Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Characters in… Historical Fiction!

February 19, 2013 Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 29

Greetings, Bookworms.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “OMG I have been waiting ALL WEEK to read another LIST written by Katie at the behest of The Broke and The Bookish!” I live to serve, my friends. This week we got to pick our top ten characters from any genre. I decided to go with Historical Fiction because I love it so so so much. Also, I’ve read a lot of it, so I have a lot of character options. Ready? Let’s do this.

1. Belle from Tracy Chevalier’s The Last RunawayRemember a few weeks back when I was discussing locales I’d like to see featured in more books? And one of my choices was a HAT STORE?! BELLE RUNS A HAT STORE! She also takes Honor in when she’s got no place to go, makes her a pretty (yet Quaker friendly) bonnet, and is awesome. Oh yeah, and she totally helps escaping slaves in the Underground Railroad. Let’s recap shall we? Badass lady habberdasher and abolitionist who takes in the less fortunate. Yeah.


2. Fergus from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Fergus shows up in Dragonfly in Amber as a street urchin who has grown up in a brothel. I don’t know if you noticed or not (I’m about to brag in a big way)… But I’ve got a fondness for street urchins. You may or may not have seen my post on the Insatiable Booksluts last week… Oh you hadn’t? Yes go check it out.

3. Jack from Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. It’s hard to not like Jack. He’s got spirit, he’s smart, he is singularly motivated by his love for Aliena. It doesn’t hurt at all that in the Starz miniseries, Jack was played by Eddie Redmayne. Swoonsville.


4. Francie Nolan from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Oh Francie! I love this girl. She loves to read, and it’s her escape from the mean streets of Brooklyn. She loves her father in spite of his alcoholism. She is met with disappointment after disappointment in her life and comes through it all to make a life for herself. I just want to hug her.

5. Dinah from Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. I really just want to make this girl a t-shirt that says “My Brother Got An Award-Winning Musical And All I Got Was This (AWESOME) Book.” Uh, if that statement doesn’t make sense to you, you ought to go read that post. Dinah is Joseph’s (as in the Technicolor Dreamcoat) sister. Those jerk brothers that sold him into slavery also slaughtered her husband’s entire village. Jerks.

The woman on the cover reminds me of the Statue of Liberty for some reason. I have issues.

6. Idgy from Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes. I absolutely adore Idgy. She’s spunky and feeds the hungry and helps out her friends. She’s also completely in love with her best friend, but respects Ruth’s boundaries and gets her lady love elsewhere. (This is why you should read the books, people. They always de-Lesbian Hollywood scripts. More’s the pity- it added so much depth to the character…)

7. Hannah from Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool. Hannah’s got a lot on her plate. She’s accidentally psychic and as such is recruited by the Tudor court. Being a royal fool to Mary I poses its own set of challenges… Hannah is secretly Jewish and in the court of a Catholic Queen so staunch in her beliefs that she orders the execution of all sorts of Protestants in England. Dicey time to be a religious dissenter, especially given Mary’s father’s penchant for beheadings.

8. Rudy from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Rudy was such a great character. I mean, the kid is Jesse Owens’ biggest fan- growing up in Nazi Germany. My favorite scene is when Rudy smears himself in soot and imagines his career as an Olympic runner. Little kids don’t know that blackface is offensive (and really, in Nazi Germany, the fact that he was idolizing a black athlete at all was more controversial than the potentially offensive choice of makeup.) I love him for going against the grain, even though it’s dangerous. He’s got a good heart that even the Nazis can’t kill.


9. Suora Zuana from Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts. Suora Zuana is admitted to a convent against her will, but finds herself a place there where she is prized for her books and her knowledge of healing. I love a girl who can’t be parted from her books! She’s also a bit of a rebel and pulls a Shakespearean style stunt. Fantastic.

10. Joan from Diana Woolfolk Cross’s Pope Joan. Talk about ballsy. This lady wants to learn so badly that she dresses like a man and joins a monastery. She’s also a great healer and sort of accidentally gets elected Pope. I know. It’s nuts. In the best possible way.

There we have it. My Top Ten Historical Fiction Characters. What do you think? Any you would add?

29 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Characters in… Historical Fiction!”

    • Words for Worms

      Dad, you better be careful what you put online. You’ll get yourself excommunicated. But really. A lady pope would be refreshing. Sigh. They’ll never change.

  1. Darlene

    Selene from Cleopatra’s Daughter. She’s brave, loyal, patient, artistic, has a little attitude, and eventually, she gets A-L-L rewarded for it! I really want you to read it.:)

  2. therelentlessreader

    I feel like you crawl around in my head and know just what answers I would pick for the same question!

    Pope Joan! What a fantastic book. I’d almost forgotten about it.

    Psst..think I have to steal that certified awesome button and slap it up on my blog 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      DUDE! Now I feel all psychic and stuff. SWEET. I love Pope Joan so much. And… I sent the button to the account you have listed- let me know if you don’t get it or it doesn’t work! 🙂

  3. Sami

    Aibileen from The Help…I loved Minny but Aibileen pulled at my heart strings and made me cry.

    • Words for Worms

      I’ve seen the movie was too many times. It’s one of those movies that’s different enough from the book to be good on its own merits and not anger me for having taken liberties… You know?

  4. Rory O'Connor

    So after about a million people recommended it, I finally broke down and bought The Book Thief. I haven’t started it yet, but it is happening soon. With the amount of people who said it’s amazing, I figured I should own it!

  5. Ilene (BinkyBecky)

    Great list! I still have not read Pope Joan. I’ve had it on my shelf for over ten years. All the kudos from you and your commenting followers inspires me to move it up on my TBR list. I must add some of my favorites: Elizabeth Winthrop from the *Winthrop Woman* by Anya Seton; Sethe from Toni Morrison’s *Beloved*: Sarah Prine from Nancy E. *Turner’s These Is My Words*; Vida Winter of *The Thirteenth Tale* by Diane Setterfield; Beatrice Lacey from *Wideacre*, the 1st in Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre trilogy. Beatrice, a compelling, sinister character I loved to hate. I HAD to know what she would do next! Wow, there are so many others I love dearly. Thanks Word Girl!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh my gosh, I read Wideacre and I just couldn’t handle it! I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the sequels after all the incest and whatnot. I admire you! 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      The day I start hating people for what they do or don’t read is the day you have permission to practice your ninja skills on me. (I say this because your ninja skills would totally kick my butt and it’s a good deterrent to keep me from becoming a book snob.) I dislike people for many reasons, but never because of their taste in literature.

  6. Sarah Says Read

    Aww Fergus. He’s so awesome. But how could you not pick Young Ian?? Because as much as I love Fergus, Young Ian is the BEST! I hope DG gives him his own book someday…

    And hooray for The Pillars of the Earth and The Red Tent and so much more historical fiction awesomeness! This list reminds me why historical fiction used to be like my FAVORITE genre. For some reason I only dip into it once in a while now.

    • Words for Worms

      OMG this comment! I had a MAJOR INTERNAL DEBATE about picking Fergus over Young Ian! I ultimately decided that so many of the reasons I adore Young Ian would give away crucial plot points and I’m trying to get better about spoilers (but only a little better.) Plus choosing Fergus allowed me to pimp out my Booksluts post.

  7. H. Stern

    Ugh. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh! This is the first post you’ve written where I literally have nothing to add. I haven’t read any of these. <—– feeling like an illiterate loser. 🙁

  8. Riv @ Bookish Realm

    I am so shamefully unaware of historical fiction genre. But so many books in your list I want to read some time – The Book Thief, Pillars of the Eart, Outlander series. A Tree Grows in Brookly is luckily in my Classics Club list so will get to that sooner or later. Thanks for very informative post 🙂

  9. david

    FYI – I first learned of Pope Jone from a play by Caryl Churchill. The first act is a dinner party (an idea shamelessly stolen from Steve Allen’s ‘Meeting of the Minds’, but well), but makes a good and interesting read. The other guests include a handful of female semi-historical figures, all compelling.

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