The best fictionalized autobiographies by women

March is Women’s History Month, so we’re talking women’s novels today. Novels by women, about women, from the viewpoint of real historical figures.

I’m pretty sure we’re living in a Golden Age of amazing autobiographical fiction about women’s lives. So many of the books being written these days are meticulously researched and emotionally authentic.

In recent years, we’ve had…

  • the remarkable novels by Melanie Benjamin — The Aviator’s Wife, about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about the women in Truman Capote’s social circle
  • Paula McLain’s glorious Circling the Sun, about Berle Markham
  • Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, about Mamah Borthwick

And a spate of fictionalized memoirs told from the viewpoint of First Ladies:

  • Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, about Laura Bush
  • Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon, about Pat Nixon
  • Amy Bloom’s White Houses, about Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok

The thing I love about these novels is that they allow us to get into the person’s head in a way that feels believable, based on what I know of each of the subjects. (I would’ve bailed if I’d’ve thought the author got it wrong.)

And then a reading map can take us to the actual biographies or autobiographies, and the nonfiction about the times when the person lived. It can really be a lovely thing.

I’m susceptible to this kind of thing: I’m in the midst of the second Berle Markham spree of my young life. I just finished Circling the Sun and am about to embark on a re-read of her memoir West with the Night. If I were super ambitious, I’d also read Mary Lovell’s Markham biography Straight on Till Morning, plus Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa and re-watch the movie. And then this historic aviation line could loop me right back to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and then on to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and then I’d be soaring above the clouds.

This is happiness, my friends.

What great fictional biographies would you add to this list?

by

Reader, librarian, & happy little geek

One thought on “The best fictionalized autobiographies by women

  1. Straight on Till Morning is a great read! (I went through a Beryl Markham phase, too.) 😀 And I also liked Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald… it’s another good fictional biography, especially if you like the 1920s and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books.

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