Tania Blanchard’s debut historical novel The Girl From Munich has heralded a new voice in Australian fiction. It’s a compelling love story set in Germany during the closing years of the Second World War. It’s moving, tense and deliciously gripping.
It’s fascinating to hear the story from the perspective of German civilians and it’s not surprising to hear that The Girl from Munich was inspired by Blanchard’s own grandmother’s real life stories. This is historical fiction that pleasingly combines authentic historical backdrop with well thought-out romance and drama.
In light of the book’s publication, we asked Tania to recommend her Top 10 Historical Novels, and here they are:
OUTLANDER – Diana Gabaldon: So much history is woven into this story, both of Scotland and colonial America which I found fascinating. I love how rich and lush the scenes are, playing on all the senses. The character of Claire is a strong woman and a great protagonist.
INTO THE WILDERNESS – Sara Donati: I love the historical detail in this novel set in the pioneering days of early America. It tells the story of Elizabeth, a young English woman who breaks social conventions and through adversity finds that she can live life on her own terms in this new land and in doing so discovers her strength and herself.
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH – Ken Follet: This expansive and epic tale set in 12th century England follows the lives and struggles of those connected to the building of a great cathedral, told against the backdrop of religious and political intrigue. I felt totally immersed into the world of the characters and couldn’t put this book down.
THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR – Jean M Auel: Set in the ancient past in a world shared by Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man, this story follows the journey of a young woman named Ayla. What I was really drawn to was how the few facts and theories about this time in history have been used to create a thoroughly believable world and an engrossing and powerful story.
DR ZHIVAGO – Boris Pasternak: I have always been drawn to stories about Russia. This is one of the most famous novels set around the time of the Russian Revolution and it is one of my favourites. Detailed historical narrative which I found fascinating is the backdrop to the stories of Yuri Zhivago and Larissa who come from very different backgrounds. I love the contrast drawn between imperial Russia and the Soviet Union.
GONE WITH THE WIND – Margaret Mitchell: This sweeping epic set in the Deep South of America during the Civil War is one of the classics of all time. I haven’t read it for a long time but I can still see the cotton plantations, the destruction of war, the period details and who could forget the strong willed Scarlett O’Hara.
THE FAR PAVILIONS – MM Kaye: This novel set in colonial India evokes all the colour and richness of the Indian culture, against the backdrop of the Himalaya Mountains. A story about a young English officer caught between two cultures and his love for an Indian princess. I love the historical detail about a time of turbulence between the Indian people and the British Raj.
SHOGUN – James Clavell: Set in Japan in 1600, this story follows the rise of the feudal lord Toranaga through the eyes of an English sailor shipwrecked on the coast of Japan. I love the historical detail in this huge epic novel. The storyline is big and bold, fast paced and fascinating as it explores the differences of culture between East and West.
NOBLE HOUSE – James Clavell: Another novel set in Asia, Hong Kong of the 1960s, follows characters in the corporate world of big business and further explores the clash of cultures between East and West. I love the detail of Asian life, Chinese customs and traditions and attitudes to the Westerners who have made Hong Kong their home. Full of adventure, twists and turns, fast paced and page turning.
THE THORN BIRDS – Colleen McCollough: This epic family drama breathes life into station life in outback Australia and contracts starkly against the richness of the Catholic Church and the Vatican. I love this book because of its Australian setting and the relationships between the members of the Cleary family and of course, the forbidden love between Meggie and Ralph.
WARLOCK – Wilbur Smith: Set in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs, this story follows the rise of Taita who has gone from slave to warlock and becomes trusted advisor to the pharaoh. Political intrigue and war seek to rip power from the pharaoh and Taita works to right the wrongs that threaten to destroy the kingdom. I love the detail about Egyptian life, the social hierarchy, the political climate and customs and religious beliefs of such a famed and powerful people.
Want more from Tania Blanchard? Grab a copy of The Girl From Munich, start reading here, read our Q&A, or listen to the podcast.