How many of us have not gotten to have a History class where men had the leading role, and it seemed as if women had been secondary characters or did not even exist during that time frame? You know, there have been women present throughout the historical events of mankind. So why not read about these events from their perspective?
One of the main reasons why I love historical fiction books is the fact that their stories are an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages— and the latter can be female. Not only are you entertained by a compelling story, but you also get the opportunity to learn about events in a creative way from a different point of view!
Here are 5 great historical fiction books with a female protagonist.
1. Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory
Ok, I might have started with a book saga instead of one book, but there’s a good reason! Cousins’ War series is an amazing set of novels written by English historical novelist Phillips Gregory, considered by some as “the queen of British historical fiction”.
This saga is set during the War of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, Lancaster, and York, with the aim of gaining the English throne.
Each book is told from the point of view of a female historical figure from that time. The first book, The White Queen, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of Edward IV, and how their love caused a scandal that would change the fate of England.
The rest of the novels are led by notorious women, such as Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth of York, the first being the mother of the first Tudor monarch while the latter marked the end of the war by marrying Henry VII.
2. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace is a book based on a true story that caused a commotion in Canada in 1843: the murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.
In Alias Grace, award-winner writer, Margaret Atwood, reconstructs the case by giving voice to Grace Marks, one of the servants who were found guilty for the murder; she was sentenced to life imprisonment.
What makes Atwood’s novel so compelling is that, by letting Grace tell her side of the case, you start to question whether she’s an innocent girl to whom injustice was committed or a cunning woman capable of distorting the truth. This historical fiction book is a great example of an unreliable narrator that fans of mystery will definitely love as they explore the characters’ psychology.
3. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbide
The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on the real life experienced of Dita Kraus while being a prisoner in the concentration camp during World War II.
The novel follows Edita, a 14-year-old Jewish girl risks her life accepting the position of librarian in a school founded in secret inside Auschwitz by Jewish leader Fredy Hirsch. Dita is in charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards.
Being one of the darkest periods in human history, the story of Dita is an inspiring one that shows a moment of hope and braveness that deserves to be known by the readers.
4. Loyalty Pact by Gonzalo Giner
Loyalty Pact is a long yet fast-paced novel that covers the two historical periods of the 20th century: the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Nazism. This book follows two main stories, one of which revolves around Zoe Urgazi, a recent widow who’s also an aspiring veterinarian.
Zoe tries to survive the turbulent conflicts that are starting in her country, Spain, alongside Champion, a mutt dog who’ll help her avoid the dangers of an unjust war.
Something that out-stands in Giner’s book is the depiction of dogs’ role in armed conflicts and the secret experiments in order to breed a war dog. The book also gives a glimpse of the first Spanish women to study veterinary medicine, a field previously practiced only by men.
Loyalty Pact is a meticulously documented novel that covers espionage, love, betrayal, and the unbreakable loyal relationship between dogs and people.
Original title: Pacto de lealtad
5. The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen by Karen Harper
This one is for those who are fans of The Crown and the British Royal Family. The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II follows Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as The Queen Mother, during the UK’s fight against Hitler in World War II.
Karen Harper manages to create a well-develop character that portrays Elizabeth’s support as the wife of King George VI, a role model for her daughters, one of which would become Elizabeth II, and how she devoted herself to her people during a crucial moment.
Trying to help her country while also preventing the abdicated prince of Wales, Edward, and his wife, Wallis Simpson, from returning to England, the Elizabeth of Harper’s book proves why some called The Queen Mother the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe”.
Images by: Gaby Flores