I read a lot of historical fiction, of all time periods and about both men and women. I enjoy all of Marie Benedict’s books, Kate Quinn, Stephanie Thornton, and so many others. In order for me to read the same book again, it must be something special. Since Women’s History Month is ending, though, I decided to share ten novels about historical women (real and imagined) that I have read more than once. I have oh so many more that I’ve read once and are on my TBRA (to be read again) list, but these are the ones I’ve read again, and will read even more times.
There are so many books available to read, why would anyone ever want to read them more than once? The books on this list touched me in some way, either I fell in love with the characters or I related personally to the subject. I hope you find some you can enjoy, too.
Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas by Morgan Llywelyn
“Grania explodes from the pages of Ms. Llywelyn’s best historical novel yet as one of the most remarkable women who ever lived–brave, resourceful, passionate, tender, and, finally, in her battle with the English she-king Elizabeth, victorious. A book for all those who are Irish, or who would like to be, or who like to read about the Irish.” ~Andrew M. Greeley
I love all of Morgan Llywelyn’s Lion of Ireland books, and have reread those, too. This one, however, deals with a female Irish pirate in the sixteenth century. Grania, English name Grace O’Malley, is a complex character with more going on than just piracy, including an ongoing struggle with England’s Queen Elizabeth.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
“Absorbing and heartwarming, this first novel lavishly evokes the land and lore of Scotland, quickening both with realistic characters and a feisty, likable heroine.” ~Publisher’s Weekly
Claire and Jamie, am I right? I love the idea of being transported back in time and falling in love with a highlander.This novel was one of the top ten books in the world, and it’s much better than the television show. The book brings such delicious detail to the landscape and complexity to the characters that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a huge book.
The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning
“My father once told me that the happiest sound in the world is the chattering of a family gathered together, and from the moment you begin The Glassblower, that cheerful din reverberates off the page. The bustle of a morning in the Steinmanns’ humble home in a mountainside German village opens this heartwarming nineteenth-century tale.” ~Gabriella Page-Fort, Editor
From the very beginning of this book I was enchanted by the small town that makes Christmas ornaments. The father of the family dies, and his daughters are left to carry on the business despite being told women can’t be glassblowers. The creativity of the girls, and the setting of the village, continue to delight me with each reading.
The Berlin Zookeeper by Anna Stuart
“Heartbreaking but amazing!… I was gripped from the very beginning and honestly I didn’t want this book to end! The writing was just fabulous. Loved it!” ~NetGalley reviewer
The courage of Katharina Heinroth is amazing. She stayed behind at the Berlin Zoo to care for the animals when the neighborhood was evacuated during World War II. She ends up caring for two orphan girls, too. The tale is interspersed with a twentieth century woman searching for answers to secrets in her past. I would love to encounter an elderly woman on a bench and hear her story.
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
“A close-up look at how wartime chaos affects a tight-knit group of women living on Hawaii in 1944 at the height of Pacific combat…. [Violet’s] journey overcoming her trials and grief through friendship, family, and romance is a story of strength and perseverance.” ~Booklist
I first encountered Sara Ackerman’s books when I was writing my own novel set in Hawaii. I love all of them, but this one is my favorite. I like the idea of women bonding to help each other, and I wanted to keep reading to find out about Violet’s husband and the other women suspected of being spies. I love to bake, so the idea of making pies to sell to the soldiers tickled me.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson
“Kim Michele Richardson has written a fascinating novel about people almost forgotten by history: Kentucky’s pack-horse librarians and “blue people.” The factual information alone would make this book a treasure, but with her impressive storytelling and empathy, Richardson gives us so much more.” ~Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author
I’d never heard of blue people before I read this book. I hated some of the characters for their blind prejudice, but others were lovely. The responsibility to duty that Cussy Mary exhibits should have been a role model for the people in the area. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, and it was nice to read about someone who worked so hard to deliver reading material.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
“An orphan raised in Valparaíso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, young, vivacious Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 — a danger-filled quest that will become a momentous journey of transformation. In this rough-and-tumble world of panhandlers and prostitutes, immigrants and aristocrats, Eliza will discover a new life of freedom, independence, and a love greater than any ever dreamed.” ~from the back cover
I have an ancestor who was consul to Valparaiso, Chile, for President Lincoln. This novel is set earlier than that, but I still enjoyed imagining my ancestors in the city. They, too, came to California for the Gold Rush, and California is my home state. This connection to the places in the novel brings Eliza’s story to life each time I read it.
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
“A page-turner. Kadish moves back and forth in time (including an excursion to Israel in the 1950s) with great skill. She knows how to generate suspense – and sympathy for her large cast of characters…packed with fascinating details…The Weight of Ink belongs to its women…Kadish’s most impressive achievement, it seems to me, lies in getting readers to think that maybe, just maybe, a woman like Esther could have existed in the Jewish diaspora circa 1660.” ~Jerusalem Post
Esther is permitted to scribe for a rabbi. She becomes quite the philosopher and corresponds with many of the great thinkers of her day. In the modern timeline, an aging historian analyzes Esther’s writings. Very compelling to me, since I am a writer.
The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
“From the multiple-award-winning, critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day.” ~book description
This book reminds me of how much it can help when one person just does the best she can do. I bake bread, so I connected with young Emma, who was left to run the bakery when the Jewish baker was arrested. She is incredibly brave and creative in trading for what she needs.
Helen of Troy by Margaret George
“Acclaimed author Margaret George tells the story of the legendary Greek woman whose face ‘launched a thousand ships’ in this New York Times bestseller.” ~book description
Margaret George has written many wonderful books about famous historical women. I like this one because it’s different from all the queens of England. Everyone knows the story of Helen, but this novel allows me to be there in time and place with excellent description and rich characters with more depth than in the original story.