Top Ten Tuesday: Famous Authors in Fiction

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Bookish Characters (these could be readers, writers, authors, librarians, professors, etc.)”

There were lots of ways to approach this topic, but I’ve decided to list ten historical fiction novels about the lives of real authors. I have read all of them apart from the last one, which I’m reading now. Let me know if you can think of any more!

1. Daphne du MaurierDaphne by Justine Picardie
I’m starting with one of my favourite authors, who is being celebrated this week in a Reading Week hosted by Heavenali. Picardie’s novel follows Daphne through the period when she was working on her biography of Branwell Brontë, while in the modern day we meet a PhD student who is writing a thesis on Daphne and the Brontës.

2. Charles Dickens and Wilkie CollinsDrood by Dan Simmons
This Gothic mystery is supposedly narrated by Wilkie Collins as he and Dickens (the two authors were good friends in real life) search Victorian London for a mysterious figure known only as Drood. There were some things I loved about the book – the setting, atmosphere and biographical information – but I was disappointed by the negative portrayal of Collins, who I confess to liking more than Dickens!

3. Charlotte, Emily and Anne BrontëA Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan
I’ve read a few other books about the Brontë sisters (and their brother Branwell), but didn’t enjoy any of them as much as Jude Morgan’s beautifully written novel. He captures the personalities of the three sisters so well.

4. William ShakespeareThe Tutor by Andrea Chapin
I’ve read other fictional portrayals of Shakespeare too – including one by Jude Morgan, in fact – but I decided to feature this one, in which Andrea Chapin explores a possible theory to explain what Shakespeare was doing during his ‘lost years’ of 1585-1592.

5. DH LawrenceZennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore
Zennor is a village on the coast of Cornwall and this novel is set during the period when DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived there towards the end of World War I. I loved the way Dunmore wrote about life in a small village during wartime, but found the parts of the book about the Lawrences less interesting.

6. EM ForsterArctic Summer by Damon Galgut
This novel follows Forster’s visits to India and Egypt and the relationships he forms there that will influence his novels. Although I found a lot to admire about this book, I think I would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d read more of Forster’s own work first.

7. Jakob and Wilhelm GrimmThe Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
This book takes a fascinating look at the inspiration behind the Brothers Grimms’ well-known fairy tales. Forsyth writes the novel from the perspective of Dortchen Wild, a young woman who grows up next door to the Grimm family in the small German state of Hessen-Cassel.

8. Bram StokerShadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
The Irish author Bram Stoker’s story unfolds alongside the lives of English stage actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in this epistolary novel written in the form of diary entries, letters and transcripts of recordings. O’Connor weaves lots of allusions to Dracula into the plot and shows how Stoker could possibly have drawn on his own experiences to help write his most famous novel.

9. Geoffrey Chaucer and John GowerA Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger
We’ve all heard of Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, but his friend, the poet John Gower, is much less well-known. The two of them team up to solve some intriguing mysteries in A Burnable Book and its sequel The Invention of Fire.

10. Thomas MannThe Magician by Colm Tóibín
I don’t have much to say about this one as I’m only a few chapters into it, but I’m already learning a lot about the life of Thomas Mann. This is one of the shortlisted titles for this year’s Walter Scott Prize and is maybe not a book I would have chosen to read otherwise.

~

Have you read any of these? Which other novels featuring famous authors can you recommend?

18 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Famous Authors in Fiction

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Quite a few here that I didn’t know about and which sound intriguing – so thank you for that! I quite enjoyed the novel about Patricia Highsmith by Jill Dawson: The Crime Writer (although it felt ever so slightly predictable).

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you found some books here that interest you! Thanks for the recommendation, although I might wait until I’ve actually read some Patricia Highsmith books first – I have Strangers on a Train coming up soon on my Classics Club list.

  2. Jane says:

    Gosh, lots here that I think I will love especially Daphne, A Taste of sorrow and Zennor, all on my list. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel about a real person, something to think about!

    • Helen says:

      I hope you’re able to read some of these soon. I enjoy reading novels about real people, as long as they’re not still alive, which just feels wrong to me.

  3. hopewellslibraryoflife says:

    Daphne–must read this. She’s been turned into a fictional sleuth too, like they did to Josephine Tey. I did a post on it–https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpress.com/2020/12/02/more-real-people-turned-into-fictional-sleuths/ (Tey is referenced in the earlier post linked in this post)

    • Helen says:

      Thanks – that’s interesting. I was aware of the Josephine Tey books by Nicola Upson, but I hadn’t heard of the du Maurier mystery.

  4. whatmeread says:

    I agree with you on Arctic Summer. I have read quite a bit of Forster but not for a long time. I have read Shadowplay, which I really enjoyed, and The Magician. Toibin also wrote The Master, about Henry James, which I think is even better. And Joseph O’Connor also wrote Ghost Light, about John Millington Synge, although I liked Shadowplay better. I wonder if your A Taste of Sorrow is the same book as Charlotte and Emily, also by Jude Morgan, which I have read. You know how they like to rename books. It drives me crazy. Morgan also wrote Passion about the Romantic poets and The Secret Life of William Shakespeare.

    Here are some other books for this list. A Country Road, A Tree, by Jo Baker about Samuel Beckett, The Whale by Mark Beauregard about Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik about poet Forugh Farrokhzad, Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan about Robert Louis Stevenson, A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano about Flannery O’Connor, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell about William Shakespeare, and Studio St.-Ex by Ania Szado about Antoine de St. Exupery. Not all of these are that good, but I recommend A Country Road. A Tree, The Whale, Song of a Captive Bird, and Hamnet.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I think A Taste of Sorrow and Charlotte and Emily are the same book. I have read the other books by Jude Morgan on the Romantic poets and Shakespeare, but I only wanted to include one book by each author on my list.

      I will be reading A Country Road, a Tree for the Walter Scott Prize project eventually, and I have read Hamnet but I don’t know the other books you mention. Thank you!

  5. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed Justine Picardie’s Daphne and have read Drood – and felt much as you did about it. I didn’t know that Zennor in Darkness is about D H Lawrence and his wife, otherwise I’d have read it before now as I enjoyed John Worthen’s biography of Lawrence.

    Gyles Brandreth has written a series of novels featuring Oscar Wilde. I’ve read one – Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders. which I enjoyed.

    • Helen says:

      I think you might enjoy Zennor in Darkness. I would probably have appreciated it more if I’d known something about DH Lawrence before I started. I wasn’t aware of the Gyles Brandreth books – thanks!

  6. Carmen says:

    I have read The Magician and Arctic Summer from your list. I have also read The Master by Colm Toibin (Henry James), West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan (J.Scott Fitzgerald), Exiles by Ron Hansen (Gerald Manley Hopkins), The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg (George Sand), The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (Truman Capote), and Love and Ruin by Paula McLain (Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn). I highly recommend The Master and The Swans of Fifth Avenue from my list.

    • Helen says:

      I’m not very far into The Magician yet, but I’m finding it interesting. If I enjoy it, I’ll think about reading The Master. I’m sure I would like The Swans of Fifth Avenue, as I’ve enjoyed other books by Melanie Benjamin. Thanks for the suggestions!

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