Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction. For my first Musings post of the year, I am looking back at the historical fiction I read in 2020 and have put together my usual selection of charts and lists! I have kept the same categories as in the previous four years so that it should be easy to make comparisons and to see if there have been any interesting changes in my reading patterns and choices (my 2019 post is here, 2018 here, 2017 here and 2016 here).
Time periods read about in 2020
For the last four years, the 19th century has been the most popular time period for my historical fiction reading (in 2019, it was the setting for more than a third of the books I read). In 2020, there was a different winner: the time period I read about most often was the 17th century, with the 19th in second place, just ahead of the 20th and 16th.
I read 12 books in total set during the 17th century, with topics ranging from the Pendle Witch Trials (The Familiars by Stacey Halls) to the 1617 Vardø storm (The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave) and the Barbary pirate raid on Cornwall (The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson).
32% of the historical fiction authors I read in 2020 were new to me.
This is down on 2019’s 54%, but I’m pleased that I still discovered a lot of new authors as well as reading books by favourite authors.
Three books I’ve read by new-to-me historical fiction authors in 2020:
Publication dates of books read in 2020
As usual, most of the historical fiction books I read were published in the current year. Not even a quarter of the books I read were published before 2000, which is disappointing for me as those older books are the ones I usually end up loving the most. I need to stop being tempted by all the new books on NetGalley!
The oldest one I read was The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883).
10% of my historical reads in 2020 were historical mysteries.
This is lower than 2019’s 20% and 2018’s 14%.
Three historical mysteries I read last year:
I read historical fiction set in 19 different countries in 2020.
This is slightly more than the 16 different countries I read about in 2019, but I still want to make an effort to visit more countries in my reading this year, particularly African and Asian ones.
Three books I read last year set in countries other than my own:
Four historical men I’ve read about this year:
Bram Stoker (Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor)
Raphael (The Woman in the Painting by Kerry Postle)
Charles of Orléans (In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse)
Henry VIII (The Great Matter Monologues by Thomas Crockett)
Four historical women I’ve read about this year:
Eleanor of Provence (The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath)
Joan Vaux (The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson)
Aoife MacMurchada (The Irish Princess by Elizabeth Chadwick)
Belle Bilton (Becoming Belle by Nuala O’Connor)
What about you? Did you read any good historical fiction last year? Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here and have you noticed any patterns or trends in your own reading?