Lately I’ve found myself a little off the beaten path of what I usually read, and have been really enjoying some historical fiction. For some reason I haven’t ventured much into this genre, but I’ve been finding that one of my favorite things is being able to follow up on a novel and find out more about characters who actually existed. Here are a few titles that have crossed my path recently:
The Fortune Hunter, by Daisy Goodwin: I enjoyed Goodwin’s previous book a few years ago (The American Heiress), so I was excited to read her second novel. Like her first, this is a work of historical fiction, centering around the love affair of Charlotte Baird and Captain Bay Middleton and complicated by the charismatic Empress Elizabeth of Austria. I love historical fiction that’s based on real characters; all three existed and while the plot is fiction, there were enough details in this novel to make me curious about the real Empress Elizabeth (who apparently really did sleep with raw meat on her face!).
Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue: As one of the few people left who didn’t read Donoghue’s bestselling Room, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. This may have worked in my favor, since I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what to expect. What I discovered were more compelling characters taken from history. In the summer of 1876, a San Francisco woman named Jenny Bonnet was murdered and a sensational court case followed, with a French burlesque dancer named Blanche as the primary witness. Aside from the gripping plot, I found the descriptions of 19th century life in the West to be just fascinating, and I especially loved that at the end of the novel Donoghue closes with an afterward about her research. (More on her research for this novel here, if you’re into that kind of thing).
Bittersweet, by Colleen McCullough: I was a young teenager when I first read The Thorn Birds, and although I haven’t kept up with any of McCullough’s other books this one caught my eye. It’s no Thorn Birds (but what is??!), but still a fun read. It’s about four sisters– two sets of twins– in 1920’s Australia who are just setting off to start their lives away from their parents and become registered nurses. I’m still reading this one, but one thing I’m loving is commentary on women during this time period: in Australia women seemed to have much greater freedom (in terms of dress and general independence), but were still very much at the mercy of their husbands.
Reading anything good? Let us know in the comments!