Seeking fantastic historical novels, strong female protagonists - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 08-01-2010, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#2 of 25 Old 08-02-2010, 10:25 PM
 
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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.
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#3 of 25 Old 08-02-2010, 11:40 PM
 
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Margaret Frazer writes very good mysteries, if you like mysteries, set in England during the reign of Henry VI.
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#4 of 25 Old 08-02-2010, 11:48 PM
 
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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.
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#5 of 25 Old 08-03-2010, 02:33 PM
 
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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.
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#6 of 25 Old 08-03-2010, 03:35 PM
 
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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.

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#7 of 25 Old 08-03-2010, 07:46 PM
 
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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.
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#8 of 25 Old 08-03-2010, 08:20 PM
 
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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.
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#9 of 25 Old 08-04-2010, 02:33 AM
 
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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

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The Blue Door Farmhouse & traci.mymomentis.biz

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#10 of 25 Old 08-04-2010, 04:30 PM
 
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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.
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#11 of 25 Old 08-09-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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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!
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#12 of 25 Old 08-10-2010, 12:40 AM
 
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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!
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#13 of 25 Old 08-10-2010, 12:42 AM
 
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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.
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#14 of 25 Old 08-11-2010, 10:05 AM
 
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Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness series. That's the title for the first one and there are 6 in all.

Miriam
Mom to two daughters born in 1997 and 2000
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#15 of 25 Old 09-01-2010, 06:20 PM
 
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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!
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#16 of 25 Old 09-01-2010, 06:36 PM
 
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Mary Gentle
ASH: A Secret History (series!)
Sundial in a grave: 1610 (explicit details, you have been warned!)
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#17 of 25 Old 09-01-2010, 06:45 PM
 
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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

Mama to three  
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#18 of 25 Old 09-06-2010, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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!)
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#19 of 25 Old 09-07-2010, 11:10 AM
 
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The Red Tent is fantastic. I loved it.

I like Phillipa Gregory. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was also very good.

Mom to two lovely girls, 4 and 3. SAHW/M in need of sleep.
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#20 of 25 Old 09-13-2010, 05:25 PM
 
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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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DS 7.5, DD 5 (vbac), DD 2.5 (vbac), and DD 12/30/13 (vbac)

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#21 of 25 Old 09-15-2010, 09:52 AM
 
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The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. It is written by an ancestor of a woman, Martha Carrier, accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. The book is written from the point of view of Martha's 10ish year old daughter. Aside from the witch accusations the people in Massachusetts were also dealing with Indian raids. I really enjoyed the book.

Also I see no one has mentioned 2 of my favorite all time books:
1. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
2. World Without End by Ken Follet
Both are set in the 1100'sish and both are amazing. The second book takes place in the same village as the first, but 200 years later, so somewhat of a sequel, but not really.
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#22 of 25 Old 09-15-2010, 06:58 PM
 
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time of wonder--I agree. Great.

I just read the Pillars of the Earth and World Without End--I was so obsessed with reading these my kids were reduced to eating sandwiches and looking after each other.

Am now reading Wolf Den--Based in Henry vIII's court, great so far. Winner of england's Booker Prize

Snowflower and the Secret Fan--women, china and I think the 11th century. Perfect book.

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#23 of 25 Old 09-16-2010, 12:13 AM
 
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Margaret George's "Memoirs of Cleopatra," "Mary Queen of Scotland" and "Helen of Troy" are fabulous! I especially loved the "Memoirs of Cleopatra."

They are very large books, but seriously gripping and wonderful to read.
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#24 of 25 Old 09-16-2010, 12:26 AM
 
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Subbing...cutting and pasting into my online library request form ....

I've stumbled onto a couple of books here already but would love to read more in this genre.
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#25 of 25 Old 08-12-2012, 10:46 AM
 
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Reviving this thread, as I've somewhat recently been obsessed with historical fiction ;)  The Hummingbird's Daughter was a great read, as mentioned before, as well as anything by Philippa Gregory (I've read The Other Boleyn Girl, The White Queen, The Red Queen, and Lady of the Rivers).  Not sure if I just missed it somewhere, but my absolute FAVORITE book is The Mists of Avalon--really well written and super interesting to read! :)


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