Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Club Friday: Defiant Women

Even though today's political climate is pretty depressing for feminists, I try to remind myself of how far we've come with gender equality. Life could be a lot worse for a strong independent woman like myself. At least I have rights to my own property, rather than being controlled by my father, or brother, or husband, or son-in-law. At least I never made multiple scientific discoveries, only for men to steal the credit.

Tonight I'm linking up with Heather and Katie for Book Club Friday! If my opening paragraph didn't give it away, I'm reviewing two books of historical fiction featuring strong, female protagonists.

This book has been sitting unread on my bookcase for years. I know. I hang my head in shame. Written by Sally Gunning, The Widow's War reminds me of how bleak life used to be for unmarried women. 

The Widow's War

When Lyddie Berry's husband is lost at sea, she simultaneously loses her husband and all rights to her property. Those rights are transferred to her son-in-law, who stubbornly refuses to compromise with her. Lyddie fights to maintain her home and her independence.


This book was so intriguing. I could not put it down. So many scandals, so many historic references, so much frustration at her spineless daughter, her jerk son-in-law, and the uptight townsfolk.

I love Tracy Chevalier, and her novel Remarkable Creatures does not disappoint. Chevalier tells the story of an unlikely friendship, set against the background of early paleontology and the scientific field's exclusion of women.

Remarkable Creatures

Despite her working-class social status, Mary Anning has a knack for finding fossils, including never-before-seen dinosaur fossils. The spinster Elizabeth Philpot prefers the company of her fossils to people. Despite their age difference and the wide schism of their social classes, Mary and Elizabeth become friends.

Basically, I wanted to punch every single man in this novel. But alas, such was 19th-century England. Men didn't believe women were capable of scientific achievement. And everyone was slightly wary of spinsters. But once I accepted the historic norms, I loved this book.

What's your favorite work of historical fiction?


  1. I haven't read either one of these, but both of them sound like books that I would really enjoy.

    1. They were both excellent, but of course, I'm biased, as a feminist historian. :)

  2. I wish we were still roomies so that I could bop across the living room and borrow "Remarkable Creatures" from you right now . . .

    your Little :)

    Oh, and I don't know what my absolute favorite historical fiction novel is, but I just read Katherine Howe's new book "House of Velvet and Glass" and quite enjoyed it. (Her first book "Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" is even better--you would love it!)

    1. I miss living with you! You had all the best fantasy fiction novels. My next reviews will be on Graceling and Fire, which I just finished rereading. Then I need to get Bitterblue from the library--it's not in paperback yet. =/

      I've read "Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," when I was in France! I loved it. :) I'll be sure to check out her next one!

  3. i read remarkable creatures and thought it was amazing!

    1. Tracy Chevalier rarely disappoints. I've read many of her books!


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