12 Marvelous Novels About the Early 20th Century

By
Mon, 15 Oct 2018

The 20th century was full of events and inventions that changed the world forever, from the airplane to the Internet. This exciting time of technological and social change has caught the interest of several talented authors, and inspired them to write historical fiction set in this era. The twelve books listed here all take place during the first few decades of the 1900s. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

12 Marvelous Novels About the Early 20th Century

Title Author More by the Author
1. The Toymakers Robert Dinsdale Gingerbread
2. The Secret Life of Mrs. London Rebecca Rosenberg Lavender Fields of America
3. Fever Mary Beth Keane The Walking People
4. Summerset Abbey T. J. Brown A Bloom in Winter
5. On a Cold Dark Sea Elizabeth Blackwell In the Shadow of Lakecrest
6. Ruby Cynthia Bond My First Novel
7. Impossible Saints Clarissa Harwood Bear No Malice
8. Leaving Lucy Pear Anna Solomon The Little Bride
9. Parlor Games Maryka Biaggio Issues in the Psychology of Women
10. The Necklace Claire McMillan Gilded Age
11. The Midnight Watch David Dyer History of the Albany Penitentiary
12. The Day the Falls Stood Still Cathy Marie Buchanan The Painted Girls

Important Events in the Early 20th Century

Year Event
1901 First ever Nobel Prizes are awarded
1903 The Wright Brothers' airplane completes its first successful flight
1906 Earthquakes ravage San Francisco
1908 The Model T Ford is invented
1910 The Mexican Revolution begins
1912 On its maiden voyage, the Titanic sinks
1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, leading to the start of World War I
1915 The RMS Lusitania is sunk by a German U-boat
1919 European borders are re-drawn by the Treaty of Versailles

The History of World War I

In Depth

A lot of significant events happened in the 20th century. In the first decade alone, the Wright Brothers managed to be the first people to successfully fly a powered airplane, and Albert Einstein published his theory of special relativity. A few major disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Spanish Flu pandemic, also happened in the early part of the century.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of twelve marvelous novels about the early 20th century. Take note that this list is done in no particular order.

First up, at #1, we have "The Toymakers" by Robert Dinsdale. It's mainly about a fictional toy store in London called "Papa Jack's Emporium." The book starts off during World War I, and it follows a woman named Cathy as she runs away from her family and is taken in by the people working at Papa Jack's. It's an emotional tale that spans several decades, and it shows how war can affect people and their families.

It's an emotional tale that spans several decades, and it shows how war can affect people and their families.

At #2 is "The Secret Life of Mrs. London" by Rebecca Rosenberg. It's a fictional take on the life of Charmian, the second wife of American writer Jack London. This book explores the Londons' marriage and their relationship with the Houdinis. It also takes a look at what it was like to be a woman in the early 1910s, back when women in America were still fighting for the right to vote.

Next, at #3, is "Fever" by Mary Beth Keane. This book is about a fictionalized version of Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, the first known asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever in the United States. The story attempts to give readers insight on why she continued to pursue a career in cooking despite her condition, and it also explores the topic of civil rights in the 20th century.

Next up, at #4, we have "Summerset Abbey" by T.J. Brown. Set shortly before the First World War, it tells the story of three girls living with their uncle, the Earl of Summerset. They were raised to be independent women, and now they're forced to adjust their lifestyles as they move into a conservative Edwardian household. It's the first entry of Brown's eponymous series, and it explores the gender roles and different social classes in early 20th century England.

It's the first entry of Brown's eponymous series, and it explores the gender roles and different social classes in early 20th century England.

At #5 is "On a Cold Dark Sea" by Elizabeth Blackwell. It's a fictional tale about three very different women who managed to survive the sinking of the Titanic. The novel revolves around the tragic events that occurred that night, and it also follows the main characters' lives twenty years after the disaster.

Next, at #6, is "Ruby" by Cynthia Bond. Ruby Bell grew up in a small town in Texas called Liberty, which she eventually left in order to search for her mother whom she's never met. When she receives a letter from her cousin, she's forced to come home and face her horrible past once more. It's a dark story that deals with a lot of sensitive topics, such as abuse and racism.

Next up, at #7, we have "Impossible Saints" by Clarissa Harwood. Set in England in 1907, it's about a couple of unlikely lovers. Lilia Brooke is an advocate for women's rights and a prominent member of the Women's Social and Political Union. Paul Harris is a priest who wants nothing more than to climb the hierarchy of the Anglican Church. The two of them are in love, and the story follows their struggles as they try to make their relationship work despite their opposing beliefs.

Paul Harris is a priest who wants nothing more than to climb the hierarchy of the Anglican Church.

Next, at #8, is "Leaving Lucy Pear" by Anna Solomon. In 1917, Beatrice Haven left her newborn baby at her uncle's orchard, where she knew that pear thieves would eventually find and hopefully take the child. One decade later, that child, now named Lucy, is reunited with her biological mother through a series of coincidences, and both of their lives are changed forever.

At #9 is "Parlor Games" by Maryka Biaggio. It's based on real-life con artist May Dugas, who managed to climb the social ladder by seducing and manipulating men around the world. The novel bounces back and forth between her trial in 1917 and the past as she talks about her escapades in court, and it provides some insight on the life of someone who was once branded as the world's most dangerous woman.

Next up, at #10, we have "The Necklace" by Claire McMillan. It's about a girl named Nell Quincy, who inherits an old Indian necklace after her great-aunt dies. The story follows Nell as she tries to uncover the many secrets behind her family's past, most of which are tied to a piece of jewelry from the 1920s.

The story follows Nell as she tries to uncover the many secrets behind her family's past, most of which are tied to a piece of jewelry from the 1920s.

At #11 is "The Midnight Watch" by David Dyer. The infamous SS Californian is best known for its crew's inaction during the sinking of the Titanic, despite being the closest ship at the time. This novel aims to provide some insight on what may have occurred on the ship that caused the people aboard, especially the captain, to ignore the several distress signals sent by the Titanic's crew.

Finally, at #12, we have "The Day the Falls Stood Still" by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Set in 1915, it tells the story of Bess Heath, the daughter of the Niagara Power Company's former director. When she falls in love with Tom Cole, her family disapproves because of the boy's lower-class upbringing. The book mainly focuses on Tom and Bess' relationship, but it also takes a look at the commercial exploitation faced by Niagara Falls in the early 20th century.