If You Like….

Last week’s post about biographies got me thinking about one of the favorite subgenres of my teen years: the faux diary or memoir, in which a writer impersonates a historical character, purporting to share their innermost thoughts. It provides an intimate take on well-known historical events.

My hands-down favorite of this sub-genre? Anne-Marie Selinko’s Désirée (even if it does provide a very unflattering portrait of one of my favorite historical characters, Hortense de Beauharnais).

If you like the faux diary/memoir, you’ll probably like….

— Jean Plaidy’s Victoria Victorious. It makes sense to start with the greats. No one chronicles queens like Jean Plaidy. A lot of her work is in the third person, but she does have a few, like Victoria Victorious, that provide the more direct, pseudo-memoir approach, including The Queen’s Confession (Marie Antoinette) and Queen of This Realm (Elizabeth I).

— Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. This is the book that is credited with single-handedly reviving historical fiction as a genre and launching an entire cottage industry of Tudor spin-offs. It is incredibly compelling. (The same cannot be said of the movie, which the historical non-fiction writer Leslie Carroll brilliantly described as “Betty and Veronica go to Tudor-Land”.)

— Now that I’ve gotten the Big Names out of the way, two of my recent favorites in this vein are Michelle Moran’s The Heretic Queen, about Nefertiti’s daughter (a topic about which I knew nothing until reading this book) and Juliet Grey’s Becoming Marie Antoinette (self-explanatory).

— I’m also a big fan of Susan Holloway Scott’s thoughtful portraits of the less sympathetic sorts of historical characters: she brings Barbara, Countess Castlemaine, and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, very much to life, giving us a chance to see the world through their perspectives.

I feel like I’m forgetting some very obvious examples…. Which are your favorite faux memoirs?


  1. Jessica S. on January 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Carolly Erickson is my favorite author in this genre…The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The Tsarina’s Daughter (about Maria Romanova), The Secret Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots, The Secret Life of Josephine…these are just the ones I own, I forget how many I’ve read.

    Like you, Erickson is an actual historian — she has a Ph.D. and several non-fiction works to her name, which read just as well as her fiction.

  2. Stephanie on January 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    ARGGHHH!! I can’t keep up with all of these books!! Every time I want something new to read I come here but I’m about 40 books deep right now. :fret:

  3. Joanne M. on January 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I enjoyed The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, both by Syrie James.

    I’ve read the first of Sandra Gulland’s Josephine Bonaparte’s trilogy (written as a diary) and it quite good: The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B.; I still need to read Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe &
    The Last Great Dance on Earth.

    I have two of Margaret George’s hefty novels on my TBR list for 2012: The Autobiography of Henry VIII (with notes by his fool, Will Somers) and The Memoirs of Cleopatra. They look yummy!

    Here’s to great books in 2012!

  4. Shenandoah Strojek on January 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I also like Carolly Erickson and Jean Plaidy. C.W. Gortner also provides an interesting perspective as well.

  5. Shelli on January 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 Arizona Territories by Nancy E. Turner

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