Top Historical Fiction Books for Women
What historical fiction books do women love? Does it make any sense to have women as a separate classification when it comes to Literature.
Historical Fiction Books Women Like
Beyond the bodice rippers at one end and detailed accounts of how a submarine works at the other end, there seems to be a vast community of literature which men and women equally enjoy.
So going through what books women might enjoy should not be constrained by visions of simpering maiden aunts with visions of swashbucklers, airline pilots and kindly but handsome doctors.
Women are as tickled by ideas and imagination pushers as any other human with the exception of Grumpy who is still reading Bobby Orr and the Big Burly Bruins of 1967. But for every Grumpy there is a Malcolm Gladwell obsessed human who is desperate to explore new ideas and women, who in exploring literature are as driven as Amelia was to conquer every inch of the flyable earth.
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follet's compelling plot around the building of a Cathedral in England, almost at the end of the Middle Ages, fills this book with very interesting characters: the prior, the master builder and the people in the community who were committed to the vision of a Cathedral.
The novel starts with the master builder, Tom, and his family as they journey from place to place looking for work not just simply building anything but the work that really obsessed him: building a Cathedral.
The novel is so much more interesting and engaging as it builds on personal interests not just of the main characters but the other minor players in the building of the Cathedral which are woven into historical events not just in England but in Europe and the medieval devotion to religion. Peppered with the intrigues and jealousies among the nobility and the Church leaders, this novel pokes at many beliefs.
But what is really impressive in this story is how women are portrayed as pillars even at those times when they were practically their husband's chattel. How women used this strength, for both good and evil. This vision seems to be accurate to me as women have always been the pillars of the family most especially in adversity.
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follet
Recently, I read Ken Follet's Century Trilogy and enjoyed it very much. The trilogy started with the Fall of Giants, followed by Winter of the World and brought to completion in Edge of Eternity.
This trilogy first planted the characters in the first book, Fall of Giants, and brought them to the Second World War and again, in this complicated context showed how they survived in this environment. In these stories of 5 families, German, Welsh, American, Russian and British, Follet leads us through their entangled fates in a historical context that engaged the whole world. Follet shows how the strength of women, once again, sustained the struggle of these families.
As I am sure many of you have already read the first two books in the Trilogy, I featured Edge of Eternity here. This just came out with master Follett crafting once again the life of his dynamic characters introduced in the Fall of Giants into small life dramas that speak much of the broader and bigger issues of the time. Watching these characters live through the Second World War really helps put meaning into history.
The Fallen Angels: Another Top Fiction Women Would Love - A Fascinating Story
It's a story based on true events in the Second World War that led to a group of women being recruited by MI5 to infiltrate and destroy the key Nazi communication just before DDay. Cornwell's plot and characters are up to his usual standards
Girl with Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevanier
This is a story that takes place at many different levels including the relationship between the painter and his model.
Set in the 1660s and centered on a girl born to a tile maker who was gradually growing blind. She serves as a maid in Vermeer's Delft household and through her, we get to know of Vermeer, the society at that time and the interactions within such a defined social system. It may sound a bit stodgy but believe me, it is a captivating read. Scarlett Johansen was brilliant in the movie.
The First Confessor
Here's a historical fiction that got my attention recently. I was intrigued when I saw this book sold through my lens so I investigated and started reading. It just fascinated me.
The story is of the first confessor, Magda Searus, who having just lost her husband, First Wizard Barracus, wanted to also end her life.
Before she could do this, she found a note from her husband urging her to find the truth.
The book continues narrating the events that unfolded as Magda searched through the events transforming the Old World into the New and the intrigues that make the story more engaging.
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
This book tells us much of Afghanistan. As such, it has gripped many after a peek at a culture that is so far away to many of us. It tells us of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy Kabul businessman and Hassan, the son of this wealthy businessman's servant.
Amir and Hassan are inseparable as they spend days flying kites and the relationship evolves as their country sinks under Taliban rule and Amir has to flee to America. Again, what is interesting is the role women played in a society so isolated and static.
Memoirs of a Geisha - A Peek into Another Culture
The story of a maid who rose to become one of the most influential and fascinating geishas makes a captivating story when set in the inflexible of Japan of that period.
It is a great read that gave me a peek into a culture and era so different from the Western European culture and today's reality. It makes us wonder how women for centuries even in the most difficult of circumstances have woven a unique role for themselves.
The Novels of Barbara Kingsolver
Here's another woman writer really worth reading. The first novel I read of Barbara Kingsolver was The Poisonwood Bible. After reading the book which I thoroughly enjoyed, I just lost touch with this author until last summer when our daughter-in-law gave me two of her books, The Lacuna and Flight Behaviour.
A finalist in the 2013 Orion Book Award, this novel engages the reader in the ordinary lives of the characters in a small farming community and how their lives were affected by the global issue of climate change.
Into the novel, Kingsolver weaves the story of butterfly migration into the isolated world of Dellarobia, the stunning and intelligent farmer's wife and her long time friend Dovey. The effect on these two characters makes a novel well worth reading.
The story in this novel grows from the diaries and memoirs of the main character, Insolito or Harrison William Shepherd, a man so adverse to being known that obliquely, it is only through his writings that his person comes out.
The setting between Mexico and the United States adds an interesting turn as personalities such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo welcome Trotsky into their midst. McCarthyism is given a new twist in the life of Insolito.
I have many other favourites like Sue Monk Kidd but those will be included in subsequent reviews. I know that some of these may border the genre but for me, they still spoke of the women of a particular time in history.
What about you? What historical fiction would you recommend to women?
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