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June 16, 2021

2 Audiobooks for Fans of Historical Fiction

by Donna Huber

There is not much I love more on a warm summer day than to lay in the shade with my eyes closed and a breeze softly wafting across my skin. What makes that scenario even better? An audiobook that transports me to a different time or place. Two audiobooks that I recently listened are perfect for such a day. Both are historical fiction stories based on real people in real places.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

Love and Fury
May 2021; Macmillan Audio; 978-1250159113
audio (10h34m), ebook, print (288 pages)
biographical fiction
A few years ago I read Silva's debut novel Mr Dickens and His Carol (read my review) but I hadn't seen anything else from her since. I actually had just checked to see if I had missed something when I got an email stating she had a new book coming out. I immediately requested the audiobook even though I didn't know who Mary Wollstonecraft but I loved how she brought Dickens alive.

Love and Fury is set during the 11 days following the birth of Wollstonecraft's daughter who would eventually become Mary Shelley the author of Frankenstein. During these 11 days in August 1797, Wollstonecraft told her life story to her "little bird". 

I don't usually read stories set in the 1700s, but as it was more focused on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft the time period wasn't super important - yes, there were some historical events that shaped Wollstonecraft's worldview, but it could have easily been the story of a woman in the 1960s and 1970s. This actually makes a lot of sense as Mary Wollstonecraft is thought to be the founder of the feminist movement. Her views on women's rights and role in society were way ahead of her time. 

I found the story interesting and I admit I went to the Wikipedia entry for Mary Wollstonecraft about halfway through the book to see how much was known truth and speculations. Because she was a woman in the 18th century there is definitely speculation on her life in literary/historical record. But Silva stuck with what is considered largely fact (this is helped by the fact that her husband William Godwin had her memoir published after her death). If Mary had lived a century earlier she would have probably been thought a witch. She was outspoken and lived a life that would have been considered scandalous in 18th century. 

If you enjoy biographical fiction and want to learn about a woman who is not widely known today though her thoughts and views have influenced much of society, then I recommend picking up Love and Fury

Silva and the narrator Ell Potter were able to transport me to Mary's bedside and through her life. I could have easily been Parthenia Blenkinsop, the midwife who tended to Mary as she told her life story. The audiobook was that immersive of an experience.

Buy Love and Fury at Amazon 

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

Sunflower Sisters
March 2021; Ballantine Books; 978-1524796402
audio (17h50m), ebook, print (528 pages)
historical fiction
As I'm behind on my advance copies, when possible I'm checking out the audiobook from the library to help speed up my reading. Sunflower Sisters is also set during a time period that I don't typically like to read - the 1860s and Civil War. But I knew if anyone could make me enjoy a story set then it would be Martha Hall Kelly. I'm glad that it is the third book in her series which started with Lilac Girls as I probably wouldn't have picked up it if it had been the first. But I wanted to learn more about the women who would influence and shape the life of Caroline Ferriday.

What I didn't like about the book would be the same things I would likely say about any book set during the Civil War. I'm glad that it was set in Maryland as it was a divided state during the war - even though it didn't secede with the south many plantations were sympathetic to the Confederate cause and sent men to fight on their side. If you watched the 2016 PBS television series Mercy Street you will find several similarities in the storylines.

I found it interesting that in the 1860s nursing was considered a man's job because at some point in history it came to be seen as a women's career. I also didn't realize it was called the Sanitation Commission and not the medical corp or something else that clearly labeled medicine. 

Like in Kelly's previous novels, there are multiple storylines, each with its own female protagonist, that eventually intertwine. In Sunflower Sisters, we have Georgeanna Woosley, the ancestor of Caroline Ferriday; Jemma, a slave on the Peeler Plantation; and Anne-May Watson, mistress of the Peeler Plantation and owner of Jemma.

I enjoyed the characters. They are all multi-dimensional and fully fleshed-out characters. Like we saw in Lilac Girls and Lost Roses, it feels like Caroline Ferriday's ancestor has the smaller role. Yet like Caroline and Eliza, her role has a big impact. Getting to know these women through this series I would say that is how these women saw themselves - that their role is small but what they do is important.

Like I was transported to Wollenstonecraft's bedside, I often felt that I was beside the characters. That is how alive they felt. The audiobook production, with its multiple narrators, was seamless and well done. 

And I was right about Kelly being able to make me enjoy a story set at a time period I don't like reading. Her storytelling pulls you right in and you come to care so much about the characters that other points just fade into the background.

Buy Sunflower Sisters at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. I have an audio book you might be interested in - The Last Dragon - medieval fantasy romance.
    Tweeted your post.