If You Like….

Apologies for the lack of “if you like” recently. It’s been a rather busy few months.

Since my first family saga comes out very soon (just two more weeks until The Ashford Affair!), this seemed like a good time to do an “if you like” about those old sweeping, family sagas. All of these are books I devoured in my teens, in the heyday of the vast, sweeping family saga.

If you like family sagas, you’ll probably like….

— Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance, Hold The Dream, and To Be the Best, which follow the rise of an Edwardian housemaid to head of a department store empire, followed by her granddaughter’s struggles to hold on to her legacy;

— Along the same lines, Jeffrey Archer’s As the Crow Flies, another early twentieth century rags to riches story;

— Wilbur Smith’s Courtney series, beginning in late nineteenth century Africa with When the Lion Feeds;

— John Jakes’s North and South, Love and War, and Heaven and Hell, following the intertwined destinies of a Northern and a Southern family from the years before the Civil War to the decades following;

— June Lund Shiplett’s “Winds” series, beginning with Raging Winds of Heaven and ending with Gathering of Winds (which I accidentally read first, despite it being the eighth book), spanning from England to the American south and all the way to Texas;

— Celeste de Blasis’s “Swan” trilogy, Wild Swan, Swan’s Chance, and A Gathering of Swans, another England to America tale of a family’s growth;

— Alexandra Ripley’s Charleston and On Leaving Charleston, tracing a tangled Southern family from the Civil War through the Jazz Age;

— Joel Gross’s The Books of Rachel, which, even more ambitiously, went all the way from fifteenth century Spain up through the twentieth century. (I vaguely remember there being another book, The Lives of Rachel, that went all the way back to Biblical times, and then back up through the Middle Ages.)

This is just the tip of the ice berg. There were so many others…. All the old Judith Krantz novels, like Princess Daisy and I’ll Take Manhattan; the Sidney Sheldon saga/thrillers, like Bloodline; and others with plots I vaguely remember but names I’ve long since forgotten (like the one about the Russian noblewoman who winds up becoming a Ziegfield girl).

What were your favorite sweeping family sagas?


  1. Jessica S. on March 25, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Not going to rank among the classics, but the author/s of the Sweet Valley High series did a saga once, The Wakefields of Sweet Valley, where they delve into the twins’ ancestry. It’s predictably neat and tidy and glaringly obvious, but fun if you were a fan of the series. (With my name being Jessica, I couldn’t help it…even if I am more of an Elizabeth).

    • Christine on March 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I was just going to mention this too! There were 2 of them – The Wakefields of Sweet Valley and The Wakefield Legacy. In the days before the internet, I think my heart dropped the day I spotted the second one in the book store.

  2. Sheila on March 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

    John Jakes, I think, also wrote The Kent Family Chronicles, about the American Revolution. I loved them.

    • Sheila on March 25, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Also Rich man, Poor Man, and the Winds of War series. Were they by Herman Wouk? They made great miniseries, too. Breakthrough roles in these for Meryl Streep and Nick Nolte.

  3. Jeffrey on March 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

    L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, hands down. Second place is light years behind. I’ve read and LOVED every one of them from the opener to Rilla of Ingleside. Right behind Jane Austen, Montgomery has quietly become my favorite historical author.

    I’m also reading through Beverly Lewis’s 5 volume multi-generational epic Abram’s Daughters. I had no idea how attractive a story that narrows in on the Amish could be. Beverly Lewis is a treasure.

  4. Joanne M. on March 25, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Love those big-fat-family sagas! Some I recommend are:

    Pamela Belle’s Wintercombe series (set in 17th century England/English Civil War) #1 Wintercombe, #2 Herald of Joy, #3 A Falling Star

    Anything by Susan Howatch! Penmarric, Cashelmara, The Rich are Different

    Jennifer Donnelly’s The Tea Rose series — (Victorian England) #1 The Tea Rose, #2 The Winter Rose, #3 The Wild Rose

    There’s also John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga and for those who want to tackle a never-ending family saga that spans centuries, there’s Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ The Morland Dynasty.

    I haven’t read The Bronze Horseman series yet, but many of my friends highly recommend it (it’s on my TBR list).

    Great topic!

    • Sheila on March 25, 2013 at 11:38 am

      These are some great ones, loved them all.

  5. Allison (Allure of Books) on March 25, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Jennifer Donnelly’s trilogy really is amazing – she is one of the BEST writers I’ve found.

    As far as John Jakes goes, I also really love his Charleston, which – amazingly – is a standalone.

  6. Jessica S. on March 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Ooh, I completely forgot Edward Rutherfurd’s books. More a saga of a place (Ireland, New York, etc) but the books follow descendants of the families at the beginning. Love them.

  7. Emily R. on March 25, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I loved the Brides of Montclair books by Jane Peart – they followed a family in Virginia from Colonial times through the 1990s.

  8. PS on March 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    RF Delderfield is always a favorite – particularly the Swann family saga – God is an Englishman, Theirs Was the Kingdom, and Give Us This Day. So, so good – especially the development of the relationship between Adam and Henrietta which takes place over decades.

  9. Sheila on March 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Sorry to keep butting in, but I keep remembering some wonderful authors, especially the amazing Susan Howatch. Read as straight historicals, her series, including Cashelmara, Penmarric, etc, are wonderful, but she is also retelling the stories of English royalty, in particular the Plantagenets, at the same time, and does it beautifully.

  10. Nessa on March 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Anything by awsome australian writer Belinda Alexandra and older, vintage Elizabeth Adler’s books like “Fortune is a Woman”, “Leonie” and “Legacy of Secrets”.

  11. Ashley on March 25, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I remember the Sweet Valley books! I loved those but I first fell in love with family sagas reading Fear Street Sagas. I wish I knew where those went…

  12. Lynne on March 26, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Ah, Delderfield definitely, but don’t forget Trollope (the Pallisers and the Barchester Chronicles) and Sharon Penman’s trilogy about Henry II of England. And the very best, in my opinion, are the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. A wonderful family saga and perfectly written historical piece.

  13. Jennifer O. on March 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Oh, North and South! I devoured those books in middle school and they made me think of Eugenia Price’s books, particularly the Savannah series that I read around the same time. Also the Wagons West series by Dana Fuller Ross, not exactly a family series, but sweeping about a wagon train west. And The Thorne Birds. And Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. There are lots more, but for some reason this is very focused on the reading habits of my 14-year-old self. For something I read recently, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden would fit the bill.

  14. Angie on March 26, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    The Forsyte Saga, of course!

  15. Christina on April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I loved Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War and Remembrance and John Jakes’ North and South. I have fond memories of watching the miniseries versions of them with my mom.

    Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper also have that family saga feel to them and were very enjoyable.

  16. Megan on April 2, 2013 at 1:28 am

    The Wild Swan Trilogy is one of my favorites… I never get tired of rereading it. And the Sweet Valley sagas!! I loved those!

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