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The Best Historical Fiction Books Set in London

From Victorian England to wartime London, explore different eras through compelling characters and vivid storytelling.

Last Updated on July 9, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

The Best Historical Fiction Books Set in London

Step into the rich tapestry of London’s past with this handpicked selection of historical fiction novels! From the bustling streets of Victorian London to the haunting shadows of wartime England, each book on this list takes us on a journey through history, brought to life by compelling characters and vivid storytelling. So whether you’re a history buff or love to be immersed in a different time and place, these historical fiction books set in London will transport you to the heart of the city where the past is always present. So pick up a book or three from this list, and then share your favorite historical fiction books set in London in the comments below.

9 Historical Fiction Books Set in London

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

“Light Perpetual” revisits the 1944 London Woolworths bombing and imagines an alternate timeline in which five young victims survive. The story follows these characters—Jo, Alec, Val, Vern, and Ben—across decades, showing slices of their lives every 15 years from 1949 to 2009. Through their personal dramas—as family members, workers, and individuals facing life’s highs and lows—the book explores themes of memory, resilience, and the beauty of ordinary life.  This is a compelling historical fiction book because it blends real events with imaginative storytelling, offering a poignant view of London’s social, sexual, and technological transformations over time. It highlights the extraordinariness of everyday experiences and the preciousness of life, making it a moving read.

You can get a copy of Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford on Amazon or Bookshop.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford is one of the books on my The Ultimate 2021 Summer Reading List: Minimalist Edition and The 2021 Summer Reading Guide: The Ultimate List list.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

“Shrines of Gaiety” transports readers to 1926 London, a city buzzing with post-Great War excitement, money, and corruption. The story centers around Nellie Coker, the ambitious and ruthless queen of Soho’s nightlife, who aims to elevate her six children, including her enigmatic eldest son, Niven. As Nellie’s empire flourishes, it also faces numerous threats, revealing the dark underbelly of the glamorous nightlife. This book is a compelling historical fiction books set in London because it vividly portrays the vibrant yet perilous world of post-war London, blending seduction, betrayal, and the stark contrast between dazzling nightlife and its hidden dangers.

You can get a copy of Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson on Amazon or Bookshop.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson is one of my Top 10 Books of 2022.

The New Life by Tom Crewe

The New Life by Tom Crewe

“The New Life” is set in 1894 London, and we meet John Addington, a married man with three daughters, grapples with his attraction to men.  Simultaneously, Henry Ellis, a doctor married to bisexual writer Edith, explores unconventional relationships.  We see their shared interest in Walt Whitman connects them, leading to a collaboration on a report about gay British men.  As their groundbreaking book nears publication, Oscar Wilde’s arrest forces them to choose between risking social ostracism and imprisonment or abandoning their project.  This novel of historical fiction set in London masterfully explores themes of love, marital dynamics, and societal norms in Victorian London.

You can get a copy of The New Life by Tom Crewe on Amazon or Bookshop.

The New Life by Tom Crewe is one of the books on my Top Thirteen Books of 2023 and The Best Historical Fiction Books of 2023 list.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

An inspiring novel based on the true story of Clara Button, a librarian who transformed the Bethnal Green tube station into London’s only underground library during World War II. Amidst the chaos of 1944, Clara and her assistant Ruby create a thriving community offering shelter and solace. This gripping historical fiction showcases resilience and friendship in wartime London, making it a must-read for history lovers.

You can get a copy of The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson on Amazon or Bookshop.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson is one of The Best Historical Fiction Books of 2023.

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

“The Light Over London” follows two women from different eras—Cara Hargraves in the present day and Louise Keene in 1941. Cara, an antiques dealer, uncovers a World War II-era diary and photo while clearing out an estate. She becomes engrossed in the life of Louise, a young woman who joins the British Army’s anti-aircraft gun unit and experiences the harsh realities of wartime London. The novel intertwines their stories through themes of love, loss, and resilience. This historical fiction book is captivating due to its rich portrayal of wartime London, the strong female characters, and the evocative narrative that seamlessly connects past and present.

You can get a copy of The Light Over London by Julia Kelly on Amazon or Bookshop.

Mrs Porter Calling by AJ Pearce

Mrs Porter Calling by AJ Pearce

“Mrs Porter Calling” by AJ Pearce follows aspiring journalist Emmy Lake as she navigates life in London during World War II. Emmy writes the popular “Yours Cheerfully” advice column in Woman’s Friend magazine, offering support to women amidst the war. When a new publisher, Cressida Porter, threatens to change the magazine’s direction and cut the advice column, Emmy and her friends fight to preserve it. Set in 1943, this novel blends humor and heartbreak, highlighting the strength of friendships and the resilience of women during wartime. It’s a compelling historical fiction read that vividly captures the essence of London in that era.

You can get a copy of Mrs Porter Calling by AJ Pearce on Amazon or Bookshop.

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

“The Last Bookshop in London” is set in August 1939 as London braces for war. Grace Bennett, who has always dreamed of city life, arrives to find a city shrouded in bunkers and blackout curtains, far from her expectations. She unexpectedly finds herself working at Primrose Hill, a quaint bookshop in the heart of London. Amidst the air raids and chaos of the Blitz, Grace discovers the unifying power of storytelling, bringing her community together against the backdrop of wartime darkness. This historical fiction book set in London captures the resilience and spirit of Londoners during WWII, offering a poignant look at how books and stories can provide hope and solidarity in times of crisis.

You can get a copy of The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin on Amazon or Bookshop.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Set in post-war 1950s London, “Bloomsbury Girls” follows three women working at a century-old bookstore resistant to change. Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone each navigate personal challenges while planning to reshape their futures amidst a changing world of books and publishing. Interacting with literary figures like Daphne Du Maurier and Samuel Beckett, these women strive for richer, more rewarding lives. This historical fiction book set in London is compelling and heartwarming, offering a vivid portrayal of post-war London and the evolving roles of women in society.

You can get a copy of Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner on Amazon or Bookshop.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

“Belgravia” begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, where a tragic party sets the stage for life-changing events, especially for Sophia Trenchard. Twenty-five years later, the repercussions unfold as the Trenchard family moves to the fashionable Belgravia area in London. The novel explores the tensions between the old aristocracy and the nouveau riche, with secrets from the past threatening to resurface. This book is a compelling historical fiction set in London, capturing the social dynamics and historical events in a richly detailed narrative.

You can get a copy of Belgravia by Julian Fellowes on Amazon or Bookshop.

Have you read any historical fiction books set in London?

What do you think about these historical fiction books set in London? Have you read any of them? What books would you add to this list? Let’s talk all about historical fiction books set in London in the comments below.

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Book List - The Best Historical Fiction Books Set in London

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  1. libbyminer says:

    Mrs. Porter Calling By AJ Perce is the third in a series, or is it fourth? Ive read them all. They are lovely stories of friends going through life together, working, falling in love, losing, worrying, making do, and caring for each other in London during WWII. They are hopeful and good despite the tragedies, losses, amd difficulties they face! My book club loved them.

    • Hi Libby! Mrs. Porter Calling is book three in The Emmy Lake Chronicles and like you I’ve enjoyed all three books and I’m so glad to hear your book club loved them too! I’m excited to see what she writes next.

  2. Ana says:

    I wish this list had more racial diversity. Small Island, The Lonely Londoners (perhaps a classic as opposed to historical fic), the Book of Echoes, Fire Rush, Wandering Souls

    • Hi Ana, I appreciate your feedback. So I have Fire Rush along with Evenings and Weekends, Queenie, and White Teeth on my literary list. All the Lonely People, Maame, and Yinka Where’s Your Huzband on my family and friendship list. I completed spazzed on The Lonely Londoners for my classics list, I read and loved it so will be adding soon! I haven’t read Small Island, The Book of Echoes or Wandering Souls but will be adding them to my TBR. Again, thanks for your feedback and for sharing these books!

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