Luther and Katharina
Katharina von Bora, a nun of noble birth, is resigned to her life’s plan: living a cloistered life in an Abbey during the 16th century and not challenging the powerful reach of the Catholic Church. But when she meets Martin Luther, the man responsible for the Reformation, and hears his teachings, she begins questioning everything she’s been taught. In doing so, her life—and his—will never be the same again.
Margot: a Novel
It’s not well known that Anne Frank had a sister named Margot, who was also hidden away in the room at the top of the stairs and who also kept a diary. Jillian Cantor reimagines the life of Margot if she had not perished at the hands of the Nazis, but instead, moved to Philadelphia, took a new name (Margie Franklin) and began living a quiet existence, working in a law firm and trying not to remember the family, country and religion she left behind.
A Triple Knot
Renowned beauty Joan of Kent is being used as a political pawn by her cousin, King Edward III. He promises her hand in marriage to an enemy as a way to form an alliance. Joan doesn’t trust her cousin, or the new ally at all, and sets off to take a stand, following her heart to her one true love. Campion illuminates the real life story of Joan of Kent and makes her whole in this fast-paced work of historical fiction.
From the bestselling author of “Prep” comes a re-imagination of the life of a First Lady. Alice Lindgren, a shy and bookish girl from Wisconsin, is swept off her feet and marries the son of a powerful Republican family, thereby entering into a world of privilege. But when her husband’s public persona—and her own—becomes increasingly at odds with her own beliefs, Alice must ask herself if it’s all worth it.
The Signature of All Things
The author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” delves into the life of Alma Whittaker, a sharp-minded botanist born in Philadelphia in 1800, who falls in love with a spiritual painter. Together, they are fascinated with the inner workings of daily life, even as they approach them from wildly different angles. Gilbert’s well-researched work introduces us all to this extraordinary woman who made incredible strides in the fields of evolution and botany.
The Woman Who Would Be King
Queen Hatshepsut was Egypt’s longest-reining female pharaoh, though much about her life and her audacious rise to power remains unknown. Now, thanks to Egyptologist Kara Cooney and this well-researched volume, we learn the story behind this cross-dressing queen’s commandeering of the throne, her strategic gain of control and the sudden erasure of buildings and monuments built during her reign, nearly hiding the fact she existed at all. The story behind Hatshepsut is intriguing and says volumes about the way women in positions of power are perceived by society.
The 19th Wife
From the author behind the book-turned-smash-film-success “The Danish Girl,” this work of historical fiction looks at Ann Eliza Young, the wife of Mormon Church leader Brigham Young. The couple separate in 1875 and Ann Eliza sets out on a crusade to end polygamy. Her narrative—which includes her and her own mother becoming plural wives for the same man—becomes intertwined in the modern-day murder of the father of a young man in Utah. A look over centuries at the power of faith and the struggle to change the status quo.
The Paris Wife
Hadley Richardson, a quiet twenty-eight year old living in Chicago in 1920, has all but given up on finding love. That is, until she meets Ernest Hemingway and the two embark on a passionate romance, a whirlwind courtship and marriage, finally setting sail for Paris. There, they join a group of hard-partying ex-pats and creative thinkers, who include Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The newly married couple flounders, distracted by drinking and feelings of being unmoored, trying to locate their places as writer and as wife. A dazzling love story set against the glittering backdrop of Jazz Age Paris.
The Last Nude
Famed Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka is working in Paris in 1927 when she meets Rafaela Fano, a young American struggling to make ends meet. De Lempicka invites Fano to model for her and the young woman becomes her muse and later, lover. Ellis Avery imagines the passion behind the paintings inspired by Rafaela—ones that later become de Lempicka’s most famous—in this story of swirling love, desire, regret and creativity.
Too often, extraordinary women have been lost by time. Their stories were never added to history books and those that lived with them have long since passed. Biographers delight in highlighting true events that have never come to light, while fiction writers also have a special interest in these forgotten women. They might read a mention of them in passing and something sparks within their creative minds—who was this woman and what was her life like? They use fiction to breathe life into these characters—both true-life and amalgams of real women—which gives them a rebirth of sorts, back into the collective consciousness. Here are fourteen of our favorite books—fiction and non-fiction—that celebrate women otherwise forgotten by history.
Bookshelf curated by Abbe Wright.
Image credits: dariazu/Shutterstock.com.