Looking for fiction based on non-fiction historical turmoil.
March 13, 2008 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Bookrecommendationfilter: I am looking for books along the lines of The Poisonwood Bible or In the Time of the Butterflies. (More inside).

Basically, I am looking for books that are fiction but based on non-fictional historical strife. The Poisonwood Bible was about a family during the time Congo was trying to escape Belgian rule, and In the Time of the Butterflies was about a family during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. Both were excellent, and got me interested in the history behind the stories. Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by 8dot3 to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am currently reading, and enjoying, For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. It is set in the Spanish Civil War. Good historical detail, and beautifully written.
posted by maryrosecook at 5:08 AM on March 13, 2008

Gone to Soldiers, by Marge Piercy. Epic novel following ten interweaving, fascinating characters (examples: a French Jewish teenager who joins the Resistance, an American marine in the Pacific Theater, a young political scientist who joins the OSI and goes to London during the blitz).

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. About a Greek American family, persecuted in Turkey, coming to the US, dealing with war and so on.

Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie. The main character is born at the exact moment India becomes free (and is partitioned). His life mirrors the growing pains of the subcontinent as independent nations.
posted by lunasol at 5:19 AM on March 13, 2008

The Kite Runner is a current popular favorite that fits your requirements.

I'd recommend Water For Elephants. While there is less historical strife (unless you are counting the historical strife between carnivals and their workers and their customers), it captures the period well and if you liked Poisonwood I'd wager that you'd like this book.
posted by mikepop at 5:25 AM on March 13, 2008

A good choice is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Wikipedia says: "The novel chronicles a family's struggle, and the history of their fictional town, Macondo, for one hundred years. García Márquez acknowledges in his autobiography Living to Tell the Tale that Macondo was based on the towns where he spent his childhood." Seems to match what you're looking for.
posted by mark7570 at 5:28 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Newer picks (mostly books I've read over the past few months):

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao considers the effect of Trujillo on a Dominican family living in the United States after his fall. It's a bit gimmicky at times, but an excellent novel.

The Assassin's Song by M.G. Vassanji features a young Sufi boy in India in the midst of the Indo-Pakistan violence of the sixties.

Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon describes the hidden lives of two gay politicians during the McCarthy trials.

House of Meetings by Martin Amis takes place in a Russian gulag. [The prior two are not necessarily the type of conflict you were looking for, I think, but there is definite historical context.]

Let It Be Morning by Sayed Kashua follows an Arab-Israeli man in present-day Israel.

Finally, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, although in many ways simply a typical coming-of-age novel, also involves a thirteen-year-old English boy's perspective on the Falklands War.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 5:40 AM on March 13, 2008

Seconding Midnight's Children. In fact, more than a few of Rushdie's novels have historical events woven into them in the same way. Shame is the most overt, being a thinly-veiled retelling of the history of Pakistan and its leaders; The Moor's Last Sigh and Shalimar the Clown also have strong historical elements.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:54 AM on March 13, 2008

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Post-partition, post-independence India leading up to the 1952 election.
posted by media_itoku at 6:16 AM on March 13, 2008

Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin (second world war). Recommended without prejudice - I didn't like it much, but it fits your criteria.
posted by paduasoy at 6:20 AM on March 13, 2008

If you fancy another book about the Congo Crisis and Patrice Lumumba, I would heartily recommend Ronan Bennett's The Catastrophist.
posted by hydatius at 6:22 AM on March 13, 2008

Alejo Carpentier's Kingdom of this world, first Haitian revolution
Jeanette Wilson's The Passion, Napoleonic wars
Seconding Midnights Children.
posted by Neonshock at 7:01 AM on March 13, 2008

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It's based on a story in the bible, but may still be close to what you're looking for.
posted by lunit at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a captivating if depressing story set in India when Indira Ghandi is in power.
posted by sulaine at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: Half of a Yellow Sun takes place in the 1960s in Nigeria. Beautifully drawn characters in a time and place that aren't often discussed, at least in the U.S. I'd recommend it to anyone, but it also fits your criteria to a T.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:36 AM on March 13, 2008

Though I haven't read it (I just came across the reference while researching something else), Shirley by Charlotte Bronte is set against the backdrop of the Luddite riots in Yorkshire.
posted by ikahime at 7:40 AM on March 13, 2008

People of the Book . Covers the history of the Serejevo Haggadah over a few periods. I just finsihed it and I loved it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:56 AM on March 13, 2008

Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits is about a Chilean family living through a politically dramatic time.

Tomas Eloy Martinez's Santa Evita is a mix of fiction and non-fiction about Eva Peron's death.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:24 AM on March 13, 2008

Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient is set in the years just before and during WWII. The action takes place mostly in Egypt and Italy.

The main character in The Empress of Asia is a soldier stationed in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion/occupation who is then captured and taken to a POW camp.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: Russell Banks does this well: The Darling is set in Liberia during Charles Taylor's regime, and Cloudsplitter focuses on the family of abolitionist John Brown.
posted by zepheria at 2:51 PM on March 13, 2008

Many of the classics:

V by Thomas Pynchon
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Gone With the Wind

and a small but exquisite story:
The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski
posted by yclipse at 4:17 PM on March 13, 2008

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien might be of interest to you. It chronicles a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam war, and has many of the same themes as the Poisonwood Bible
posted by Geppp at 4:51 PM on March 13, 2008

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy is an adventure novel set right after the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror.
posted by sqrtofpi at 4:50 PM on May 26, 2008

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