Daily Archives: March 5, 2012


I tend to prefer stories told from the female point of view, definitely in fiction but often in non-fiction as well. As a woman, I can relate better to other women than to men. Besides, I have always felt that women don’t always get to tell their side of the story. Now is their chance.

The following books–the sixth post in my on-going series of historical non-fiction books–are all about women in history; a lot of it isn’t pretty and some of it is sad. But it’s herstory.

 The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. Catharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Katharine Parr. “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.”  I once worked with another librarian who was obsessed* with all things Tudor. They have enjoyed a revival of sorts but I think the world has been intrigued by this era all along. After rejecting Antonia Fraser’s (I didn’t like the writing style) and David Starkey’s (a little biased I felt) books, I finally chose what I believed to be the best introduction to the subject for me. There are many others, of course, but I liked Weir’s balanced and elegant narrative backed up by extensive research. She also just tells a really good story.  Each wife’s experience is both poignant and powerful; you just can’t make this stuff up!

Source: Pocahontas County Fare

Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle by Janet Todd. The English major in me is forever enchanted by the history and literature of late 18th/early 19th century England. This is the little-known story of poor Fanny Imlay, half sister of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), illegitimate daughter of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, step-daughter of philosopher William Godwin, and unrequited lover of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Fanny was always on the periphery surrounded by her family’s difficult relationships and romantic turbulence. This is her story, from her unconventional childhood and the unwelcome discovery of her illegitimate birth to the conflicting emotional tug-of-war within her adopted family as well as the emotional triangle of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, and her step-sister Claire Clairmont (lover of poet Lord Byron). Fanny was the innocent bystander among people of unconventional ways; she felt like she never fit in.

Source: Wikipedia

Hadley: the First Mrs. Hemingway by Alice Sokoloff. I feel sorry for all of the Hemingway women, but never more so than for his first wife. Older than her husband by eight years, plain-looking and soft spoken, Hadley just wanted a husband who would love her and give her a home and family. But it wasn’t enough for her ambitious, trying-to-find-success husband. If you enjoy this, you might also want to check out the wonderfully-inspired novel by Paula McLain, The Paris Wife, reviewed excellently here.

 Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. I truly enjoyed this look at the women who were part of the founding of our country as we know it today. Roberts highlights the fascinating and colorful lives of independent-minded women such as Eliza Pinckney, Abigail Adams, and Martha Washington, among others. A must-read for history buffs.

First Ladies Fact Book: The Stories of the Women of the White House from Martha Washington to Laura Bush by Bill Harris. Not an inspired title in the least, but this book is actually very well written and concise. What I appreciated most was learning about the unknown (or little known) first ladies such as Grace Coolidge and Jane Pierce. Of course, such a grand book is bound to make you all confused as to remembering who’s who. But it’s still fun reading.


*We all have our specialities; mine is Jane Austen.



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