It’s Women’s History Month and a great time to explore historical fiction inspired by extraordinary women. Check out our recommendations.
While based on another novel, Gulliver’s Travels, the story of Mary Burton Gulliver is also a story of midwives in the early 18th century. Mary must provide for her family as well as cope with the unexpected return of her husband and the strange tales he tells, which threaten them all. An intriguing perspective on the challenges faced by women that resonates strongly with the reader.
Elizabeth Gould dedicated her life to capturing the wondrous birds of Australia with her amazing illustrations, but her memory is often eclipsed by her husband John who shared her pursuits. Her curiosity of the natural world and her experience in a male-dominated field is exquisitely told by Ashley. Elisabeth’s fascinating story unfolds as a woman who juggled her roles as an artist, wife, mother and adventurer.
Who decides what words matter and whose stories get to be told? Esme hides beneath the sorting table in the ‘Scriptorium’, as the first Oxford English Dictionary is created. She finds words that have been discarded and starts to realise that women’s words and experiences are often not recorded by men. A hidden history of women and words, and the impact of the women’s suffrage movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Iris is old and worries about her granddaughter. She looks back on her time as a young woman who followed her brother to France in 1914 and found herself at a field hospital. She found a passion for medicine and helping others and stayed, enduring the trauma of war. A tribute to those who served in World War I in extraordinary conditions and a powerful story of multiple generations of women.
Mathematician Katherine grows up in 1950s America knowing she is different, the child of an American father and a Chinese mother. While longing to conquer an impossible mathematical problem and challenged by men who believe she doesn’t belong, she also strives to find secrets of her past. A story of identity and ambition, and highlighting a historical lack of opportunities for women in science that is still relevant today.
If you haven’t read this extraordinary prize-winning novel, add it to your must-read list. Evaristo delves into a world of twelve different characters and a portrayal of both historical and contemporary Britain like no other. She skilfully tackles racism, feminism and more, as well as light-hearted reflections of modern life. This outstanding and complex novel will get you talking.
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