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Match book: Looking for historical novels with memorable characters

Reader: Anonymous

Book Challenge: I enjoy reading Match Book. Many years ago I read “A Woman of Independent Means” by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. I loved the story and the style of how it was written. I also thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful writings of “Stones From the River” by Ursula Hegi and “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which I read many years ago, too. Any suggestions of equal beauty?

Match Book:

At first glance these books seem really different, but they are all historical novels with well-realized, memorable characters. Thanks for reminding me about the Hegi and Zafón, both of which I had forgotten about. I liked those books, too.


Start with “Fugitive Pieces,” a debut novel by Canadian writer Anne Michaels, which shares some of the qualities of characterization and history as the books you mention. Michaels is a poet, too, so the writing sings. Your affection for “A Woman of Independent Means” makes me think that you would love the historical sweep and perspective of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and that you would be fascinated by the women at their centers — Elena and Lila . Book one is “My Brilliant Friend.” If you like the first in the series, you are in luck — there are three more: “The Story of a New Name” ; “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay,” and “The Story of the Lost Child.”

I also think you would like the work of Louise Erdrich, whose characters often show up in one book and then reappear in others, creating a whole fictional universe. The first three of Erdrich’s novels I read were her first three novels, “Love Medicine,” “The Beet Queen,” and “Tracks.” They remain among my favorites. Although I think you will like “The Bingo Palace” and “The Round House,” too.


“Fugitive Pieces,” by Anne Michaels.
“My Brilliant Friend,” by Elena Ferrante.
“The Story of a New Name,” by Elena Ferrante.
“Love Medicine,” by Louise Erdrich.

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