2022 Staff Picks: Historical Fiction

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • The Last Rose of Shanghai

    2021 by Randel, Weina Dai

    I really enjoyed this engrossing novel set in Shanghai during World War II. Aiyi and Ernest are two lovers caught in the chaos of war. I was unfamiliar with this part of history. Suggested by Michelle.

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  • The Marriage Portrait

    2022 by O'Farrell, Maggie

    This story is based on a historical character, Lucrezia de Medici, so I knew what would happen. Still, the author kept me in a state of total suspense with her masterful use of language and tone. Vivid, riveting, and dream-like. Suggested by Megan.

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  • The Matchmaker's Gift

    2022 by Loigman, Lynda Cohen

    Historical fiction books are often too heavy for us, but we were delighted by this sweet and uplifting blend of magical realism and light romance full of hope and optimism. This heartwarming novel centers on two Jewish women, one in the first half of the 20th century and the other in 1994, each finding agency in their own times. Suggested by Rummanah and Sharon.

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  • Afterlives

    2022 by Gurnah, Abdulrazak

    An epic yet strangely intimate novel about the country that becomes Tanzania during the first half of the 20th century. It is about war, colonialism, and economics, but also about the small acts of kindness that can change lives in any time period. And it is so very, very good. Suggested by Andrew.

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  • Circus of Wonders

    2022 by Macneal, Elizabeth

    I loved this soaring historical fiction novel. The historical details are finely wrought and, hidden underneath the Victorian trappings, is a wholly modern discourse on the manipulation of images to create a false narrative. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • Lessons in Chemistry

    2022 by Garmus, Bonnie

    Elizabeth Zott is a character I really liked getting to know. Set mostly in the early ‘60s, Lessons in Chemistry follows Elizabeth, a scientist, as she pushes through barriers and overcomes hardship with humor, intelligence, and determination. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • Black Cake

    2022 by Wilkerson, Charmaine

    We love this richly detailed family saga that stretches from the 1960's Caribbean to today's Southern California. Like the dessert, this story has many ingredients and layers as it uncovers the secrets and choices of a mother and their impact on her children and their identities. Suggested by Michelle and Rummanah.

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  • On a Night of a Thousand Stars

    2022 by Clark, Andrea Yaryura

    As someone who knew nothing about Argentina's Dirty War, I found this book heartbreaking and eye-opening and enjoyed the dual narrative of Paloma in the late '90s and her father Santiago in the '70s. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • Mademoiselle Revolution

    2022 by Sivak, Zoe

    This is a captivating, engrossing, and thought-provoking story about a biracial, bisexual woman who attempts to find love, freedom, and her cultural identity amid the revolutionary throes of the Haitian and French revolutions. It made me pause and reconsider what freedom means from the perspective of a marginalized character who is often erased and invisible. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Two Lives of Sara

    2022 by West, Catherine Adel

    Saving Ruby King, the debut novel by West, was one of my favorite books I read in 2020, so I was super excited when I saw this companion novel. Sara is Ruby’s grandmother, and in this book we find a younger Sara who is trying to restart her life. I loved this historical fiction book about living with trauma, moving forward, food, music, and the rich Black culture in Memphis. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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