The best historical fiction of 2021

It’s been a great year for historical fiction, which makes choosing a top 10 list even harder than usual. What to do? Go for personal favorites, organize them alphabetically, and wish the list was twice as long.

THE ART OF LOSING, by Alice Zeniter. Translated by Frank Wynne. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 448 pages, $28.) In this award-winning French novel, a young Parisian tries to reconnect with the Algeria that shaped and silenced her paternal grandfather.

CATHEDRAL, by Ben Hopkins. (Europe, 624 pages, $28.) A nimble mesh of intersecting plots based on the slow but not so regular construction, over several generations, of an enormous church in medieval Alsace.

FREEDOM, by Kaitlyn Greenidge. (Algonquin, 366 pages, $26.95.) In Reconstruction-era New York, the daughter of a black female doctor struggles to reconcile her own independence with her mother’s deeply felt calling, traveling as far as Haiti before coming to an uneasy resolution.

THE MAGICIAN, by Colm Toibin. (Scribner, 512 pages, $28.) A masterful evocation of the life and times of the great German writer Thomas Mann, featuring his relationship with his controversial family and his intensely private sexual aspirations.

MATRIX, by Lauren Groff. (Riverhead, 272 pages, $28.) In this novel inspired by the 12th-century poet Marie de France, an impoverished English convent is the setting for a moving exploration of multiple forms of devotion.

NORA, by Nuala O’Connor. (Harper Perennial, 496 pages, paper, $16.99.) A lively fictional interpretation of Nora Barnacle, the uneducated blue-collar woman who supported one of literature’s most demanding writers, James Joyce.

THE PROPHETS, by Robert Jones Jr. (Putnam, 396 pages, $27.) The emotional wounds of the inhabitants of a pre-war Mississippi plantation are laid bare in a whirlwind of fiercely poetic prose, driven by the dangerous bond shared by two enslaved men.

SEND FOR ME, by Lauren Fox. (Vintage, 272 pages, paper, $16.95.) A treasure trove of letters unearthed in the American Midwest reveals the harrowing experiences of a German Jewish family separated by the steady rise of Nazism.

THE SINGING FOREST, by Judith McCormack. (Biblioasis, 302 pp., paper, $16.95.) A young lawyer from present-day Toronto grapples with the moral calculus of war crimes as she investigates a mass murder by Stalin’s security police in 1930s Belarus.

TENDERNESS, by Alison MacLeod. (Bloomsbury, 640 pages, $29.) This ambitious mix of research, conjecture and fabrication centers on the creation and reception of DH Lawrence’s controversial novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.

Alida Becker is a former editor of Book Review.

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