Wyatt’s World—Real Women in Fiction

Historical fiction has many pleasures—lushly conceived settings, perfectly realized detail, and the chance to delve beneath the sometimes dry facts of history and mine its story-rich possibilities. Often, the genre’s pages are full of imagined characters in historical settings, but sometimes they are filled with true-life characters; individuals who created or witnessed history long ago. These five books capture such characters, women who navigated terror, intrigue, and wonder and whose re-imagined lives make for fascinating reading.

  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Anchor). Speculate on the guilt or innocence of a convicted murderesses and the treatment of women in the late 1800s.
  • The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields (Pamela Dorman). Witness Edith Wharton falling in love.
  • The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone/Fireside). Spend time in the company of the queen consort to Richard III.
  • The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer (S & S). Travel with Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert down the longest river in the world.
  • Curiosity by Joan Thomas (Emblem). Meet Mary Anning, a fossil hunter who helped shape modern scientific theory.
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net