A Look Through Time: 10 Most Influential Historical Novels

4. First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung

The Pol Pot regime was one of the most vicious dictatorships of the latter part of the 20th century and yet for some reason few people know anything about it. Ung’s novel First They Killed My Father is the incredible tale of a young girl who lived through this era.

Told through the eyes of a five-year-old, the reader bears witness to the horror she suffers, from perpetual hunger to watching family members be slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge. It is a powerful read that will leave you no doubt as to the brutality of Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia.

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5. Dispatches, Michael Herr

Dispatches is an urgent and important novel that takes a look at the Vietnam War from the perspective of an American journalist. From the very first word, the reader is submerged in the chaos of Vietnam. From there the book spirals into violence and madness as the journalist spends time with “grunts” who have lost their minds through a combination of drugs and fear.

Herr’s voice is unwavering throughout the book, but he does inject some humour here and there to lighten the tone somewhat.

6. Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden

This is a fictional account of what life was like for Geishas in mid-20th century Japan. The book starts out with the protagonist as a young girl with striking bluish grey eyes. It then recounts how she is taken from her family and sold in Kyoto to a woman who will train her as a geisha.

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As she grows up, she learns the ways of the geisha, including how to dress herself, how to present herself and, most importantly, how to seduce men.

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