The Winthrop Woman

“A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” (The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton)

Cover of The Winthrop WomanI’ve been told that historical novels are divided into two camps: true history made accessible through fiction, and an adventure/love story set in a historical backdrop. The Winthrop Woman is a masterpiece of the former. Incredibly well researched, Anya Seton brings to life the contradictory, strong character of Elizabeth Winthrop who survived in early 17th century America. Though her life does not necessarily influence the course of history, Setton chose her subject well: the unsettling Elizabeth lives through a witch hunt, a puritanical government, three husbands and a scandalous love affair. The reader will not suffer for lack of true drama, and will learn so much more about America’s infancy than a history class could ever teach.

Before this book, I had met few historical novels that I enjoyed, but The Winthrop Woman has converted me. Now, I can’t get enough of them. There is an excitement that comes from wondering exactly how much of a book is true that one can’t get from a purely fictionalized work. TheWinthrop Woman also had me turning to the internet every few pages to fact-check, as it piqued my curiosity about the time in a way dry lectures never did. As a recent convert, I’d love to hear from all of you long-time historical fiction lovers out there. Where should I go from here? What are the main authors of the genre?

 Recommended Action: Buy BorrowTBRAvoid

Length: 608

Ending: slightly vague, but satisfying

Further Reading: As I said in the post, I don’t know much about historical fiction, but I would guess that Phillipa Gregory would be a good place to go from here, as she says in the introduction that Seton was a huge inspiration for her.


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