15 Best Historical Novel Recommendations

Best Historical Novel Recommendations – Novels are one type of literary work in prose. The story in the novel is the result of a work of imagination that discusses the problems of a person’s life or various characters. The story in the novel begins with the emergence of problems experienced by the characters and ends with solving the problem.

Novels have more complicated stories compared to short stories. The characters and places told in the novel are very diverse and discuss a long time in the storytelling. The characterization in it accentuates the disposition and nature of each performer in the story told.

The novel consists of certain chapters and sub-chapters according to the story of the story. As for the author of the novel, he is called a novelist.

The novel genre is described as having a “continuous and comprehensive history for about two thousand years”. This view originated from the novela tradition, which is a term in Italian to describe short stories, which has been used as a term in english today since the 18th century.

Ian Watt, historian of English literature, wrote in his book The Rise of The Novel (1957) that novels first appeared in the early 18th century. As for Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, it is often referred to as the first prominent European novelist of the modern era. The first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605.

Today, so many choices of fiction novels and books of very diverse genres. One of the most beloved genres is history. Well, if you are one of the lovers of novels with the historical genre, you must know the following selection of the best Indonesian history novel recommendations.


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1. 1984 – REPUBLISH

Throughout his life, Winston tried to be a good citizen by obeying every rule of the Party even though deep in his heart and mind resided antipathy towards the dictatorship that existed in his country.

Even so, Winston did not dare to fight openly. Not surprisingly, because Mind Police, telescine, and hidden microphones make privacy just like a fantasy. In fact, history was rewritten according to the will of the Party. The state has absolute power over its people.

The different or contradictory ones will soon be evaporated. 1984 is a sharp satire, presenting a picture of the melting down of the life of a future totalitarian society in which every movement of citizens is learned, every word spoken is tapped, and every thought is controlled. Until now, 1984 was orwell’s important work that led him to the pinnacle of fame.

2. Student Hidjo

Student Hidjo (EYD: Student Hijo) is a 1918 novel by Marco Kartodikromo. The novel was originally published in serial form in Sinar Hindia, then republished in book form by Masman & Stroink in 1919.

Student Hidjo was written when Kartodikromo was imprisoned. This novel tells the story of Hidjo, a Javanese student who is sent to the Netherlands to study and fall in love with a Dutch woman. Another plot parallel to the main story tells the romance of the Dutch administrator, Willem Walter. Written in Malay, this novel is one of the works of Javanese writers who helped popularize the word “me” as the first person’s personal pointing word.

The novel depicts the new youth culture of Indonesia that adopts Western culture and language. The element is considered Kartodikromo as an additional simile. The values of traditional Javanese culture and Dutch culture are compared and Kartodikromo argues that the two cannot complement each other. The value includes love which is described in this novel as something that can only be found by people with Dutch education, while traditional people see marriage as a way to achieve social mobility.

3. The Fountains of Silence

Madrid. The year is 1957. Under the leadership of fascist dictator General Francisco Franco, the Spanish hid dark secrets. But tourists and expatriate business people come to enjoy summer and wine.

Daniel Matheson, an American teenager, wants to get to know his mother’s country of origin through a camera lens. Photography and destiny led him to meet Ana Torres Moreno, a girl whose family life was gripped with fear after the Spanish Civil War.

Luxurious American hotels, stolen babies, empty coffins, dreams of becoming matadors, threats of the Civil Guard. The photos Daniel took raised many dangerous questions. Just one wrong step, the muzzle of the weapon will stick to your temple.

4. Di Balik Teduh Segara Jawa

The huge ship drove over, swaying right and left because of the impact of the waves, just like a man dancing Tango. Above the hallway, Alwi’s mind turned to Semarang, imagining Amina, his wife, who was probably now in the midst of confusion waiting for news about him.

Alwi had to face ideological friction, betrayal, and confiscation of all wealth that almost left him in despair. Although in Alwi flowed Arab blood, but for him the Dutch East Indies was spilled blood.

A novel set in history that provokes us to return to our roots and find our true selves.

5. All The Light We Cannot See

Marie-Laure lived in Paris near the National History Museum, where her father worked. When Marie-Laure was twelve years old, Nazi soldiers took over Paris, forcing the father and son to flee to Saint-Malo, to the home of Marie-Laure’s younger brother-grandfather Etienne. Together with their escape to Saint-Malo, they brought a very valuable object, which had to be guarded against the Nazis.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfenning, an orphan, who grew up with his younger sister. They enjoyed listening to the radio, which brought news and stories from places they had never heard of. Werner eventually became an expert in the field of building and instrument repair and then registered to track down the rebellion. By connecting the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr explains that after all, humans will try to be kind to others.

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6. Amba – Laksmi Pamuntjak

The first Historical Novel recommendation is Amba Novel takes the theme of struggle and love stories set in Indonesian history during the G30S events. Although fictional, the novel manages to elevate the other side of the historical event.

The main character is Amba, a woman who is stubborn, enchanting, and knows exactly what she wants.

Amba took some difficult choices in his life. Including going to Jakarta and Buru Island to find answers to questions that continue to plague his mind.

There is also Salwa, a lecturer at the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education UGM who loves Amba very much and is his fiancée. He has a relationship with Amba’s family and parents, so wants to edit it.

Furthermore, there is the character bisma who becomes Amba’s only lover. They were in love when Amba worked in Kediri. Bisma was exiled to Buru Island as a political prisoner during the G30S incident and never returned again.

Another male character in this book is Adalhard. A German descendant who helps Amba when he is confused looking for Bisma. Adalhard loves Amba and his daughter with all his heart even though Amba can never forget Bisma.

The last character in the novel is Samuel. He met Amba for the first time on the ship while going to Buru Island and since then Samuel has always melted away if he is near Amba.

7. Burung-Burung Manyar – Y.B. Mangunwijaya

The second Historical Novel recommendation is the Manyar Birds Novel. The novel was first published in 1981 by the publisher Djambatan.

The 406-page novel consists of three parts: Part I (1934-1944) which is very thick with the context of the colonial period, Part II (1945-1950) which is still related to the colonial period even though Indonesia was independent, and Part III (1968-1978).

In the prologue section (or what Romo Mangun refers to as Prawayang in his novel), it is re-narrated how Baladeva decided to stand on kurawa’s side on the eve of the Baratayuda war.

Of course, it was not because Baladeva loved Kurawa more, but more because of his loyalty to his wife and father-in-law who felt that he had to side with Kurawa so that Astina would not break. Even so, in Baladeva’s deepest heart, his love for the Pandavas never diminished in the slightest.

That part of the prologue really provides context that can make the reader able to understand Teto’s decisions. He was born to a father who still has the noble blood of the Surakarta palace and a mother of Indo descent.

He became a boy who grew up with hatred for the Japanese, which had separated him from his father and mother. So when he later chose to become a KNIL soldier, his decision was based on his desire to take revenge on those most responsible for taking away his father and mother from his side.

His choice made Teto forced to face off against Atik, the woman he had always loved since childhood, but was on the side of the Republic, not only as Sutan Sjahrir’s secretary but also as a person who helped fight for independence.

8. Entrok – Okky Madasari

The third Historical Novel recommendation is the Entrok Novel. When reading this novel, we are invited to step back into the 50s to 90s. Because this novel is not only about one generation, but three generations (Simbok, Marni, Rahayu).

Starting from the 50s  which tells about the simple life of Simbok (Mrs. Marni) who tries to survive only through peeling cassava. Peeling cassava is fertilized with cassava.

This novel also alludes to how the PKI at that time was still a shadow of fear in every human head.

9. Gadis Kretek – Ratih Kumala

The most popular historical novel recommendation is The Kretek Girl Novel by Ratih Kumala which was included in the top ten recipients of the Equatorial Literature Kusala award in 2012. This Kretek Girl novel has been translated into 3 languages, namely English, Egyptian and German.

The novel Gadis Kretek tells the story of the Soeraja family who have a kretek business called Kretek Djagat Raja which is very famous from Kudus.

The story of this novel rolls around when Mr. Radja is dying and asks his son to find where his lover used to be, named Jeng Yah. Tegar, as the first child to take care of the kretek business, also intervened.

When he graduated from high school, Tegar was told a big secret from his family. This is about the sauce that can make kretek made by his family become the number one in Indonesia.

Kretek without sauce will not produce a special taste. That is why, even the sauce made must be distinctive. Tegar had been sworn not to tell the secret to his two younger brothers, Karim and Lebas.

10. Ken Arok: Banjir Darah di Tumapel – Gamal Kamandoko

The fifth historical novel recommendation is Ken Arok’s Novel. In his time, Ken Arok was a big phenomenon. Intelligence, courage, ingenuity, and skill are some of the important things that stand out in Ken Arok.

That’s what makes him actually able to sit down to be a great king. Ken Arok’s struggle and journey to the throne of power is so thick with nuances of intrigue, love, conspiracy, and betrayal.

The novel retells the controversy over Ken Arok’s life journey, including his heyday. It all departs from the Book of Pararaton–Singhasari.

As a big story of the past, Ken Arok’s curriculum vitae is indeed enthralling to read and impressive to remember. There is a lot of advice, lessons, and wisdom to be learned from the story of a controversial “knight”.

11. Laut Bercerita – Leila S. Chudori

The sixth historical novel recommendation is the Sea of Storytelling. Laut Cerita is a novel by an Indonesian writer named Leila Salikha Chudori. He is also a journalist at Tempo magazine.

This novel published in 2017, has the theme of friendship, love, family, and a sense of loss. Set in the  90s and 2000s, the novel is able to anesthetize its readers to break through the space of the past and return to see the events that occurred in the year in question.

In other words, this 394-page novel, reminds readers of the reform eras of 1998 that were pitted against bitterness and cruelty for the defenders of the people.

Leila as the author does assert that this novel is only historical fiction, but she writes based on existing facts. This is because before Leila started writing this novel, she first conducted interview research first directly on the victims who managed to return or the relatives of the victims.

12. Max Havelaar – Multatuli

The seventh historical novel recommendation is Max Havelaar’s Novel. Multatuli is the pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker. He was a member of the Financial Supervisory Board of the Dutch Government which was first stationed in the Batavia (Dutch East Indies) region in 1840.

In 1842 he asked to be transferred to West Sumatra. In the same year, he was transferred to Natal, North Sumatra to serve as Kontelir. After that, he was assigned to the Lebak area, Banten.

During his stint as an extension of the Dutch colonial hand, Eduard Douwes Dekker actually strongly rejected the Dutch model of government. Injustice, deprivation, and colonization were the starting points of his criticism and rejection.

An Eduard Douwes Dekker turned his attention to the phenomenon of famine, suffering, and oppression experienced by the indigenous peoples of the Dutch East Indies, especially in the region where he once served.

This book was written by Multatuli in an inn he rented in Belgium in the winter of 1859. His writing is a sharp critique that has opened most of the world’s public eye to how painful it is to mean to be oppressed (colonialism).

With a belief manifested in expression, Multatuli strives to present a literary masterpiece that deserves to be a lesson for the whole nation.

13. Orang-Orang Proyek – Ahmad Tohari

The eighth historical novel recommendation is The Project People, which is the work of Ahmad Tohari, has written a lot of phenomenal literary works, one of the literary works is the novel Project People.

The story that can arouse readers makes this novel reprinted in 2015.This novel informs of the corrupt behavior that occurred during the New Order era through development projects.

From this novel, the reader will know that during the New Order era a lot of corrupt behavior had already occurred.

The author chose the figure of an engineer named Kabul as his point of view. Kabul was an engineering engineer who at the time of college was well known for his idealistic nature.

However, Kabul’s idealism began to be disturbed because of the political game carried out by the officials in building bridges for the people in Cibawor Village.

The people’s bridge project was only used as a stepping stone so that the GLM Party (Golongan Lestari Menang) was loved by the community.

The budget of the people’s bridge project was corrupted by as much as thirty percent for the party’s image only, even GLM party members demanded Kabul to complete this people’s bridge project before the campaign period arrived.

Moreover, the money used to build this people’s bridge comes from foreign debt. Kabul, which knew all the ugliness done by the GLM party, chose to withdraw from working on the project.

Not only about corruption, this novel also has a Kabul love story with Wati. They both lived happily.

One day, they both passed the bridge of his former project Kabul which was in disrepair. Kabul recounted all the things behind the creation of the bridge project.

The author is able to use an easy-to-understand storyline, so the reader will be easy to accept the meaning of this novel. By reading this novel, the reader learns of the evils of glm party members, even though they look good when campaigning.

However, the dialogue between Kabul and Mr. Tarya is too much, so it can make the reader feel bored because it does not feature other characters.

14. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk – Ahmad Tohari

The novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk was written by Ahmad Tohari and adapted twice in feature films in Indonesia. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk is the title of a trilogy of novels by Ahmad Tohari. The other two titles are Lintang Kemukus Dini Hari and Jantera Bianglala.

His trilogy was put together into one book under the title Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk in 2003 and November 2011. The novel was also published in the Japanese edition in 1986. In addition, there are also many thesis writings that take the novel as an object of research.

The novel in the film scene was raised twice as the theme of the film. The first film was titled Blood and The Crown of Ronggeng directed by Yazman Yazid. The film, which was released in 1983, starred Ray Sahetapy and Enny Beatrice. The next film adaptation was titled The Dancer which was released in 1983. The film, starring Prisia Nasution and Oka Antara, received 10 nominations at the 2011 Indonesian Film Festival.

The novel recounts Srinthil’s return to Hamlet Paruk. Srinthil is an 11-year-old boy who works as a ronggeng. He is considered a descendant of Ki Secamenggala who is believed to be able to restore the image of the education. Local people believe Srinthil’s presence to be complementary. They also believed that the completeness of hamlet consisted of the sacred Ki Secamenggala, the obscene celoroh, the expletive, and the ronggeng along with the calung device.

Srinthil is an orphan. Both of his parents died along with 16 other residents who suffered tempe bongkrek poisoning. Both of Srinthil’s parents were the tempeh makers. Srinthil, who was a baby at the time, was then taken care of by his grandparents. His grandfather believed Srinthil had been possessed by ronggeng and was born as ronggeng with the blessing of the spirit of Ki Secamenggala.

Because of such assumptions, Srinthil was buoyed into a ronggeng. Kartareja, the ronggeng shaman, invites Srinthil to follow the stages as the real ronggeng. As a start, Srinthil bathed in front of the tomb cup of Ki Secamenggala.

Another stage that Srinthil went through was to open the mosquito net. He cannot collect fees when he is in charge if he has not gone through this stage. Rasus in another objected that Srinthil had to go through all these conditions. He was srinthil’s playmate since childhood. Rasus felt hurt and jealous that Srinthil became a ronggeng. The ronggeng profession means that Srinthil becomes public property. Srinthil’s stupefaction was embattled.

Rasus grew even angrier when his 14-year-old couldn’t do much to the girl he loved. Until one day, there was an argument between Dower and Sulam in the emper next to Kertareja’s house to fight for Srinthil’s virginity.

Rasus, who was also on the other side of the house, couldn’t do anything. Kartareja required a gold money for the virginity value of Srinthil. However, Srinthil suddenly appears from behind Kartareja’s house and comes to Rasus. He asked Rasus to him. Srinthil would rather lose her virginity to Rasus, rather than with two people fighting over her.

Rasus agreed to Srinthil’s request. After that, it was Dower and Sulam’s turn. While Kartareja enjoyed the proceeds of being a pimp in the form of a gold money from Sulam, then a buffalo and two pieces of silver from dower. Despite being able to get Srinthil’s virginity, Rasus actually hated her even more because of the ronggeng’s work.

Rasus left Hamlet Paruk and the figure of Srinthil as the shadow of his mother who had gone nowhere. Srinthil had offered himself to Rasus to marry. However, Rasus was already convinced of the decision to reject it.

15. Segala yang Diisap Langit – Pinto Anugrah

The book is set during the Padri war in the 1800s. It is not about Tuanku Imam Bonjol or the struggle against the Dutch at that time, but the tragedy that befell the noble Families of Minangkabau, who were victims and perpetrators of the Padri war itself.

There are politics, allegories of scorn, and about indigenous peoples carrying violent ideologies.

The main character here is Rabiah. He has a strong personality with his high ambition in breaking the myth that circulates, that the lineage of the Minangkabau noble family will be broken in the seventh generation. Whatever he was ready to do, but it turned out that Rabiah’s main obstacle was even his favorite brother, Magek.

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