Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue, the bestselling author of Room, may be best-known for a novel set in the present day but she's no stranger to historical fiction, having written an number of novels inspired by real historical events, such as Frog Music, SlammerkinThe Sealed Letter, and The Wonder. We sat down with Emma to discuss her favourite historical novels.

Discover the best historical fiction of all time. 

Affinity by Sarah Waters

It’s very hard to pick a favourite Sarah Waters . . .  but I’m going to say Affinity. It’s a claustrophobic two-hander about an 1870s prisoner and her lady visitor, and it manages to play a trick on the readers that leaves them cursing themselves for their stupidity.



Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

This doorstopper of a bodice-ripper about restoration England was the bestselling novel in 1940s America and I devoured it in my teens. It contains the most memorable scenes of the great fire and plague that I’ve encountered.



Morality Play by Barry Unsworth

The Man-Booker shortlisted Morality Play by the late, great Barry Unsworth is set in the fourteenth century and is the least fusty, most gripping take on medieval mindsets I’ve read.


A Catch of Consequence by Diana Norman

Again lost to us too soon, Diana Norman’s historical novels are all wonderful but I’m going to pick A Catch of Consequence, the first of three page turners set in revolutionary France and America.


The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

The novel I brought into hospital when giving birth to our first child - which managed to hold my attention that night, despite the baby beside me(!) - was Michel Faber’s weird, atmospheric The Crimson Petal and the White about a prostitute in nineteenth-century London.