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.
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

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