I’ve been trying to find the right name for this particular kind of book, and the best I can come up with is “saga” – you know, those books that usually span a few generations, or at least several different stages of a character’s life. They are usually historical fiction, but I find that what distinguishes them is really that the majority of books we read (in my completely anecdotal experience) take a brief look at a brief period, full of action and emotions, in a character’s life. Saga’s are sometimes less action-packed, but they weave a tapestry of a community, a family, or a personality.
So uh – if that makes any sense to you, and you like it, here are some recommendations (in so particular order).
1. Skin by Ilka Tampke
OKAY I CANNOT STOP RAVING ABOUT THIS BOOK. (It was in last week’s TTT too.) This is one that chronicles a single character’s life. You could probably also call it an epic because Ailia is a FREAKING BEAST.
2.The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
An absolutely incredibly family saga set over several decades, in Myanmar, Singapore and India; this book deserves all honour!
3. A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg
Another book I never stop raving about. The absolutely true epic journey of a Somalian refugee to the so-called promised land, South Africa.
4. Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr
Set near Jerusalem, this book chronicles three distinct women in a family of Palestinian Christians (though this is by no means a religious novel). It is an intricately woven story and… read my review, dangit!
5. Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar
The art, relationships and emotional turmoil of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf (nee Stephens) and Vanessa Bell (nee Stephens), but from oft-forgotten Vanessa’s point of view.
6. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Alma’s brilliant life, from her education, to her research endeavours; her relationships and her travels. Simply gorgeous. What a wonderful female character to read.
7. The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim
A young girl’s life growing up in early twentieth-century Korea. This was a bit of a slow reader but it was a fantastic read.
8. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Based on the author’s experiences during the Khmer Rouge, this saga is heart-breaking but a must-read.
9. The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
This book tracks the diverging lives of two families with a unique and secret connection, and is so beautiful.
10. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
The story of two Chinese sisters as they navigate their youth in Shanghai, and the journey to the USA as promised brides.
I love this topic. Have you read the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta? Fantasy, but so so good in terms of a very saga-like feel, I think. I also liked Trinity by Leon Uris, which is about Ireland’s struggle for freedom. I really want to read A Man of Good Hope. Sounds really amazing.
Interesting. You’re right, most books I read take place over a short period of time. I did one read a M-M vampire romance that took place over thousands of years because it jumped large gaps of time (and they’re immortal), but that’s probably the closest I’ve come to a saga. This is a unique topic!
Great list & topic! I love how global your list is with the settings that these books are based in. I haven’t read any of them but I am familiar with a few that you’ve mentioned. Off the top of my head, sagas encompassing generations and communities that I read and enjoyed include McCulllough’s The Thorn Birds, Louis de Bernieres’ Birds Without Wings, Edward Rutherfurd’s Paris, and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth 🙂 I think Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge can also count as a saga as it follows a character over the span of…20-25 years? I can’t remember, but I tend to plug that book regardless because of its scope and uniqueness amongst WW2 historical fiction 😀
Love all of your recommendations and just wondering where you find the time to read with such a busy schedule. Thanks for them all.