Top 6+ Victorian Historical Fiction Books (2024)
There’s always a lot to learn when it comes to historical books. But you will agree with me that the Victorian era was a rich and exciting time that became very influential in our lives and, by extension, a motivation for many authors.
I have loved the Victorian era precisely because of how it spanned social change and innovation, but my admiration for this period in literary works is even greater. Victorian-era historical fiction books are genuinely compelling, and if you are like me, these five picks are bound to fascinate you with the era’s authenticity, imagination, and unknown facts.
What Are The Top Victorian Historical Fiction Books?
Villa Sans Souci, by Maryann Ring Spencer (2024)
Starting my list of books set in Victorian era is this historical delight about Florence Nightingale. She becomes a nurse primarily due to her mother and sister’s exasperation, transforming global medical care.
In this book you will follow her journey with her ally, Dr. Salvatore Luigi Pisani. You get to see how the two enhance medical facilities, women's career rights, and medical training excellence. Discover the harrowing journeys they undergo as you traverse Malta’s capital, Valletta streets. More importantly, uncover what happened in the mansion- Villa Sans Souci during its prime.
I very much enjoyed how Maryann intertwines the ideas that make up this story. But I must also mention that how she frames Florence as a radical feminist is relatively precise and contemporary.
This book will definitely speak to you if you are a feminist or have admired Florence Nightingale for her role during the Crimean War. Each character in this book represents their voice, and their historical personage and contributions are remarkable.
The Crimson Petal And The White, by Michel Faber (2003)
This gripping book is full of life and abundant in incidents, and its breathtaking characters and pleasant twists make it a worthwhile page-turner. It will appeal to you if you enjoy books primarily focusing on issues surrounding and impacting society and have you deeply reflect on how thoughts and different predispositions affect our behaviors.
In 1870s London, Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute, yearns for a better life. Leaving behind Mrs. Castaway’s brothel, she embarks on her journey through society, beginning with the perfume mogul William Rackham, whose infatuation starts to smell like love.
His patronage brings her into his milieu and family circles. As Sugar traverses her social rise, she encounters various characters, and her life is filled with drunken journalists, servants who can’t be trusted, obnoxious outcasts, and all sorts of prostitutes.
I particularly loved how this book flows to illuminate some unknown Victorian London corners.
It excellently represents Victorian-era social drivers like wealth, poverty, secret passions, child neglect, selfishness, and lost love. This book is an intense and vivid panorama that leaves you imagining the fate of all the characters as per their nature.
A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy Book 1), by Libba Bray (2005)
Gemma Doyle, the central character of the series, is sent to a London boarding school following her mother's death under mysterious circumstances in India. On her 16th birthday in Bombay, a man's warning to her mother about a woman named Circe leads to a tragic turn of events, resulting in her mother's suicide.
At Spence Academy in London, Gemma, initially an outsider, forms a strong bond with fellow students Felicity, Ann, and Pippa after discovering shared secrets. Haunted by visions, Gemma is warned by Kartik, a member of the ancient Rakshana, to ignore these visions. Instead, she delves deeper, finding a diary that reveals the existence of an ancient group of powerful women, the Order, with abilities like prophecy and illusion.
Gemma and her friends form their own Order, exploring other realms where Gemma meets her mother's spirit. Despite warnings, they indulge in the realms' magic, fulfilling their deepest desires but risking danger from the sorceress Circe, who seeks to exploit the magic and target Gemma.
The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry (2022)
The Essex Serpent is a book for you if you fancy a historical story featuring a romantic and feminist parable. You will also love this book if you enjoy works exploring questions surrounding religion, science, faith, and skepticism. I liked that this read celebrates love, but I also appreciate how it depicts the different and surprising appearances/forms love takes.
In 1893 London, Cora embarks on a new life following her husband’s demise, both relieved and sad. She has had an unhappy marriage and has never seemed fit to be a society wife. She leaves for coastal Essex with her son Francis and her friend and son’s nanny Martha.
The mythical Essex serpent has returned, causing terror. As a scientist, Cora thinks this magical creature is a part of a species that has never been discovered. She sets on an investigation with the parish vicar to find the truth of this creature’s existence. Her past catches up with her as the two build a relationship, bringing severe consequences.
This book is an intricate tale about humanity’s need for knowledge and love and the desires and fears we bury inside. It is rich in prose, and even though it has much to unravel, Sarah tells the story with exquisite grace and intellect.
Possession, by A. S. Byatt (1990)
In the novel, Roland Michell, a scholar, discovers evidence of a secret romance between Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Collaborating with Dr. Maud Bailey, a LaMotte scholar, they uncover a complex story of love, betrayal, and hidden legacies.
Their investigation mirrors their own developing relationship, reflecting themes of passion, academic intrigue, and the impact of the past on the present. The discovery of Ash and LaMotte's affair, which resulted in an illegitimate child and a tragic suicide, challenges historical perceptions and personal identities, particularly for Maud, who learns she descends from their secret lineage.
The story juxtaposes the entwined lives of the Victorian poets and their modern counterparts, exploring the enduring power of love and the mysteries of history.
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens (1996)
Charles excellently continued the ceaseless London fascination with this entry, mapping out all the details in vivid fiction. Oliver Twist offers a myriad of unforgettable characters that portray different personalities and flaws.
This book is primarily a social satire in which Charles depicts societal criticisms that are evident today. I love how graphic this book is and how Charles’ mode of narration excellently moves and links you with the characters, so you begin to care about them significantly.
This is the story of Oliver Twist, an orphan whom adversities and evil have set upon since birth. When he runs away from Mr. Bumble’s workhouse, he is enticed into a thieves' den with haunting characters.
This book will appeal to you if you want insights into 19th century England in the course of the Industrial Revolution. You will ponder upon the issues highlighted, such as criminal oppression, child labor, class differences, patriarchy, women's oppression, and how the poor are exploited.
All these will make you reflect deeper on how society can be flawed and our environment's strong influence on us.
The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert (2014)
Hands down for this articulate and engaging story of ambition, desire, and thirst for knowledge. Elizabeth inserts her inimitable voice in this story to create an unforgettable adventure. It gives an account of the Whittaker family, their personalities, and accomplishments.
Henry Whittaker, the family's leader, is a wealthy man, and his daughter Alma inherits his money and mind, becoming a botanist. She falls in love with Ambrose during her research, but he draws her into a magical, divine, and spiritual realm. They are an unlikely couple, but they are drawn together by the mechanisms of life and the world’s functionalities.
This book soars across the globe, and it will be a delight, especially if you enjoy traveling. Its characters are brilliant adventurers and geniuses, but you will still perceive some as quite mad.
The Signature of Things depicts a remarkable historical moment when assumptions about life exploded into new but dangerous ideas. Elizabeth’s imagination is profound, and her extensive research into this book does it total justice.
Why We Love Victorian Historical Fiction Stories?
Victorian historical fiction holds a unique appeal, inviting readers into a world that is both familiar and distant. This era, characterized by rapid industrialization and the contrasting poverty. This authentic social construct provides a rich tapestry for storytelling.
One of the most striking aspects of the Victorian era was the rise of the middle class, which led to a distinctive lifestyle that greatly influenced societal values as a whole.
Victorian historical books allow readers to explore the complexities of human nature against a backdrop of significant change. These novels serve as a lens through which we can examine our present society. They highlight issues of class, gender roles, and morality that remain relevant today.
Final Thoughts on Victorian Historical Fictions
The Victorian era was not just an aureate age for British literature. It has had a substantial impact on fiction works. These five fiction books are exemplary passports into the past that will allow you to navigate the complexity of 19th-century social, political, and economic structures.
Find further connecting read in our historical fiction book list.
I am a marketing manager with 5 years of experience. I am passionate about helping businesses grow and reach their target audiences. I was born in Iowa and my hobbies include reading self-help and women's fiction, especially rom-com. In my free time, I enjoy reading, spending time with my family and friends, and traveling (hopefully one day to Italy).