Historical Musings #57: Historical fiction to look out for in 2020

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction.

As has become a tradition here, I am devoting my first Historical Musings post of the year to a preview of some of the new historical fiction being published this year. This is by no means a complete list – simply a selection of books that I personally am interested in reading or that have caught my attention for one reason or another. Publication dates are for the UK and could change.


The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson – Joanna Hickson’s latest Tudor novel tells the story of Joan Vaux, one of Elizabeth of York’s household. I have already started reading this one which was published on Thursday. [9th January]

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau – Having enjoyed all of Nancy Bilyeau’s previous novels (the Joanna Stafford trilogy and The Blue) I have my copy of Dreamland ready to begin. Set in Coney Island in 1911, this is a very different time period and setting for Bilyeau, but is already getting good reviews. [16th January]

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende – I wasn’t very impressed with my first Allende book, The Japanese Lover, but I thought I would give her another chance and try her new one, set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. [21st January]


The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – I have to admit, it was the cover that drew me to this book, but the setting – 17th century Norway – and the plot, ‘Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials’, both sound appealing too. [6th February]

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd – I loved Glasfurd’s first book, The Words in my Hand, about the mistress of Rene Descartes, so I was excited to find that she has another book coming out soon. This one is about the eruption of an Indonesian volcano in 1815. [6th February]

Requiem for a Knave by Laura Carlin – I had mixed feelings about Laura Carlin’s previous novel, The Wicked Cometh, but I still want to read her new one, about a 14th century pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, as it sounds so interesting. [6th February]


The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – This, the final part of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, will surely be one of the most anticipated new releases of the year for many people. Not much longer to wait now! [5th March]

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey – Another book that I was initially drawn to by the cover and title, but the plot sounds intriguing too. It’s the story of a woman tasked with the evacuation of a collection of stuffed animals from the Natural History Museum during World War II. [5th March]

The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson – I enjoyed Sally Magnusson’s last novel, The Sealwoman’s Gift, and this one sounds equally fascinating – a story woven around the building of the Loch Katrine waterworks in 19th century Scotland. [19th March]

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry – This is the sequel to Barry’s hugely successful Days Without End, which was actually my least favourite of his books so far. Barry’s writing is always beautiful, though, and this one, which focuses on one of the characters from that novel – the Lakota orphan, Winona – sounds more appealing to me. [19th March]

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – I haven’t read any of Maggie O’Farrell’s other books, but where better to start than with this new book about Shakespeare and the loss of his son, Hamnet. [31st March]


The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor – I love Andrew Taylor’s books and have been enjoying his Marwood and Lovett series, set in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. This is the fourth in the series and I’m sure it will be as good as the first three. [2nd April]

The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick – Nicola Cornick’s latest time slip novel moves between the present day and the 1560s, following the story of Amy Robsart, wife of the Elizabethan courtier Robert Dudley. [30th April]


When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby – I loved Carolyn Kirby’s first novel, The Conviction of Cora Burns, so I’m pleased to see she has another book out this year – although this one, set during World War II, sounds completely different! [7th May]

Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir – This fifth novel in the Six Tudor Queens series will focus, unsurprisingly, on Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katheryn Howard. I have read all of the first four books, so I will be reading this one too. [14th May]

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain – Rose Tremain’s new novel takes us from ‘the confines of an English tearoom to the rainforests of a tropical island via the slums of Dublin and the transgressive fancy-dress boutiques of Paris.’ Sounds intriguing! [28th May]


Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – Following last year’s Blood & Sugar, this is another historical mystery set in the 18th century and featuring the character of Caro Corsham. In this book, Caro is investigating the death of a woman found in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. [25th June]


The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies – This sounds like a very different setting for Dinah Jefferies, whose previous novels have all been set in Asia. This one is about an Italian woman in 1940s Tuscany. [23rd July]


The Coming of the Wolf by Elizabeth Chadwick – This is a prequel to Chadwick’s first medieval novel, The Wild Hunt, which was published thirty years ago and which I still haven’t read. I will probably read this one first and then read The Wild Hunt and its sequels. [6th August – No cover for this one yet]

The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson – The next book in Antonia Hodgson’s wonderful Thomas Hawkins historical crime series. It seems like such a long time since the last one! [6th August]


China by Edward Rutherfurd – I’ve been waiting for this for years, but the publication date keeps being pushed back, so I hope it’s true that it’s finally coming in September. Like his other books, it will tell the story of a particular place – in this case, China – over a period of many years. [3rd September]

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett – This is set at the end of the Dark Ages and is described as a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth. I will probably read it, but I hope it will be better than the last book in the series, A Column of Fire. [15th September]


Do any of these interest you? What have I missed? Are there any other new historical fiction novels being published in 2020 that you’re looking forward to reading?

22 thoughts on “Historical Musings #57: Historical fiction to look out for in 2020

  1. Sandra says:

    There are some great titles here, Helen. I shall be reading Dreamland soon and I hope to read at least a few more of these. September seems to be the month for the chunky doorstoppers!

  2. Kathy says:

    I was happy to read all your suggestions as I am always looking for good historical fiction. I already
    have the Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir books pre-ordered as I have read all of their books so far and
    enjoyed them very much. I’ll be looking for Dreamland this week, didn’t know about this one but
    enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau’s other books.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve started Dreamland and it’s great so far. I enjoyed all of Nancy Bilyeau’s previous books but I think this one is going to be even better. I’m glad you’re planning to read the Hilary Mantel and Alison Weir books too!

  3. www.rosesintherainmemoir.wordpress.com says:

    I’ve been holding my breath for Hilary Mantel’s third book in her Cromwell trilogy ever since finishing the first two. If I don’t look, now, March will be here soon enough.

    In the meantime, several of the other titles intrigue me, especially LADY OF THE RAVENS and HAMNET. Until the recent movie “Tis All True” came out, I was never aware Shakespeare even had a son, let alone with a name so similar to Hamlet. This should make a fascinating read.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, not long to wait for the Hilary Mantel book now! I’m particularly looking forward to Hamnet too – I agree that it should be a fascinating read.

  4. FictionFan says:

    Glad to hear you enjoyed Glasfurd’s last book since I picked up The Year Without Summer from NetGalley based purely on the blurb. I must admit discovering Mantel’s new book runs to over 900 pages has dampened my enthusiasm a little – I think I’ll wait to see how it’s received before jumping aboard, especially since after all these years, I’ve forgotten where she left off in the last one!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, the thought of a 900 page book is a bit off-putting, so hopefully it will be worth it! I never used to mind reading long books, but now I’m very aware of how many shorter books I could have read in the same length of time…

  5. Judy Krueger says:

    It looks like we will have another great year of fiction. I am looking forward to several of these, but for sure I will read Hilary Mantel’s final volume of her trilogy. I think I might reread the first two while I wait!

    • Helen says:

      I think it seems like a great year for historical fiction. I’m not planning to reread the first two Mantel books, so I hope I can just pick up the story again with the third book.

  6. Davida Chazan says:

    I have read ALL of Maggie O’Farrell’s books, including her non-fiction memoir book. She’s an AMAZING writer, and I’m over the moon that I got the ARC for this one! (I’ll probably buy a print copy as well.)

      • Davida Chazan says:

        Just keep in mind that from what I can see, this is a departure for her – historical fiction instead of contemporary, literary fiction – what I would call women’s fiction, although she’s done some that are almost romance, but never the gushy-mushy kind.

  7. Yvonne says:

    Lots of interesting titles here. Dreamland is in my TBR. I’m looking forward to The Animals of Lockwood Manor, The Last Protector, Daughters of the Night and The Silver Collar.
    I don’t think I’ll be reading the new Ken Follett one. I enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End not so much and didn’t bother with the third in the series.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you’re looking forward to some of these. You didn’t miss much by not reading the third Ken Follett book. I thought it was very disappointing, but I will probably still give the new one a chance anyway.

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