Victorian England/Britain Book Recommendations!

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vicky271

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I've decided to write a Victorian book that takes place in England (my story takes place during the 1850's in Somersetshire and other locations). I figure I should read some novels that take place in that time period. There are a few things I'd like to see in the novel so I can conduct research and understand how the topic was approached. I'm hoping for the following in the recommendation though I will take whatever I can find. Can fit under one or more of these:
  • female MC - since females were seen as possessions, and my story is centered around a female, I'd like to see how authors approach this topic
  • family is middle or upper class, prefer upper class - my main fam in my story is upper class (arranged marriage via blackmail kept secret), so I'd like to see how the author executes this
  • romance - my story does have a romance that occurs between the MC and her husband. Any romance, whether it occurred after marriage or before (which would have more limits) would be welcomed
  • mystery - mysteries to solve would be fabulous! Especially if the MC is a female. I would love to see how authors execute this considering no one took a women's word for much!
  • fantasy is a bonus - not needed, but I'd love to see this!

I have read the Glass and Steele series (all books). Other than that, I'd like any recommendations ya'll have! xD Doing research is one thing, seeing it in action is another. And of course, I'm going to keep researching on my time from educational books ^^

So please recommend whatever you like, don't like, etc. :)
 
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Tocotin

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Hello Vicky,

If you haven't read them yet, I recommend Anthony Trollope's novels, both the Chronicles of Barsetshire series (middle class & clergy) and the Palliser novels (upper class). They have fantastic women characters and quite a lot of intrigue and suspense, and some of them have women as main characters.

Happy reading, and good luck with your writing!

:troll
 

LJD

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Well, there are lots of Victorian historical romances, eg. check out Courtney Milan's or Lisa Kleypas's historicals.
 

Lakey

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Hello Vicky,

If you haven't read them yet, I recommend Anthony Trollope's novels, both the Chronicles of Barsetshire series (middle class & clergy) and the Palliser novels (upper class). They have fantastic women characters and quite a lot of intrigue and suspense, and some of them have women as main characters.

I want to second this recommendation of Trollope—and I also want to stress the importance (if historical accuracy is important to you) of reading lots of actual Victorian sources like Trollope. You can read modern books set in the Victorian era if you want to, especially if you are trying to understand modern genre conventions, but those books may be full of inaccuracies and anachronisms, and (if you care about such things) that can mislead you into your own inaccuracies. So if you want historical accuracy, you can’t do better than to go right to actual Victorian sources. And they are legion! But Trollope is a great place to start with the social stratum you are looking for. In addition to the two series that Tocotin mentioned (especially Barchester Towers from the Barsetshire series and Can You Forgive Her? from the Palliser series), I recommend The Way We Live Now.

:e2coffee:
 

RichardGarfinkle

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I'll third reading Trollope. I also recommend digging up the contemporary poets and reading their works. They give a good sense of what the society aspired to and what was considered romantic at the time. I also recommend getting a more jaded contemporary perspective, so I suggest Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde even though they are a few decades late for your period.
 
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Chris P

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I recently read Dickens' David Copperfield, published early in the Victorian period, and highly enjoyed it. It was a good contemporary description of certain aspects of daily life, and some really clever writing too. The style is quite different than what would be written today, so I'll point back to Lakey's comment regarding modern writing conventions. To sell a book today that reflects the time, it's helpful to understand both.

ETA: Project Gutenberg has tons of free public-domain books from that time. Not only are there classics, but also the more genre, supermarket-checkout equivalents of the time that didn't make it into our high school English classes. You might find something shorter than the classics, and more genre-based.
 
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vicky271

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Hello Vicky,

If you haven't read them yet, I recommend Anthony Trollope's novels, both the Chronicles of Barsetshire series (middle class & clergy) and the Palliser novels (upper class). They have fantastic women characters and quite a lot of intrigue and suspense, and some of them have women as main characters.

Happy reading, and good luck with your writing!

:troll

Thanks for the recommend. Seems there are several Trollope audio books at the library that I can borrow. Guess it's time for some serious reading and studying! Thank you!
 

vicky271

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I want to second this recommendation of Trollope—and I also want to stress the importance (if historical accuracy is important to you) of reading lots of actual Victorian sources like Trollope. You can read modern books set in the Victorian era if you want to, especially if you are trying to understand modern genre conventions, but those books may be full of inaccuracies and anachronisms, and (if you care about such things) that can mislead you into your own inaccuracies. So if you want historical accuracy, you can’t do better than to go right to actual Victorian sources. And they are legion! But Trollope is a great place to start with the social stratum you are looking for. In addition to the two series that Tocotin mentioned (especially Barchester Towers from the Barsetshire series and Can You Forgive Her? from the Palliser series), I recommend The Way We Live Now.

:e2coffee:


I have not yet decided how close I want to remain to historically accurate. Thank you for recommended the books. I'm going to browse through the audio library at the local branch and see if i can grab any :)
 

mrsmig

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Although her female protagonists are mostly working or middle class, you might want to look at some of Elizabeth Gaskell's work. The novel RUTH could be helpful. And of course, there's always Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE.
 

feyngirl

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If you want a mystery element I would recommend Wilkie Collins, such as The Woman in White and The Moonstone. They're great reads. He also wrote some novels focusing on social issues, if that's of interest.

For a female protagonist from a female perspective, in addition to Elizabeth Gaskell as mentioned above, I'd recommend Margaret Oliphant (still occasionally sold as Mrs Oliphant). My favourite one of hers is Hester, it's about the relationship about an older lady who is a bank director and a feisty younger woman. She was a bestseller at the time but fell out of fashion.
 
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Julie Cohen's "Spirited" came out recently. Female MC, upper middle class, several overlaid romances, ghosts, and set in period. Absolutely brilliant writing.
 

Tocotin

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Thanks for the recommend. Seems there are several Trollope audio books at the library that I can borrow. Guess it's time for some serious reading and studying! Thank you!

You are most welcome! I've got one more recommendation for you – Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan LeFanu. It's an authentic Victorian Gothic mystery novel written in 1864, it has a lovely heroine who is a wealthy heiress, a bunch of great side characters, and a deliciously creepy atmosphere and setting. (I recommend anything by LeFanu, who is probably known mostly because he's the author of the short vampire masterpiece Carmilla, which uh... I just recommend LeFanu with my whole heart!)

:troll
 

stephenf

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Galsworthy's The Forsyth Saga would fit the bill for you , except it is set about fifty years later than your ideal date . It is actually based on Galsworthy own family , so it is an accurate depiction of the life and attitudes of the time . It has been dramatized by the BBC , the most recent is the best . Your emotions and sympathies for the different characters is constantly shifting and will , probably , leave the reader with an uncertainty about them all . Dickens is often recommended for Victoriana . It is not a bad suggestion, but you need to treat the the stories with caution. Dickens set most of his stories about fifty years before they were published . Dickens was writing for an audience that wanted nostalgia rather than historical accuracy.
 
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Marissa D

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Rather than Dickens, try George Eliot if you'd like to read and study fiction actually written in the 19th century.

As for recommendations of modern fiction set in the mid-Victorian era...are you more interested in mysteries, or romance?
 

AnneMarble

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You might want to try Victorian ”sensation“ novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddock. Her most famous novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, was my 2019 “guilty pleasure.” Like Wilkie Collins books, these novels often featured scandals revolving around women and scandals. (The lives of some of the people who wrote them were not free from scandal.)
 

BlackMoth

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Since you have been given a plethora of wonderful suggestions of the time period, I'll give you some contemporary ones I found wonderful and accurate!

The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca - The story of an upper-class woman who befriends real-life murderess Mary Ann Cotton, and experiences the horrors of bedlam.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell - An excellent Victorian horror story.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley - This one is pure historical romance, but very good and popular, too!

Affinity, Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters - Excellent and very accurate. Although they often deal with the lower classes, they do have F/F romance in them and sometimes mystery.

I haven't read them (yet) but the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn seems like something you'd like. It has a mystery solving main female character, and a bit of romance.
 
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