Art By Francezca Airoso
Art By Francezca Airoso.

Recs with context: Cracking the marble of the past with historical fiction

An ode to the human desire to remember and to be remembered, historical fiction excavates fossilized stories and revives them with unlikely characters and thrilling adventures all in the context of the world’s ancestry.

By Kara Co | Thursday, 14 September 2023

History was taught as a series of names and dates to be studied and forgotten, and this practice has objectified the past, branding it with a title, a place of origin and an expiry date. Yet it is often forgotten that history is a recollection of real people with often tragic lives.  


By focusing on mundane people, historical figures are broken from their marble casts, shining a light on the thoughts and feelings that shaped their actions. The historical fiction genre breeds empathy, beseeching readers to approach events and people, past and present, with an open heart.


Here are our recommendations of historical fiction stories just in time for the International Day of Literacy.



All The Lght We Cannot See   Layout By Eljin Wagan


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is a 2014 novel set in World War II. It follows a German soldier, Werner Pfenning, and a blind French girl, Marie Laure Le-Blanc. Werner is a science-enthusiast who is eventually recruited into the military where he experiences the rule and favor of his German superiors. Across the continent, Le-Blanc takes refuge in the seaside town, Saint Malo, and discovers her role in the war. The unusual couple is linked by fate and radiowaves, and they learn the price of sacrifice and survival.


The poetic depiction of the war dives into the distinctions between each side, switching between the perspectives of the two individuals. It humanizes the despised soldier and empowers a modest girl, giving readers a view of life in the battle from both sides. While one side is vilified and the other is pitied, the novel serves as a reminder that bravery and kindness can be found on any battlefield.


The critically acclaimed novel is available in all leading bookstores nationwide or online on Fully Booked Online. Additionally, it’s currently being adapted into a series by Netflix and 21 Laps Entertainment to be released in November 2023.



Pachinko   Layout By Reina Cruz


Pachinko by Min Ji Lee

Named after the addictive gambling machine in Japan, Pachinko explores family, morality, and migration centering on a multigenerational Korean-Japanese family as they navigate the changes of modern East Asian history from colonial Korea to Japan’s success.


While initially overwhelming, the cast and background of the book is crafted to show world trends and its shadow on the family’s daily life. This stretch of history is viewed through the eyes of each family member and emphasizes the disparity brought upon by upbringing and generation. Familial bonds are tested and identities are questioned as characters forge their own path with the strings of blood holding them fast.


You can find Pachinko in all bookstores nationwide or online on Fully Booked Online. Its live action rendition starring Lee Min Ho and Kim Min Ha is streaming on Apple TV.



The Mountains Sing   Layout By Maia Martin


The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Navigating the thick forests and busy streets of Vietnam, The Mountains Sing follows Hương as she lives through the tail-end of the Vietnam War. With both parents volunteering to fight for their people, she is left with Trần Diệu Lanher grandmother, with whom she experiences fleeing air raids and rebuilding her home. It is through her that readers hear about the scars of war and the weight they have on her family. Hương struggles to adapt to the rebuilt Hanoi while watching her family trying to piece their lives and identities back together.


Diệu Lan presents an alternative view into the past, showing the struggles of the Trần family during a communist-headed Land Reform in the North. Her formerly wealthy family is broken, with human greed overcoming their sense of community. Furthermore, she is forced to flee with her six children. Her story is told alternate to Huong's, highlighting the parallels of each story. With that in mind, the novel depicts hope and love in its purest form, tested by the fires of war.


The Mountains Sing is available in all bookstores nationwide or online on Rakuten Kobo.



The Nightingale   Layout By Reina Cruz


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Through the eyes of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, The Nightingale takes readers through the thick of the French Revolution as citizens deal with the clash of two armies. Both Mauriac sisters bring a fresh light into historical fiction, emphasizing that no one is spared from the horrors of war and great bravery is possible in anyone.


The story of Vianne Mauriac centers on the shadow of war in a home. With a German soldier forcibly occupying her home, she struggles to protect her daughter and herself through it all. On the other side of the country, Isabelle’s fire for her country runs high, however, an encounter with an unlikely stranger leads her to the heart of the revolution. As the sisters are challenged by their vastly different personalities and perspectives, they attempt to go beyond the limits of their blood ties in understanding each other.


Read The Nightingale available in all bookstores nationwide or online on Rakuten Kobo.


With ubiquitous statements like "the past is past," forgetting becomes the norm, but remembering is the only way to stay grounded in reality.


Historical fiction allows readers to dig into the complexities of history and cultures, inspiring empathy and friendship.

Last updated: Thursday, 14 September 2023