Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Novels Based on Real People

Sometime we read fiction to escape from reality, and sometimes we read fiction to get a clear picture of reality, and sometimes we read fiction that hovers somewhere in the middle. Today we are looking at some novels that are based on real people, but which are heavily fictionalized.

the royal we by heather cocks and jessica morganThe Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (aka the Fuggirls) wrote novel that is very obviously inspired by, but not directly based on Prince William and Duchess Kate. Bex is an American who enrolled at Oxford, and Nick is the prince down the hall. They fall in love and their relationship is fairly uncomplicated…until the tabloids find out. Bex is swept into the parties and duties of a royal girfriend, and Nick has to deal with the pressures of dating a non-royal–and an American. The Royal We is look at the interior lives of royals, but is a fun and satisfying enough romantic comedy that you’ll enjoy it even if you don’t follow the royal family’s every move.
Borrow, unless you’re the type who writes Prince Harry fanfic, in which case, you probably already own it.

marchMarch by Geraldine Brooks

Okay, March is a novel by Geraldine Brooks based on the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, which Louisa May Alcott based on her own life. Got it? While this story is a few steps away from Alcott’s life, Brooks pulled heavily from Alcott’s writing, both her fictionalized accounts of serving as a nurse in the Civil War and living on a transcendentalist commune, and historical documents about the Alcott family. March focuses Mr. March’s time as an army chaplain and answers the question “what the heck was he doing while his wife and daughters were singeing their bangs in Concord?” while also giving a picture of the Civil War through the eyes of an abolitionist.
Buy. This Pulitzer Prize-winner isn’t just for Louisa May Alcott fans.

frances and bernard coverFrances & Bernard by Carlene Bauer
Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and the poet Robert Lowell, Frances & Bernard is the story of two writers who meet at an artists’ colony. They exchange letters (it’s an epistolary novel), become friends, and eventually fall in love, but you don’t read this book for the love story. You read it for the conversations Frances and Bernard have about friendship and faith and who they are becoming as artists. In tone, it feels very similar to Graham Green’s The End of the Affair, but lighter–many of the blurbs written for this book use words like “effervescent” and I think there’s at least one comparison to actual champagne.
Buy. This is one of my favorites books published in the last few years, and I think everyone should read it.

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