Farewell 2018 – Historical Fiction

On Sunday, I kicked off my series of year-end posts with a look at my favorite new-to-me board games of 2018. Today, I’ll continue with my favorite historical fiction novels. ICYMI, the “rules” are simple: All lists are based on my personal reading/gaming of 2018, regardless when the book/game was published. The top three in each category are given and one of them is named the winner. So, here’s…

Historical Fiction I Enjoyed in 2018

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)

Our story begins with two half-sisters in 18th century Cape Coast Castle in modern-day Ghana. One of them marries the castle’s British governor, the other is in the castle’s dungeons to be sold into slavery to America. From there, we follow their respective descendants (with each chapter being one generation) until our times. The book, therefore, is a curious mix of novel and short-story collection, as each chapter has a new protagonist and is only thinly connected to those before. Gyasi paints a broad panorama of African and African-American history – and does so without any of the name-dropping so common in the genre of historical fiction.


H.M.S. Surprise (Patrick O’Brian)

The third instalment in O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series of Napoleonic naval novels. Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship surgeon (and sometimes spy) Stephen Maturin are on their way to bring a British consul to his new post in the East Indies. HMS Surprise has a bit of everything: Maturin’s exploration of the wonders of nature and foreign cultures, sailing under clear skies, storms, and, of course, enemy fire. And quite some of it deals with the complicated love lives of our two protagonists. Aubrey-Maturin books are always at their best when they strike a good balance between land and sea, and when they let both main characters equally shine, and this book admirably delivers.

HMS Surprise

It was really hard to pick a favorite among the three nominees, but in the end I settled on…

The First Man in Rome (Colleen McCullough)

Let me first say that this is an odd book. It contains a multitude of dramatic events up to cold-blooded murder, but the story moves at a slow, almost glacial pace. We follow a host of characters and might become attached to some of them, but McCullough treats them with cold detachment throughout. And we read about one of the most tumultuous periods of Roman history – the fall of the Roman Republic – but within that, the author opts to set her narrative in a relatively calm sub-period (between the Gracchi being murdered and the first civil war between Populares and Optimati). But all that just makes the book more novel akin to historiography, and so you are inclined to believe that everything happened just as the author describes it (even though some things are imaginatively invented). It’s a book that is mesmerizing in its oddities, and auspicious as a start in the seven-book series McCullough wrote about the fall of the Republic.

The First Man in Rome

3 thoughts on “Farewell 2018 – Historical Fiction

  1. Pingback: Farewell 2018 – Non-Historical Games | Clio's Board Games

  2. Pingback: Farewell 2018 – Historical Non-Fiction | Clio's Board Games

  3. Pingback: Farewell 2018 – Highlights on the Blog | Clio's Board Games

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