Wives – Fictional and Real

I’m not very fond of the trend of creating a book title based on the profession of the main character’s spouse. However, that’s not enough to keep me from reading a good book. Here are a selection of books from the Aurora Public Library District collection based on the theme “________’s Wife.” I’ve grouped the books into totally fictional characters, novels based on a historical women, and a couple of actual biographies.

I love biographical fiction, so I’ll begin with those books. The Engineer’s Wife is the story of Emily Warren Roebling who married into the engineering family that designed both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati. Emily worked closely with her husband on the Brooklyn Bridge and carried on engineering duties when her husband was injured during the construction.

The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Emerson Wood The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Hambly

Anne Morrow Lindbergh is, of course, The Aviator’s Wife, written by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin has also written biographical fiction about Lewis Carroll, Babe Paley, and Mrs. Tom Thumb. Mary Todd Lincoln was a controversial figure in her day. You can read about her in The Emancipator’s Wife as well as several books by Jennifer Chiaverini.

The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley  The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

For all you Jane Austen fans, The Clergyman’s Wife is about Elizabeth Bennett’s friend Charlotte who marries the unbearable Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke are both well-known as writers of Christian fiction, so if you enjoy biblical fiction, you should check out The Centurion’s Wife.

The Salaryman's Wife by Sujata Massey  The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani  The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

The Salaryman’s Wife is set in Japan and is the first book in a mystery series. Adriana Trigiani and Joanna Trollope are both popular writers of domestic fiction.

If your reading tastes run more to actual biographies, try The Zookeeper’s Wife, set during World War II or Shakespeare’s Wife about Anne Hathaway.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer

To find more “wife” books, just type the word “wife” into the catalog search box and then use the collection filters on the left side of the page to choose Adult Fiction or Adult Biography.

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!