Biographical Fiction

Biographical fiction, a novel based on the life of a real person, is nothing new. After all, some of us can remember reading great biographical fiction in the 1960s or 1970s (The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, for example,  and Burr and Lincoln by Gore Vidal). You are probably familiar with all the novels about British royalty written by Philippa Gregory. However, this genre has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Here’s a short survey of some of the authors and titles you can find in our collection at the Aurora Public Library District.

Robert Louis Stevenson and Frank Lloyd Wright are the subjects of novels by Nancy Horan, who grew up surrounded by Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park, Illinois.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan      Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain became a book group favorite and allowed readers to experience the Jazz Age in Paris while getting to know Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. Circling the Sun, McLain’s next book took us to Kenya with Beryl Markham, a friend of Denys Finch Hatton and Baroness Karen Blixen. You’ll want to rewatch Out of Africa after reading this book!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain     Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Melanie Benjamin has written novels about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Truman Capote.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin     The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

We have biographical fiction about Madame Tussaud, Henry David Thoreau, Zelda Fitzgerald, and the wife of C.S. Lewis. But, don’t stop with people you’ve already heard of; part of the fun of this type of book is discovering someone you know nothing about.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran      Woods Burner by John Pipkin

Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler      Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Tracy Chevalier introduced readers to the life of Mary Anning (of “She sells sea-shells” fame) in Remarkable Creatures. What do you know about the first Native-American to graduate from Harvard or about Einstein’s wife who was also a physicist, or about Annie Clemenc?

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier     Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict     The women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell

Let these novels take you into a different time and place and into the footsteps of a historical person. If you’ve read other great biographical fiction, share it here with other readers!