They say truth is stranger than fiction, but the flipside of that adage is “fiction is better with truth.” Some of our favorite novels feature emotional, dramatic stories brought to life with authentic historical detail—and famous people! Dive into one of these five books and you’ll wish your high school history class had been as exciting…
4 Great Novels (and 1 Biography) About Real Women From History
Edgar Allen Poe says “nevermore” to his marriage vows and strikes up an affair with a struggling young poet. But even as Frances Osgood’s clandestine relationship with Poe deepens, Poe’s sickly wife Virginia pursues her own friendship with her. Keeping up this deception may be her greatest creation—if it doesn’t come crashing down around her.
Lynn Cullen had me from the first paragraph.
“When given bad news, most women of my station can afford to slump onto their divans, their china cups slipping from their fingers to the carpet, their hair falling prettily from its pins, their 14 starched petticoats compacting with a plush crunch. I am not one of them.”
Before there was Amelia Earhart, there was Ruth Elder. And Elsie MacKay. And Mabel Boll. These adventurous women battle to be the first to follow in Charles Lindbergh’s flight path, and a nation still reeling from the Depression roots for them all.
While the titular sisters in this book aren’t real historical figures, the vaudeville tour on which they embark certainly is—right down to the individual opera houses the author has chosen (check out her note at the back of the book, highlighting all the true-life details she included). One treat for history buffs and cinephiles is the appearance of the Bob Pender Acrobat Troupe, starring one Archie Leach…whom we know better as Cary Grant.
Read with a Whiskey Sour
Pour yourself a whiskey sour and dive into the world of this compelling historical novel set against the turbulent backdrop of American vaudeville. In THE TUMBLING TURNER SISTERS, four sisters embark on an unexpected adventure in the company of traveling vaudeville acts in a last-ditch effort to rescue their family financially.
Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice grow up in the hills of Provence, under the tutelage of their ambitious mother. All of them make valuable alliances—including to the kings of England and France—which protect their home, but pit the sisters on opposite sides of a political divide. And if you like this one, don’t miss Jones’s upcoming historical novel, JOSEPHINE BAKER’S LAST DANCE!
The “helpless” Schuyler sister (yes, we’re still singing the Hamilton cast album) was anything but—as proven by the many philanthropic efforts she spearheaded in her long life. If you’ve caught Hamilton fever but really wanted to know more about Eliza, dive into this scrupulously researched biography that reads like a novel.