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?