Five Historical Fiction Books to Read This Summer
Both the works and lives of famous authors continue to fascinate readers throughout the years. The legacy they preserved and the works they are revered for, writers to this day, are inspired by their words. Here are five historical fiction reads inspired by the lives of famous authors.
An asterisk (*) indicates the novels I have read. The others listed are on my to be read listed or have been recommended to me.
Hamnet* by Maggie O’Farrell
Set in England during the 1850s, Hamnet is a fictional account of the life and death of William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet and its supposed influence on his writing of Hamlet. The novel focuses not only on the life of Agnes or Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, and the succumbing of her son to the plague but also on the change in the family’s dynamic that led to the writing of Shakespeare’s famous play. As a longtime fan of Shakespeare, I loved how O’Farrell made sure the novel was as close to historical fact and accurate as possible, which was difficult to do considering our lack of knowledge about his life. She was able to weave aspects of his plays into the story, which I liked as well.
Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft* by Samantha Silva
Love and Fury is the recounting of the life and legacy of 16th-century ‘first feminist’ and author Mary Wollstonecraft. It examines her intellectual achievements and radical thinking as she narrates her life to her unborn daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Mary Wollstonecraft is, in my opinion, often overlooked, especially in the literary or academic sphere. A Vindication of the Rights of Women was revolutionary for its time, and Silva portrayed Wollstonecraft perfectly.
Miss Austen: A Novel of the Austen Sisters by Gil Hornby
The character of celebrated author Jane Austen is presented and revealed through letters and her sister Cassandra’s own memories. Miss Austen illustrates life in the 19th century for single women of Jane’s status and means. After the passing of Jane Austen at the age of 41, the majority of letters she wrote to family and friends were burnt to save and avoid potential embarrassment. Cassandra herself burnt many of her sister’s letters to preserve her legacy. Of the 3,000 letters Jane Austen is estimated to have written, only 160 survive. Miss Austen has been on my to-be-read list for quite some time, and I hope to acquire a copy by the end of the summer!
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald* by Therese Anne Fowler
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald discusses Zelda Fitzgerald as more than just the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald and instead as an author in her own right. Hemingway and other notable literary figures of the early 20th century make appearances, and the novel is both a love story and a journey of Zelda coming into her own as an artist. Scott Fitzgerald arguably owed much of his success to Zelda, often ‘borrowing’ from her ideas and writing and using her as a muse. My favorite novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald is Tender Is the Night, which is considered to have been modeled heavily after their relationship, so I found this novel particularly interesting.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Paula McLain illustrates the life of renowned author Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, as well as their involvement with the famed “Lost Generation” group. The novel chronicles the period the couple lived in Paris and the subsequent unraveling of their marriage as Hemingway worked on The Sun Also Rises. I am familiar with the “Lost Generation” writers, and my interest in this novel stems from this.
If you are looking for a different summer read and a break from contemporary or classic literature, then historical fiction is certainly the way to go!