History Rewritten

Herstory, say I, not History.

A book I always recommend is Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (TRT). I loved it so much it inspired the thesis I wrote as part of my MA. I became an even bigger fan when after emailing Diamant about my studies, she responded providing me with a quote on the topic. How decent. Ever since I read it, over eight years ago, I have had a new-found appreciation for historical fiction. More specifically though, re-visions of classic literature. I won’t start on about TRT because I’d be here all day … BUT, in a nutshell it is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, who featured briefly in the Bible in a chapter called ‘The Rape of Dinah’. Diamant transformed Dinah’s story by re-imagining it as a love story, lending voice to a woman who had been relegated to the margins in what is possibly the world’s most famous story. How brave!

So, understandably then, I was intrigued when these two titles landed in for review: The Maid by Kimberly Cutter and Memoirs of a Bitch by Francesca Petrizzo. Both breathe life into women too often left buried in dusty textbooks.

The Maid: Cutter ditches the familiar portrait of legendary warrior Joan of Arc in this story of betrayal, love and courage. Instead she introduces young Jehanne, a girl whose sister was murdered, who was forced into marriage and suffered at the hands of a violent father.

In Memoirs of a Bitch nineteen-year-old author Petrizzo lets Helen of Troy tell her own tale in her debut, translated from the Italian by Silvester Mazzarella. From her childhood in Sparta to her infamous disappearance with Paris, Petrizzo imagines Helen not as a mythical legend, but rather as a living, breathing woman. A woman liable to list, love, greed and fear. It’s a brave undertaking from a previously unpublished teenager, which made me enjoy it all the more.

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