10 Historical Novels Featuring Strong Female Leads

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Historical fiction novels are one of my favorite genres. They have compelling plots and the best female characters. In this post, I’m going to share some great historical fiction novels that feature courageous female protagonists who stand out with their strength and resilience. These women navigate challenging times, face tremendous adversity, and leave a lasting impact on their worlds.

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: This novel tells the story of Evelyn Hugo, an aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon, who decides to give an exclusive interview about her glamorous and tumultuous life to an unknown journalist, Monique Grant. Evelyn recounts her rise to fame, her seven marriages, and the secrets she has kept hidden for decades. As the narrative unfolds, Monique discovers surprising parallels between her own life and Evelyn’s, leading to a shocking revelation. 

Why It’s Great:Evelyn Hugo is a compelling character. I absolutely loved this book just because of this feisty heroine. She navigated a male-dominated industry with courage and determination. This is definitely a must-read for both historical fiction lovers and those who love strong female leads. Her story is one of ambition, love, and resilience.


2. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, this novel follows Elsa Martinelli, a woman abandoned by her wealthy family and husband. She is left to fend for herself and her children on a failing farm in Texas. As drought and economic hardship ravage the land, Elsa makes the difficult decision to leave for California in search of a better life. 

Why It’s Great: Elsa Martinelli’s journey is a testament to the strength and perseverance of women during one of America’s most difficult periods. Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors, known for telling inspiring stories of strong heroines. Elsa Martinelli is one of her most memorable female  characters.


3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Summary: This novel intertwines the lives of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan with a talent for radio technology, during World War II. Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris to the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where they become involved in the French resistance. Werner is recruited by the Nazis and sent on missions to track down resistance fighters. As the war progresses, their paths converge in a beautifully written tale of survival and hope. 

Why It’s Great: Marie-Laure’s courage and ingenuity in the best part of this book.  Despite her blindness, she navigates a world ravaged by war.  Her story is a poignant reminder of the power of the human spirit.


4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Summary: This novel follows Kya Clark, the “Marsh Girl,” who grows up isolated in the swamps of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. Kya becomes an expert on the natural world around her but is shunned by the local community. When a local man, Chase Andrews, is found dead, Kya becomes the prime suspect. The story weaves together a murder mystery with Kya’s coming-of-age journey, exploring themes of loneliness, love, and survival. 

Why It’s Great: I absolutely loved Kya. She is brave, compassionate, and most importantly, she lives life on her own terms without giving up. Her independence and deep connection to nature make her a compelling and strong female character. 


5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Summary: This sweeping multi-generational saga traces the divergent paths of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, and their descendants over three hundred years. Effia is married off to a British slaver, living in comfort at Cape Coast Castle, while Esi is captured and sold into slavery, enduring the horrors of the Middle Passage and plantation life in America. The novel explores the impact of their different fates on their descendants, revealing the enduring legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Why It’s Great: In my opinion, the strong female characters in Homegoing show incredible strength and adaptability in the face of systemic oppression and cultural upheaval. Their stories highlight the resilience and fortitude of women across generations. I think this might be one of the most honest accounts of slavery in fiction, thoroughly researched and deeply moving.


6. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Summary: This science fiction novel follows Dana, an African American woman living in 1970s California, who is inexplicably transported back in time to the antebellum South. There, she meets her ancestors, including a white plantation owner and a black slave woman. Dana must face the harsh realities of slavery to ensure her survival and protect her family line. Each trip back in time becomes more dangerous as she deals with the threats and moral challenges of the past.

Why It’s Great:  This is one of the most compelling time travel historical fiction books I have ever read. I absolutely loved Dana’s bravery and cleverness in facing the brutal realities of slavery. Her ability to adapt and survive in a hostile environment makes her a powerful and compelling character.


7. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Summary: This novel is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a young Irish immigrant in 19th-century Canada who is convicted of the murder of her employer and his housekeeper. The story is told through Grace’s conversations with Dr. Simon Jordan, a psychiatrist who is trying to uncover the truth about her involvement in the crime. 

Why It’s Great: Grace’s complex personality and the ambiguity surrounding her guilt or innocence make her a fascinating and enigmatic character. Her strength lies in her survival and ability to manipulate her circumstances, despite the oppressive conditions of her time.


8. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Summary: This novel imagines the life of Ana, the wife of Jesus. Ana is a rebellious and ambitious woman who loves writing and dreams of an independent life. Her story is about self-discovery and defiance against the rules of her time. Ana’s journey takes her from Galilee to Alexandria, where she tries to fulfill her dreams and find her place in the world.

Why It’s Great: Ana’s rebellious spirit and determination to pursue her own path make her a strong and inspiring female character. Her story explores themes of faith, love, and the quest for identity.


9. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Summary: Set in Depression-era Kentucky, this novel follows Alice Wright, a British woman who marries an American and moves to rural Kentucky. Alice becomes a member of the Packhorse Library Project, delivering books to remote communities with a group of strong-willed women. 

Why It’s Great: The women of the Packhorse Library Project, including Alice, show great courage and determination in their mission to spread literacy. Their friendship and strength in tough times make them wonderful and inspiring  protagonists.


10. The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd

Summary: This novel is based on the true story of Eliza Lucas, a young woman in 18th-century South Carolina who takes over her family’s plantations at the age of sixteen. Eliza faces many difficulties as she attempts to cultivate indigo, a valuable crop, while navigating the complexities of colonial society and managing enslaved workers. 

 Why It’s Great: Eliza Lucas is a remarkable historical figure whose strength and brilliance make her a compelling protagonist. Her story is one of the most inspiring, highlighting the power of determination and the impact of one woman’s vision and perseverance.


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Stephy George
Stephy George

Hi I am Stephy ! I became a bookworm in my late twenties. So I created this little corner of books online to share my love of reading with YOU! I want to help you find the best books to read so you won’t ever have to worry about your next read!

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