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Seeking fantastic historical novels, strong female protagonists

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Before I started my spec-fic thread, I borrowed a bunch of historical fiction from the library, and I'm finishing one that I can recommend below. I particularly love Dickensian, Victorial and medieval settings. I personally am not a fan of the 'big' romance series like Gabaldon, but like the self-contained one-of novel.

Mistress of the Art of Death (medieval female doctor sent to England to find serial killer of little kids). It is a bit anachronistic, but I'm ok with that - it doesn't have to be truthfully factual historically in its writing to be entertaining (tho I will stop if she pulls out an iPhone )

The Crimson Petal and the White is an example of another great historical, Dickensian novel - story of the exploits of a young prostitute in England.

Disappointing, and someone I don't recommend, is Sarah Canary - I had SUCH high hopes and searched high and low - story of a strange woman found babbling in the forest in the frontier Wild-West time, by a Chinese railway worker. The writing is awful and tedious. I rarely don't finish books, even bad ones, but this might be one of them.
post #2 of 25
I read one fairly recently called "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon that might fit the bill. I really enjoyed it anyway, and I hadn't expected to since the back cover mentioned something about time travel and I'm not generally into sci-fi. A friend had given it to me and I'm glad I gave it a chance though because it really isn't science fiction at all. Definitely more historical fiction. Here's a wikipedia description of it that's far better than what I'd put down: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlander_%28novel%29

OK I'm editing this to say that I just read through more threads and there's already one devoted to Outlander- HAHAHA! First of all I didn't even know it was a series and second of all I didn't realize that everyone but me seems to have known about it! (laughing at myself) so you probably already know about it too but just in case you didn't, I still recommend the one I read which I guess is the first one.
post #3 of 25
Margaret Frazer writes very good mysteries, if you like mysteries, set in England during the reign of Henry VI.
post #4 of 25
i really enjoyed Galileo's Daughter. It's more of a memoir in letter form (letter's from Galileo's daughter to him).

I also liked Fair and Tender Ladies, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
post #5 of 25
1000 White Women was fantastic. it is fiction. Here's the synopsis:

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world.

I like all the Philippa Gregory books, as well.
post #6 of 25
I recently read a historical fiction novel called "Year of Wonders" and I really liked it. It is about a plague in England in the 1600s and the main character is one tough chick.
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by liberal_chick View Post
I recently read a historical fiction novel called "Year of Wonders" and I really liked it. It is about a plague in England in the 1600s and the main character is one tough chick.

Oh, that's one of my favorites.
post #8 of 25
Year of Wonders is terrific.

There are a couple of sequels to Mistress of the Art of Death

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin is a re-telling of the Aneid from the pov of Anaeas's wife (who gets 6 lines in Virgil, but a whole book here. It's fantastic.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue - is totally gripping, about a poor prostitute in 17th century London who gets a chance at a better life and blows it spectacularly.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett is about a young woman raised in the home of Sir Thomas More, amid all the machinations of the Tudor age.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is a Victorian tale of betrayal, sex, lunatic asylums, identity - really, it's a hold-onto-your-seat kind of read.

Witch Child by C (?) Rees is an excellent YA book about a young girl with witchy powers in Puritan America.
post #9 of 25
Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benitez
Set on a coffee plantation, spanning from the 30s through the 70s.
One of my favorites.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
A woman disguised as a man rises through the ranks to become Pope (1000 years ago or so). Fantastic story!

The Birth House by Ami McKay
Set in Nova Scotia during WWII. Wise women, midwives, birth,love, war, explosions, it has everything!

I also second 1000 White Women.

~traci
post #10 of 25
I LOVED Fingersmith! I think Tipping The Velvet got a lot more attention, but Fingersmith was a page turner, for sure! I also liked Slammerkin and year of Wonders. A lot! I am not one to keep books, but I've kept all of these.

100 White Women was pretty good but there is a part that, to me, was pretty tough. If you're sensitive, it might be disturbing for you. It was for me and I don't consider myself especially sensitive.
post #11 of 25
I enjoyed The Hummingbirds Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. It is a true story of a healer in Mexico in the late 1800's with some magical realism.

Thanks for starting this thread!
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
1000 White Women was fantastic. it is fiction. Here's the synopsis:

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world.

I like all the Philippa Gregory books, as well.

I second this - I wish it was true!
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Traci mom23boys View Post
Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benitez
Set on a coffee plantation, spanning from the 30s through the 70s.
One of my favorites.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
A woman disguised as a man rises through the ranks to become Pope (1000 years ago or so). Fantastic story!

The Birth House by Ami McKay
Set in Nova Scotia during WWII. Wise women, midwives, birth,love, war, explosions, it has everything!

I also second 1000 White Women.

~traci
Also loved both the bolded.

I liked "MAry" by Janis Cooke Newman about Mary todd lincoln.
post #14 of 25
Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness series. That's the title for the first one and there are 6 in all.
post #15 of 25
Thanks for all the great recommendations! I've just raided this thread and now have half a dozen new books to read!

I guess I should make a contribution... there are some strong female characters in the historical fiction novels by Sharon Kay Penman.

Not new or unknown, but that's the best I can come up with off the top of my head today!
post #16 of 25
Mary Gentle
ASH: A Secret History (series!)
Sundial in a grave: 1610 (explicit details, you have been warned!)
post #17 of 25
I read this a number of years ago when my first (who's now 9) was little. IIRC, I really enjoyed it. Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas bu Morgan Llywelyn
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Here's what I just bought from a discount book store:

The Birth House, McKay, Ami

The Firemaster's Mistress, Dickason, Christie

Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3), Franklin, Ariana

He Drown She in the Sea: A Novel,Mootoo, Shani

The Red Tent, Diamant, Anita

I'm reading the Firemaster's Mistress (not a romance novel, btw, but with romantic elements!)
post #19 of 25
The Red Tent is fantastic. I loved it.

I like Phillipa Gregory. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was also very good.
post #20 of 25
I really really liked Twilight of Avalon and Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliot. It takes place a bit after Arthur and is about the legend of Trystan and Isolde. The only problem is its a trilogy and only 2 books are out! But the ending of the second book is at a place that I am comfortable waiting until she releases the next.

If you aren't opposed to Biblical fiction the books Sarah, Zipporah, and Lilah by Marek Halter were all great.
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