The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
Strength. Courage. Bravery. These are traits people think of for survivors of great trial, great wars, and significant historical events. You may not realize it, but today is historically significant. In years to come, historians and authors will be writing about the COVID-19 Pandemic. Stress, anxiety, depression, and fear as well as hope, resilience, ingenuity, and altruism have emerged in people all over the globe because of this disruptive virus. How do we make sense of all of this? How do we cope? Where do we find strength? Historical Fiction books are my go-to source for stories that provide me with the resolve to keep calm and carry on with dignity and respect for myself and for others. Here are some recommendations to get you started in your journey to more courage:
The book that inspired this post is The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper. Not too much is said about Elizabeth R, the Queen Mother. Elizabeth has the strength, resolve, compassion, and grace, yet Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” If you enjoyed The Crown on Netflix, sit back, relax, and find your strength in the strength of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a touching story of two French sisters’ struggle to survive during the occupation of France in World War II. One sister, Vianne, seems to be a rather boring housewife. Yet, throughout the story, she is steadfast in surviving the occupation and keeping her daughter alive. Meanwhile, the other sister Isabelle is risking her health, safety, and liberty by aiding downed airmen to cross the mountains into Spain. Both of these sisters demonstrate such an iron will of survival through their mutual stubbornness and strength. While their bravery is exhibited in vastly different ways, they are both incredible inspirations for survival and perseverance in horrible situations.
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelley takes place in London’s East End at the turn of the 19th century. Fiona works for pennies in a tea factory to help support her Irish family survive the harsh East End when her life is turned upside down. Her strength and resolve throughout the situation can inspire perseverance in all of us.
In The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, Alice seeks to escape her dreary English life by marrying Bennet and moving to Kentucky. Unfortunately for Alice, she traded one prison for another, but she finds her own way to escape the confines of post-depression era Appalachia and finds peace in the Pack Horse Library. Alice jumps through so many hoops, perseveres, and is an advocate for female independence. Go Alice!
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly tells the story of Honora Keely as she marries a farmer in Ireland before the potato famine. Honora watches her children starve, husband die, and family suffer through the famine but eventually finds an escape to America where she builds her family a life in frontier town Chicago. Honora earns her name and is a great example of Irish strength and survival.
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory begins the Tudor Series with Katherine of Aragon marrying Arthur, Prince of Wales. Katherine is one of the most steadfast women I have read about. She was devoted to her husband, country, and faith throughout all of her trials. Her resolve never wavered, and this book does a fantastic job of showing Katherine’s determination to fulfill her destiny.
My final and more light hearted book recommendation is the only novel I have read by Danielle Steel, The Duchess. Angélique is cast out of her pampered life by her half-brother when their father suddenly dies. With no references, she is unable to support herself. She flees to Paris where she makes a living in an unusual trade for an aristocratic lady. Despite her pampered upbringing, Angélique pushes herself and uses what skills she does have (manners, fashion, and hosting), to create a life for herself while also enabling other women to have more control over their circumstances. Très bon, Angélique.