Last week, after posting my list of Top 5 Books to Read if You Love Reality TV, I told friends I’d curate other book lists for them on specific topics or genres they were interested in. I had quite a few requests, so it’s my new quarantine goal to put together one list per week! This week we’re looking at five books to read if you love Victorian England. This request came from Caitlin at My Tech Wardrobe.
I’ll admit this list was difficult for me to put together. I’m not really a fan of historical fiction and haven’t read many books within that genre. There were two titles that immediately came to mind, but the rest required more digging. I also wanted to put together a list that didn’t rely on well-known classics, since the whole idea was to give new recommendations to people.
While I haven’t read any of the books on this list (gasp, I know!), they all came highly recommended, and the reviews for them that I could find sounded good. So, without further ado, here are my top five picks for books that take place in Victorian England!
Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerri Maniscalco
The first book that came to mind when I thought of Victorian England was Stalking Jack the Ripper. This YA mystery novel is all over bookstagram all the time! It follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth, who defies society’s expectations of her—a young, wealthy girl—in order to study forensics. Of course, she gets tied up in investigations, and looking for the era’s most infamous serial killer. A badass heroine who goes against the rules to solve crime? Heck yes!
The Clockmaker’s Daughter, by Kate Morton
The Clockmaker’s Daughter was the second book that came to mind, because I saw the author speak about this book at my local library last year. Yes, I went to an author event for a book I’ve never read, because I’m just that cool. From my understanding, this historical fiction novel centers around another mystery: a present-day archivist finds a photo and a sketchbook that seems all too familiar. What happens next? You’ll have to read to find out!
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Alright, I’ll admit that I was drawn to this book because one of the first reviews on Goodreads describes it as “lesbian Dickens.” Who doesn’t want to read that? An LGBTQ+ historical fiction novel sounds too good to pass up. There’s orphans, gin, con men, thieves, and maybe some romance? I’m not totally sure, but a four-star average on Goodreads usually means the book is pretty darn good.
The Doll Factory, by Elizabeth Macneal
This one is another title that I found thanks to bookstagram. I don’t know why I originally thought it was a middle grade novel, but based on reviews I saw online, it definitely isn’t. If you’re looking for a book that leans more towards gothic Victorian England, this one is for you. The Doll Factory takes place in 1850 London, when the Great Exhibition is taking place. It’s full of art and wonder, and a man with a weird, unhealthy obsession . . .
The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
If you’re looking for a book with a beautiful cover (no judgement here, I do the same thing), you’ll love The Essex Serpent. But don’t worry, because the story sounds amazing too. The book follows a newly widowed Cora Seaborne, who loves learning, especially when it comes to nature. When she hears about an unusual creature that’s been spotted in the water, she has to go and see it for herself. However, a local vicar crosses her path, and he believes that religion trumps potential scientific facts. The novel addresses themes of science vs religion, with a little bit of romance and mystery sprinkled in as well.