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Stories of Love, War, and Magic: Kayte Nunn’s Top 10 Favourite Historical Novels

August 3, 2018

About the author

Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor with over two decades of publishing industry experience, and is the author of two contemporary novels, Rose’s Vintage and Angel’s ShareThe Botanist’s Daughter is Kayte’s first novel of transporting historical fiction, and stems in part from her love of flowers and all things botanical.

Purchase a copy of The Botanist’s Daughter here 

Read our review of The Botanist’s Daughter here 

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

A short but beautifully evocative story of a country on the point of tremendous change told through the lens of a deceptively simple story.

The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

My mother introduced me to many wonderful books and writers, two of whom were the sister writers Jon and Rumer Godden. This one, a dreamy novel, set in the 1920s tells of a summer when innocence is lost forever.

Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Gouge

I first read this as a teenager and am re-reading this book at the moment as I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it for a while. Set in the Channel Islands in and New Zealand in the nineteenth century, it’s a beautifully written, heartbreaking story of two sisters who fall in love with the same man, and the catastrophe that arises when he muddles them up.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleeve

I read this when it came out a couple of years ago and it went straight to the top of my favourite books of all time. I knew nothing about it when I picked it up in a bookshop, but was instantly captivated by the first page and the wonderful character of Mary. It made me cry at the end, which is always the sign of a good book for me.

The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende

I adore the sense of magic in Isabelle Allende’s work and this is perhaps my favourite of hers, though I have loved all I have read.

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

Not so much a novel, but the story of this poet and writer’s journey from England to Spain in the 1930s,where he becomes involved in the Spanish Civil War. It’s a beautifully evocative and lyrical tale.

Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears

I loved this novel, set in rural Australia in the 1920s and centred around a competitive horse-riding family. It’s tough, and beautifully written, with a brutal humour that had me laughing out loud at times, desperate at others.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Set in the US during the depression and Second World War, this is story of a woman training to be a navy diver and who is searching for her father recently broke my heart.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Another book with a wartime setting, with wonderful characters and an emotive story that remained with me long after I’d finished it.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 

A terrific premise – the perfect moral dilemma – beautifully told.

Honourable mentions to: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.


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