Different Looks at the Same Historical Event

I like reading historical fiction because it puts a human face on historical events. Different books that cover the same historical period have different points of view and add to understanding that period. I recently read 2 novels on the Civil War set in Washington, DC and 2 novels on Mormon life in the 19th century. All four novels feature strong female characters.

I just finished reading Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini which is based on the real life of Elizabeth Keckley. This a fascinating story of Elizabeth Keckley who was born a slave, bought freedom for herself and her son, and started a dressmaking business in Washington which catered to the wealthy high society ladies before and during the Civil War. When President and Mrs. Lincoln came to Washington, Mrs. Lincoln chose Elizabeth to be her personal dressmaker. But Elizabeth was more than a dressmaker. She was there during private family moments and was a confidant to Mrs. Lincoln. There are interesting details about life in Washington during the Civil War, life among the African-Americans living there, and the Lincoln family.

Another take on the Civil War is My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. Mary comes from a long line of midwives, but she wants more. No one will let her study to be a doctor in the 19th century. When the Civil War breaks out, she goes to Washington to help at the Union Hotel Hospital. There are descriptive scenes of life in Washington during the Civil War although some scenes are not for the squeamish—medicine was primitive and conditions deplorable.

The 2 novels on Mormon life in the 19th century that I read recently are: True Sisters by Sandra Dallas and The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. True Sisters is a character-driven novel based on the true story of Mormon pioneers walking and pulling handcarts 1300 miles from Iowa to Utah. This absorbing book tells the courageous stories of several women who bond during the journey as they face heat, cold, blizzards, hunger, accidents, deaths, and births. A different take on Mormon life in the 19th century is about the true story of Ann Eliza Webb who was the 19th wife of Brigham Young and who brought a divorce suit against him. Alternating with Ann Eliza’s story is the story of a modern day wife of polygamy who is also a 19th wife. Interesting details of life under polygamy.

Historical fiction books cover time periods from Ice Age to recent history. It’s a fun way to learn about historical events.



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