Historical characters in fiction

Last night’s discussion of Paula McLain’s lovely novel The Paris Wife was a great success. During the course of discussion, a number of other related books and movies were suggested: the film Midnight in Paris, which also centers around Americans in Paris in the 1920s, and Ernest Hemingway’s own memoir, A Moveable Feast, in which the author recounts his early years in Europe with his first wife, Hadley – the title character in The Paris Wife.

 We also talked about other novels about real historical characters, and came up with some great examples: Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, about English politician Thomas Cromwell; The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, about writer Edith Wharton; and Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, about architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. These novels are set in different times and places – England in the 1500s, New York and Europe in the early 1900s, and Chicago in the early 1900s, respectively – but each author does an impressive job imagining real people back to life, and blending history and fiction.

Join us for the next Staff Picks book club meeting on Thursday, November 1, at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room (4th floor). The book is Arcadia by Lauren Groff and copies are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk. Feel free to attend whether or not you’ve finished the book, and remember there’s no need to attend all of the Staff Picks book club meetings – it’s okay to pick and choose.

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