Many of the books I’ve read over the last year have been historical fiction worthy of four or five stars, and a large percentage of those have been set during World War II. Mischling by Affinity Konar was gripping and poignant—a tragedy. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was a testimony to human suffering and the will to survive. Finding Safehaven by Beverly Marquart was a fictionalized tribute to her father and his contact with the pregnant French girl who escaped from her captors and led the Americans to one of the great Nazi stashes of art and gold.
Recently, I stretched my historical reads into different times and different countries.
I won a copy of One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus in a Goodreads giveaway. This novel is set on the American Frontier in 1875 and is written in the form of May Dodd’s journals and letters.
Author Janet Lane was kind enough to give me a copy of Etti’s Intended, a story of a feisty young gypsy woman who survives against all odds and wins the man of her heart. Much of this story is set in the South of France, a bonus for me as I especially love that part of Europe.
What did I enjoy about these novels?
One Thousand White Women is a story that could have happened in real life, but did not. I think some readers might even call it alternative history. In 1854, a Cheyenne chief requested the government provide one thousand white women to marry Cheyenne men to facilitate the Cheyenne integration into the white man’s world. The program never got off the ground, but author Jim Fergus asked the question, “What if?” The result is a wonderful as well as tragic story about a group of women from diverse backgrounds who were recruited to travel west. For some, the marriages worked out well. For others, not so much. May Dodd, now free of the insane asylum where she’d been incarcerated by her parents for the crime of falling in love and bearing children out of wedlock, writes down everything that happens in her journals and in letters she writes to her children and her sister.
The novel in trade paperback is 434 pages long but seemed much shorter because I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Highly recommended.
Etti’s Intended is a novel of romance that leans heavily on the history and culture of the gypsies who traveled across Europe. The author’s research on the cultural norms, expectations of tribe and family, and the mistakes that cause one young woman to be threatened with expulsion lead the reader to dig deeper into the story. The addition of one very attractive Spanish Gitano Gypsy from Spain pulled me in to the love story as well. Recommended especially for readers of historical romance.
Different periods of history, very different protagonists, but a remarkably similar vein of strong, rebellious females looking for a better way of life with more freedom and more say in their own futures. Jim Fergus does a great job of writing the female point of view in One Thousand White Women. Janet Lane creates a fine figure of a man who has respect for women, especially the sunky Etti, in Etti’s Intended.
Depending on which period of history and which part of the world attracts you the most, you’re bound to find a historical novel that will propel you back in time. If you’re interested in 15th century southern France and Spain, try Etti’s Intended. If you love tales of the American West in the 1800s, go for One Thousand White Women.
Better yet, read both. You won’t be sorry.