Since I began my reading journey last year, I’ve come across some fantastic stories featuring women that are amazing and brilliant that make up a significant fabric of the story. Finding historical fiction with women who display strength and tenacity in the adverse circumstances for their time is thankfully becoming easier and I wanted to share my choicest picks.
1. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes’ brilliant story set in 1930s Eastern Kentucky featuring an initially meek, young English woman who finds her feet working as a packhorse librarian will blow you away. In spite of her loveless marriage and abusive father in-law, Alice overcomes her polite docility with the support of unconventional Margery O’Hare and gradually comes into her own.
Against a backdrop of capitalist exploitation, racism, domestic abuse and small-town community politics, the women in The Givers of Stars are a force to be reckoned with fighting for the distribution of books and community.
Read my review of The Giver of Stars here.
2. The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien
While the title doesn’t seem like it would feature many women as the main characters, it’s the matriarch that comes out strongest in this story of the destruction of Mesopotamia and creation of Iraq in 1915.
I wish more people knew about Ruqaya Izzidien’s book, because it was the one that got me back into reading again!
Review of The Watermelon Boys coming soon.
3. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
You’d be surprised this is a debut novel because Afia Atakora’s writing goes from strength to strength in this story of a mother and daughter enslaved during the American Civil War on a plantation in the American South while practicing magic and midwifery in a superstitious community.
Personally speaking, I preferred Mama May Belle for her straight-talking tenacity over her daughter Rue, yet both shine on their own merits. Conjure Women is a must-read book on my list.
Read my review of Conjure Women here.
4. Tidelands by Philippa Gregory
Yet the story of another mother and daughter, although it mostly centres on Alinor and her struggles in the tidelands near Chichester, England during the English Civil War. The devil is in the detail with Tidelands and Philippa Gregory paints an extremely intricate picture of the sheer level of hard work that is endured by this family struggling to live respectably to rise above the poverty line. While Alinor may appear to be timid, she’s made of stronger stuff yet it is her daughter that shines in the end. I really look forward to the second book in the series to find out what happens next.
Read my review of Tidelands here.
I’d love to know which historical fiction books you’ve read featuring strong women.