Pleasantville Author Linda Sledge Shares Her Five Favorite Works of Historical Fiction


Linda Sledge, a fifth-generation Hawaii-born Chinese-American author, was raised in the historic section of Honolulu. She describes her two award-winning historical novels, Empire of Heaven and A Map of Paradise, as her attempts to recapture in fiction her family’s lost legacy in 19th-century China and their new life in frontier California and Hawaii. Here, the Pleasantville author lists the five historical novels that, she says, “taught me more about history than textbooks and teachers ever could.”

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1) The Bull From The Sea  (Mary Renault)
Sledge recommends this classic novel about ancient Greece to anyone with a love of ancient myth. Women, she adds, will be particularly fascinated by its exploration of the inner workings of matriarchal goddess cults in
Asia Minor.

2) Hawaii  (James Michener)
“Hawaii shows the master of historical fiction at his best,” Sledge says. “Lovers of hardscrabble immigrant family sagas will be riveted by its multilayered, multi-ethnic plot,” she adds.

3) The Farming of Bones (Edwige Danticat)
Yes, Sledge says, the subject matter—the ‘Parsley Massacre’ of 1937, when approximately 20,000 Haitian workers were expelled from the Dominican Republic then systematically slaughtered as they fled to Haiti—is grim. But this book by a rising young Haitian-born American author “contains beautiful meditations on memory, love, loss—and forgiveness—that make the readers’ spirits soar.”

4) Conquistadora (Esmeralda Santiago)
This title by fellow Westchester author Santiago depicts the making and unmaking of a 19th-century New World fortune at the hands of a wealthy woman who transforms a tumbledown family property in Puerto Rico into a flourishing sugar plantation. “Anyone interested in Caribbean history will be riveted by Santiago’s depiction of colonial Puerto Rico via the collision of races when sugar was king,” Sledge says.

5) Shogun (James Clavell)
Set in feudal Japan at the height of samurai rule, this title covers events well documented in Japanese history, with most real characters given a fictional spin. “This is historical fiction at its best,” Sledge says, “crammed with detail, spilling over with characters and subplots, and chock full of war, romance, earthquake, and fire.”


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