Historical Musings #33: My year in historical fiction – 2017

Last year, for my December Historical Musings post, I put together a summary of my year in historical fiction. This December I’ve decided to do the same, thinking it would be interesting to make comparisons and see if there have been any significant changes in my reading choices since last year.

I know there are still a few weeks of 2017 left, but I don’t expect to finish many more books before the end of the year – not enough to really have any effect on these statistics anyway!


Time periods read about in 2017

Books set in the 19th and 20th centuries made up almost half of my historical reading this year, with the 15th-18th centuries also quite popular. As usual, it’s the earlier time periods that are under-represented in my reading; I read two books set in Ancient Greece, two in Ancient Rome and one – The Serpent Sword – in the 7th century.


47.3% of the historical fiction authors I read this year were new to me.

Three books I enjoyed by new-to-me historical fiction authors this year:
The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick
The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull
Widdershins by Helen Steadman


Publication dates of books read in 2017

This category shows a similar pattern to last year, with most of the historical fiction I’ve read being published in the 21st century. However, this year I have only read one historical fiction novel published earlier than 1900 – The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas.


9.6% of my historical reads in 2017 were historical mysteries.

Three historical mysteries I’ve enjoyed reading this year:
The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes
Heartstone by CJ Sansom
Soot by Andrew Martin


I’ve read historical fiction set in 21 different countries this year.

Like last year, nearly half of the historical novels I’ve read have been set in my own country, followed by France and Italy again. However, I have increased the number of different countries I’ve read about from 13 to 21 and hope to continue improving on this in 2018.

Three books I’ve read not set in England:
Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar (Australia)
Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft (Egypt)
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Switzerland)


Five historical men I’ve read about this year:


Jasper Tudor (First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson)
Nero (The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George)
The Marquis de Montespan (The Hurlyburly’s Husband by Jean Teulé)
Somerled (The Winter Isles by Antonia Senior)
Thomas Keith (Blood and Sand by Rosemary Sutcliff)


Five historical women I’ve read about this year:

Mata Hari

Marie Antoinette (The Empress of Hearts by E Barrington)
Joan of Kent (The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien)
Lucrezia Borgia (The Vatican Princess by CW Gortner)
Mata Hari (Mata Hari by Michelle Moran)
Mary Seton (The Queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood)


What about you? Have you read any good historical fiction this year? Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here?

21 thoughts on “Historical Musings #33: My year in historical fiction – 2017

  1. piningforthewest says:

    Gosh that post looks like it must have been hard work! I enjoyed reading Soot by Andrew Martin. Thanks for pointing me in its direction.

    • Helen says:

      It wasn’t as hard as it looks as I could copy the categories and layout from last year’s post, but it still took a while to put together! I’m glad you enjoyed Soot. 🙂

  2. FictionFan says:

    Gosh, you’ve done brilliantly this year – great variety! I love all your charts. And I’m very impressed by the range of countries you’ve visited – my reading still tends to be far too insular. Hope you have just as much variety and fun in next year’s reading… 😀

    • Helen says:

      Thanks! My reading is still more insular than I would like it to be too, but I’ve been making an effort this year to look for books with different settings.

  3. Laurie @ RelevantObscurity says:

    What a wonderful way of marking your reading for the year. Serious, but aesthetically pleasing, too 🙂

    This year I really enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s, The Wonder and an older young adult title, The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare.

  4. Cath Sell says:

    I think its been a great year for (new) historical fiction – so varied (periods not quality!)
    My recommendations:
    A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker – Samuel Beckett in France and Eire – all new to me
    The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers – the American Civil War from a different perspective
    Devotion by Louisa Young – I knew nothing about Italian Jews and Mussolini
    Please enjoy!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it has been a good year. I’ve been interested in reading A Country Road, A Tree for a while, so I’m pleased to hear you would recommend it. The other two books you mention both sound fascinating too – thank you!

  5. Carmen says:

    Very aesthetically pleasing this post. I congratulate you on how varied your reading has been this year, in periods as well as countries visited. Well done!

  6. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    I’m impressed by your geographical range. I’m trying to read more books from different countries and finding that enriches my reading enormously. A rather unusual, flawed but interesting historical novel I read this year was The Last Gods of Indochine by Samuel Ferrer (set in two different past-time periods in the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia).

    • Helen says:

      I don’t know much about Cambodia’s history so that book sounds very appealing to me. I certainly agree that reading books set in different countries is a rewarding experience.

      • Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

        I knew zero about Cambodia (as with so many other countries) so I really appreciated this glimpse. I have no point of comparison to say how accurate it was, and the parts set in the distant past have to be mainly speculation due to our lack of concrete knowledge about that time and place, but I did find it convincing in many ways.

  7. Jo says:

    I love a few statistics and a pie chart!

    My historical fiction has been really lacking this year. I have gone for more contemporary and saga this year. Who knows what 2018 might bring,

    • Helen says:

      I enjoyed going back through my year’s reading to put the pie charts together! I hope 2018 is a good year for you and brings lots of great books and authors. 🙂

  8. jessicabookworm says:

    This year, I also loved reading about Jasper Tudor in First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson and I’ve not long finished reading about Joan of Kent in The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien too. Next year, I hope to get round to reading The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick. I wish you more great historical reading in 2018. 🙂

  9. Judy Krueger says:

    I have been meaning to comment here. Sorry I am so late. I had noticed that you were reading new authors and more recent publications. I wondered what you thought about the quality of more recently published historical fiction compared to older ones.

    • Helen says:

      I love reading your comments, no matter how late! I usually prefer older historical novels as they tend to be written in a style that is more to my taste, but there are some well written, high quality books among the recently published ones too. Newer books often have a stronger focus on issues like race and gender, which gives them a different feel too.

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