday By Kristina McMorris
- Sea of Poppies By Amitav Ghosh
The Book Thief By Markus Zusak
The memorable tale by Markus Zusak, the astounding New York Times bestseller that has been made into a blockbuster film, is about the capacity of books to nourish the soul. It is 1939 and the nation is gasping for air. The afterlife will continue to be busy than it has ever been. Foster child Liesel Meminger, who lives outside of Munich, scrapes by on a limited income by stealing whenever she comes across something she can’t resist: books. She learns to read with the aid of her accordion-playing foster father, and during bombing raids she gives her neighbours and the Jewish guy hiding in her basement her stolen books. I Am the Messenger by author Markus Zusak is one of the most enduring stories of our time, written with exquisite skill and intensity.
All The Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr
A blind French girl and a German boy cross paths in occupied France as both strive to survive the carnage of World War II in this gorgeous, shockingly ambitious immediate New York Times bestseller from the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr. Marie-father, Laure’s who is in charge of the Museum of Natural History’s countless locks, resides in a neighbourhood of Paris with her. Marie-Laure loses her sight when she is six, so her father creates an exact scale model of their neighbourhood so she can learn it by touch and find her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve years old, the Nazis have taken over Paris, and her father and daughter leave to Saint-Malo, a walled city where Marie-great-uncle Laure’s lives alone in a tall home by the sea.
They may be transporting the most priceless and hazardous treasure in the museum. The orphan Werner grows up in a mining village in Germany with his younger sister, fascinated by a rudimentary radio they discover. Werner becomes an adept at creating and maintaining these vital new tools, a skill that earns him admission to a harsh Hitler Youth academy and a specific duty to find the resistance. All the Light We Cannot See, a brilliant and extraordinarily touching book that took 10 years to finish, was written by a writer “whose lines never fail to thrill.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns is both an amazing account of thirty years of Afghan history and a profoundly emotional tale of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love, driven by the same exceptional narrative sense that made The Kite Runner a revered classic. Khaled Hosseini has written a new book that solidifies his position as one of the most significant authors working today, spending 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and selling four million copies of The Kite Runner. Mariam and Laila are two women who are abruptly thrown together by war, by grief, and by fate. They were born a generation apart and have very different views on love and family.
They develop a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughters to one another as they deal with the constantly increasing dangers in their environment – both at home and on the streets of Kabul – and that will ultimately change not only the course of their own lives but also the lives of future generations. With harrowing strength and suspense, Hosseini demonstrates how a woman’s love for her family can inspire her to perform astonishing and selfless deeds, and that in the end, love or even the memory of love is frequently the strongest force. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breath-taking achievement that tells the painful, captivating, and disturbing narrative of a cruel time, an unexpected friendship, and an unbreakable love.
The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah
Bestselling author Kristin Hannah vividly depicts the vast scope of World Struggle II while illuminating a personal aspect of history that is rarely seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale is a heartbreakingly beautiful book that honours the tenacity of women and the resiliency of the human spirit. It tells the stories of two sisters who are separated by time, experience, ideals, and circumstance, as well as by differences in their backgrounds, passions, and circumstances. Each sister sets out on a perilous journey toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France. It is a book for a lifetime and one for everyone.
Beloved By Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is a fascinating and brilliantly inventive picture of a woman plagued by the past. Sethe was born a slave, ran away to Ohio, and hasn’t gained her freedom 18 years later. She has survived the unimaginable without going insane, but she is nonetheless imprisoned by memories of Sweet Home, the lovely property where so many heinous things took place. Meanwhile, Sethe’s home has long been plagued by the vengeful, destructive spirit of her infant child, who passed away unidentified and whose tombstone bears just the word: “damage.”
Despite her best efforts, the past continues to haunt her memories and the lives of those around her despite her best efforts to silence it. Sethe’s awful secret bursts into the present when a mysterious teenage girl who goes by the name of Beloved shows around. One of the greatest and most enduring pieces of American literature, Morrison’s memorable novel combines the visionary power of legend with the unquestionable truth of history.
Sarah’s Key By Tatiana De Rosnay
Ten-year-old Sarah is mercilessly detained together with her family. Michel, Sarah’s younger brother, is locked in their preferred hiding spot, a cupboard in the family’s apartment, before the police arrive to take them. In the belief that she will return shortly, she maintains the key. A French magazine in Paris commissions American journalist Julia Jarmond to write an essay about this terrible period in French history. Julia, who has been married to a Frenchman for almost 25 years and has lived in Paris, is astounded by both her ignorance of the incident and the continued hush around it.
She discovers a trail of long-kept family secrets during her inquiry that links her to Sarah. Julia is forced to retrace the girl’s suffering, from the horrifying days she was imprisoned to the camps and beyond. Tatiana de Rosnay paints a marvellously subtle, gripping portrayal of France under occupation in her writing about the fate of her country. She also exposes the taboos and denial surrounding this sad period in French history.
We Were The Lucky Ones By Georgia Hunter
Three generations of the Kurc family are attempting to lead normal lives in the spring of 1939 despite the looming threat of war. The topics of conversation at the family Seder table are new newborns and blossoming relationships, not the mounting challenges facing Jews in their own Radom, Poland. But before long, the horrors engulfing Europe will be unavoidable, and the Kurcs will be scattered throughout the world, each anxiously seeking their own route to safety. Others fight to avoid certain death by working long hours on an empty stomach in the factories of the ghetto or by concealing as gentiles in plain sight.
One sister is sent into exile, another tries to abandon the continent. The Kurcs must rely on hope, creativity, and inner fortitude to continue because they are driven by an unyielding resolve to survive and by the worry that they could never see one another again. The astonishing, compelling novel We Were the Lucky Ones shows how the human spirit can persevere and even flourish in the midst of the darkest chapter of the twentieth century.
The Dutch Wife By Ellen Keith
On may 1943 in Amsterdam the final traces of Dutch resistance are being erased as the tulips blossom and the Nazis strengthen their hold on the city. The husband and wife of Marijke de Graaf are taken into custody and sent to various extermination camps in Germany. Marijke is given a terrible option: join the camp brothel for a chance at survival or endure a torturous death in the labour camp. Karl Müller, an SS lieutenant, enters the camp from the other side of the barbed wire in an effort to live up to his father’s aspirations of wartime glory. He yearns for a break from the terrible regularity of supervising executions and punishments, though.
He runs across Marijke, who has just arrived, and this encounter alters both of their lives forever. The Dutch Wife interweaves the tales of three people who share a dark secret and are caught up in two of the most brutal terror regimes in modern history, from the Netherlands to Germany to Argentina. This book explores how the lines between right and wrong, abuse and resistance, and love and passion are sometimes hazy as well as how ordinary people may persevere and do the unthinkable in extraordinary situations.
The Butterfly And The Violin By Kristy Cambron
Sera James, a Manhattan art trader, watched her world fall apart two years ago, and her heart is still brittle. Her need for diversion rekindles her interest for a mystery portrait of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes that she originally saw when she was a little kid. In the course of her search for the painting, Sera encounters William Hanover, the grandson of a powerful real estate developer from California, who might have the secret to locating the lost masterpiece.
Together, Sera and William gradually reveal the background to the portrait of Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron. Adele, a skilled musician, daughter of a high-ranking Nazi, and beloved of the Austrian aristocracy in 1942, risks everything when she starts transporting Jews out of Vienna. Her life of wealth and privilege abruptly ends and is replaced by one of starvation and barbed wire. Sera discovers beauty in the most unlikely places as she unravels the mystery of the artwork, including the dark chambers of Auschwitz and her own wounded heart.
Sophie’s Choice By William Styron
Stingo, a writer who is remembering the summer he started writing his first book, has moved into a modest boarding home in Brooklyn after being dismissed from his low-level reader job at McGraw-Hill and plans to spend a few months there working on his writing. While he is writing his book, Nathan Landau and Sophie Zawistowska, two other boarders at the home, whose relationship is intense and challenging, draw him into their world. While Nathan is an alleged genius and a Jewish-American, Sophie is a stunning Catholic Pole who survived the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps despite Nathan’s assertions that he is a Harvard graduate and a cellular scientist for a pharmaceutical business.
As the plot develops, Sophie opens up to Stingo about her past. She talks about her father, a Kraków law professor who was virulently anti-Semitic, her refusal to disseminate his ideas, her arrest by the Nazis, and in particular, her brief time working as a stenographer-typist in the house of Rudolf Höss, the camp’s commandant, where she was incarcerated. She describes particularly how she tried to seduce Höss in order to convince him to let her blonde, blue-eyed, German-speaking son leave the camp and enrol in the Lebensborn programme, where he would be nurtured as a German child. She was unsuccessful in her attempt, and she never found out what had become of her son. The reader does not also learn what happened to Sophie’s daughter, Eva, until the book’s conclusion.
Between Shades of Gray By Ruta Sepetys
In 1941, lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, is like any other teenager. She paints, doodles, and develops crushes on men. Until the night when Soviet officers storm into her house and uproot her family from their cosy existence. Lina, her mother, and her baby brother slowly travel north, passing the Arctic Circle on their way to a work camp in the harshest parts of Siberia after being separated from their father and crammed aboard a cramped, filthy train car.
Under Stalin’s orders, they are compelled to work in the harshest conditions to dig for beets and battle for their lives. In the hope that these communications will reach her father’s jail camp and let him know they are still alive, Lina meticulously—and at considerable risk—documents events by drawing. Through extraordinary bravery, love, and hope, Lina survives the protracted and terrifying voyage that lasts years and covers 6,500 miles. The book Between Shades of Gray will make you gasp and fall in love.
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas By John Boyne
Bruno, who is nine years old, has no knowledge of the Holocaust or the Final Solution. He is unaware of the horrible injustices his nation is committing against the people of Europe. All he is aware of is that he has been relocated from a cosy Berlin home to a residence in a lonely neighbourhood where there are no activities to engage in and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a youngster who, like the other residents there, leads a peculiar parallel existence on the other side of the adjacent wire fence and who wears a uniform of striped pajamas. Shmuel and Bruno’s friendship will lead Bruno from ignorance to revelation. And as he investigates what he unintentionally is a part of, he will unavoidably get swallowed up by the terrible process.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz By Heather Morris
Lale, who has been imprisoned for more than 2.5 years, sees unbelievable acts of bravery and kindness in addition to horrifying horrors and cruelty. He puts his own life in danger by using his position of power to buy food for his fellow captives by exchanging jewellery and money from dead Jews. Lale, prisoner 32407, offers support to a young woman who is shaking while in line to have the tattoo of the number 34902 applied on her arm one day in July 1942.
Gita is her name, and Lale makes a promise to marry her and somehow make it through the camp when they first meet. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful recreation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust on the arms of thousands of prisoners. It is also a testament to the resilience of love and humanity in the worst possible circumstances.
The Alice Network By Kate Quinn
A female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite looking for her cousin in 1947 are brought together in an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn. The story is one of bravery and redemption. American college student Charlie St. Clair is unmarried, pregnant, and on the verge of being expelled from her extremely proper family in the turbulent years following World War II. She also has a fervent wish that her beloved cousin Rose, who vanished during the war in Nazi-occupied France, is still alive.
Charlie, who is determined to learn what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister, escapes her parents’ control and travels to London after they send her to Europe to have her “small problem” resolved. Thirty years later, Eve spends her days drinking alone in her dilapidated London home, horrified by the betrayal that eventually tore the Alice Network apart. Until a young American enters, speaking a name Eve hasn’t heard in years, setting them both on a quest to discover the truth.
Lilac Girls By Martha Hall Kelly
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her job at the French embassy and a new love on the horizon on the brink of a tragic war. But when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939 and then turns its attention to France, Caroline’s world is irrevocably altered. Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teen who lives thousands of miles from Caroline, feels her carefree youth slipping away as she gets sucked deeper and deeper into her job as a courier for the underground resistance movement. One wrong move could have disastrous effects in a stressful environment of watchful eyes and suspicious neighbours.
When the unthinkable occurs and Kasia is taken to Ravensbrück, the renowned female-only Nazi concentration camp, the lives of these three women are put on a collision course. From New York to Paris, Germany to Poland, the pain and triumph of their stories span continents, showing the unstoppable pull of compassion to deliver justice to those that history has forgotten. Lilac Girls is a fantastic story by Martha Hall Kelly about unnoticed ladies who are looking for love, happiness, and second chances. It’s a story that will keep readers connected to the characters throughout their quest for the truth.
Flight of The Sparrow By Amy Belding Brown
Mary Rowlandson occasionally found herself at odds with her strict Puritan town even before she is taken by Indians on a violent and terrifying winter day. She has now lost her children, had her home destroyed, and has been forced to serve a strong tribal leader as a pawn in the ongoing, brutal conflict between English settlers and native people. Mary, who is struggling with the cold, hunger, and tiredness, encounters shocking generosity in addition to horrifying brutality. She is captivated to her captors’ honest and simple way of life, much to her bewildered amazement.
Mary has been raised to revere God, submit to her husband, and despise Native Americans. She is now caught between the life she knew and the wisdom the Indians have taught her, having lived on the other side of the forest, and she starts to doubt the rules that have guided her. Flight of the Sparrow is a captivating story that transports the reader to a little-known period in early America and examines the true meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance. It is based on the compelling true story of Mary Rowlandson
Orphan Train By Christina Baker Kline
Molly Ayer, who is almost eighteen, is aware that she still has time. The only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse is a community service job helping an elderly woman clean up her home. She is just months away from “age out” of the child welfare system and is on the verge of being removed from her foster family. On the Maine coast, Vivian Daly led a peaceful life. However, there are reminders of a violent history in her attic, tucked away in trunks. Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as dissimilar as they initially appear as she assists Vivian in sorting through her belongings and memories.
Vivian, a young Irish immigrant who had been abandoned in New York City, was placed on a train bound for the Midwest alongside hundreds of other kids whose futures would be decided by chance and luck. Orphan Train is a stunning tale of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected companionship, and of the secrets we hold that prevent us from discovering who we are. It is intricate in detail and epic in scope.
Cracking India By Bapsi Sidhwa
This gripping book, which is told from the perspective of a brilliant little girl who vividly remembers the horrific transition, is set against the backdrop of India’s partition. Young Lenny Sethi is prohibited from attending school because she has polio. She spends her days with her lovely nanny, Ayah, visiting with the many admirers that Ayah attracts. Lenny learns about religious differences, religious prejudice, and the escalating murderous strife on the eve of Partition from these working-class characters.
Lenny grows up and starts to see the contrasts between the Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs arguing about politics all around her. Lenny lives a comfortable, content life in Lahore, but the abduction of her beloved Ayah ushers in a sea change. Violence of a religious, ethnic, and racial nature soon breaks out in Lenny’s world. The domestic drama acts as a microcosm for a fundamental political revolution and is alternately humorous and devastating.
Sold on a Monday By Kristina McMorris
The crude sign, which sells young children on a farmhouse porch, perfectly conveys the despair that was roiling the nation in 1931. It’s a time of bank runs, bread queues, and difficult decisions. The heart-breaking scene reminds struggling journalist Ellis Reed of his family’s troubled background. He takes a picture of the kids that is not intended for publication. But when the picture gets him his big break, the results are far worse than he could have ever anticipated.
Lillian Palmer, a secretary who is plagued by her own secrets, sees more in the situation than just a nice plot and is soon sucked into the conflict. Together, the two decide to risk everything they hold dear in order to make amends for an injustice and rebuild a broken family. This heart-warming novel explores the story within the frame and behind the lens – a voyage of aspiration, love, and the far-reaching ramifications of our deeds – and was inspired by a real-life newspaper photo that astounded readers across the country.
Sea of Poppies By Amitav Ghosh
A huge ship called the Ibis is at the centre of this colourful narrative. Just before the Opium Wars in China began, she is doomed to a turbulent voyage across the Indian Ocean. A motley cast of Indians and Westerners, including a bankrupt raja, a widowed tribeswoman, a mulatto American freedman, and a free-spirited French orphan, have been thrust together by fate at a period of colonial turmoil. They, like their historical counterparts, begin to see themselves as ship-brothers, when their old familial ties are washed away. This historical journey has a broad scope that includes the lush Ganges poppy fields, the choppy high seas, and the exotic Canton backstreets.