I love the collision of fact and fiction (in novels, I must add. Not, for example, at government briefings…) – especially when they’re wrapped up in a brilliant story. If you’re also a fan, here are my choice for excellent novels that, while definitely being works of fiction, take their inspiration from real people.
5 Novels Based on Real People
/ Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Real life inspiration: Fleetwood Mac’s turbulent love lives
Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote a piece explaining how Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s relationship inspired her to write this story of a band in the 1970s. Daisy Jones & The Six feels like you’re reading a slice of rock ’n’ roll history, while discovering some truly complex and likeable characters too.
/ The Girls by Emma Cline
Real life inspiration: Charles Manson’s cult
Charles Manson and his cult of followers notoriously killed 7 people in the summer of 1969, including actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski. The Girls is narrated by Evie Boyd, we are introduced to her as an older woman and learn about her misspent summer as a teenager on a Californian ranch through flashbacks.
Cline’s dreamy, exceptionally captivating writing style immediately delivered me into the muggy, hazy summer of the late ’60s and perfectly conveys the point-of-view of an impressionable 14-year-old girl who ends up in a situation beyond her depth.
/ See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Real life inspiration: The Lizzie Borden murders
Andrew and Abby Borden were hacked to death with an axe in their own home and Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, was accused of their murders. She spent 10 months in prison awaiting trial but was acquitted and set free. BUT – did she do it? That’s what See What I Have Done brilliantly explores.
/ The Rapture by Claire McGlasson
Real life inspiration: A middle-class English religious cult
The Rapture is a fictitious account of the Panacea Society, told from the point of view of society leader Octavia’s 25-year old daughter, Dilys (a member IRL). They really were a religious group of mainly older, widowed middle-class women who believed that Octavia was the eighth prophet and daughter of God. The Rapture is an engrossing version of what happened.
/ Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
Real life inspiration: American politician, Hilary Rodham Clinton
Rodham is a fictional account – although it heavily references real events – of the life of Hillary Clinton. The Hillary Clinton in this book though, never marries Bill to become Clinton, she remains Hillary Rodham. Love her or hate her, this is a brilliantly written imagining of what could have been.
And there you have it! I’d love to read more novels based on real people – what can you recommend?