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Friday, September 23, 2016

Highlighting American Women through Fiction

            Readers who enjoy reading biographies of the famous also may enjoy novels based on their lives. Here is a selection.
            The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel is written by Melanie Benjamin. It tells the story of socialite Babe Paley, who seemed to have it all. Her friends were “the beautiful people” during the 1950s and 1960s – Frank Sinatra, the Kennedys and more. She befriends writer Truman Capote, only to find her secrets ending up in his stories.
            Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule: A Novel is written by Jennifer Chiaverini, the author of several other biographical/historical novels. The main character is Julia Dent, a woman from Missouri who becomes the wife of the future Union general and American president Ulysses S. Grant. She brings her slave Jule into her marriage.  Over the years Jule eventually obtains her freedom and becomes a businesswoman.
            The Hamilton Affair: A Novel is written by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman. This is the love story of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton; from the American Revolution to Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr to Elizabeth’s life after Hamilton’s death.
            Under the Wide and Starry Sky, written by Nancy Horan, tells the story of American divorcee Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne who, while travelling with her children in France, meets Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who is ten years her junior. A twenty year love affair ensues.
            Fever, written by Mary Beth Keane, tells the story of Mary Mallon, better known historically as “Typhoid Mary”. She is an immigrant from Ireland whose dreams of becoming a cook are dashed when she is discovered to be an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever.
             The Paris Wife: A Novel is written by Paula McLain. In the book, Hadley Richardson meets Ernest Hemingway who is on the cusp of becoming a famous writer. As his first wife she shares his successes and disappointments, until their marriage collapses.
            I Always Loved You: A Story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas is written by Robin Oliveira. American artist Mary Cassatt’s years of study in Paris ends with a rejection from the Paris Salon. Deeply disappointed, she then meets and falls in love with French artist Edgar Degas.

            Clara and Mr. Tiffany, written by Susan Vreeland, is the story of Clara Driscoll, the Women’s Division Head at Tiffany’s stained glass factory. She is the one who develops their famous stained glass lamp project and oversees its mass-production. Unfortunately she does not get recognition for it.

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