The biographical novel is a genre of novel which provides a fictional account of a contemporary or historical person’s life. This kind of novel concentrates on the experiences a person had during his lifetime, the people they met and the incidents which occurred. Sometimes referred to as “faction,” these novels depict the lives and times of real people but they blur the line between fiction and reality.
The appetite for fictional imaginings of the lives of the famous and the infamous has always been popular and shows no sign of abating. Which of us doesn’t want a glimpse into the mind, little known life events or the darkest corners of our heroes and heroines?
Some biographers and historians accuse such novels and novelists of manipulating history or inaccurately portraying historical characters. But others have welcomed the genre, recognising that these slightly fictionalized biographical stories can hook readers emotionally, creating a sense of immediacy and involvement uncommon to standard biography or history books.
Biographical fiction, so long as it does not disregard facts, can offer a more honest portrayal than a regular biography, by allowing the author to imagine the feelings of the figure/s at the center of the narrative. It also lets readers explore more fully a subject’s interior and exterior life and circumstances. Actual historic events and imagined dialogue and scenes can combine to make these life tales more interesting and compelling for today and help to renew interest in these personalities.
Here are some titles available in ebook form which entertainingly capture the spirit of real people and events. This was by no means intentional, but as it turns out, a majority of the subjects are women!
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Inspired by the life of the Vogue model-turned-renowned photographer, Lee Miller relocates to 1929 Paris, where she becomes the muse and colleague of the mercurial Surrealist, Man Ray.
And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassisby Stephanie Marie Thornton
An unforgettable portrait of the iconic life of Jackie O as she transforms herself into an American legend.
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
Two fathers, a Palestinian and an Israeli, navigate the physical and emotional checkpoints of their conflicted world before devastating losses compel them to work together to use their grief as a weapon for peace.
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
A novel based on the real-life story of socialite-spy Nancy Wake features the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.
The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
Based on the true story of the Brooklyn Bridge, this is an emotional portrait of a woman transformed by a project of unfathomable scale, which takes her into the bowels of the East River, suffragette riots, the halls of Manhattan’s elite, and the heady, freewheeling temptations of P.T. Barnum.
Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Reimagines the story behind the creation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the perspective of L. Frank Baum’s intrepid wife, whose hardscrabble life on the Dakota prairie inspires her husband’s masterpiece and her advocacy of an exploited Judy Garland.
The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C. W. Gortner
From her beginnings as the daughter of a courtesan to her extraordinary transformation into the most celebrated actress of her era, iconic French actress Sarah Bernhardt is brought to life by an internationally bestselling author
The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer
A novel based on the story of Varian Fry’s extraordinary effort to save the lives and work of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.
The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kellyby Kerri Maher
Reimagines the exhilarating and sensationalized life of Princess Grace of Monaco.
The Girl with the Leica: Based on the true story of the woman behind the name Robert Capa by Helena Janeczek & Ann Goldstein
At the heart of this kaleidoscopic novel is Gerda Taro, a German-Jewish war photographer, anti-fascist activist, artist and innovator who, together with her partner, the Hungarian Endre Friedmann, was one half of the alias Robert Capa, widely considered to be the twentieth century’s greatest war and political photographer. She was killed while documenting the Spanish Civil War and tragically became the first female photojournalist to be killed on a battlefield.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
Traces Clementine Churchill’s unflinching role in protecting the life and wartime agendas of her husband, Winston Churchill.
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
The director of the luxurious Hotel Ritz in occupied Paris and his courageous American wife, Blanche Auzello, risk their marriage and lives to support the French Resistance during World War II.
The Pelton Papers by Mari Coates
A richly imagined novel based on the life of artist Agnes Pelton, The Pelton Papers covers everything from her shrouded Brooklyn childhood to her early success in the Armory Show of 1913, subsequent retreat to a contemplative life, and, ultimately, the flowering of her deeply spiritual art.
-Archana, Adult Services &Acquisitions Librarian