100 books like Hester

By Margaret Oliphant,

Here are 100 books that Hester fans have personally recommended if you like Hester. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

Curious about the century that produced works as varied as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Bleak House? This is the book for you! Because it is organized by topics—money and social precedence to begin and the workhouse and death to end—it is easy to dip in and out of. It has added greatly to my understanding of 19th-century fiction. The invaluable glossary at the end lists terms that are strange to us in the 21st century and gives clear brief definitions. Now I know that loo was not an English euphemism for a toilet and that a ha-ha was not a joke! 

By Daniel Pool,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "delightful reader's companion" (The New York Times) to the great nineteenth-century British novels of Austen, Dickens, Trollope, the Brontes, and more, this lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules and customs that governed life in Victorian England.

For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell "Tally Ho!" at a fox hunt, or how one landed in "debtor's prison," this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the "plums" in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the…


Book cover of A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

There is something magical about this book. It’s a brilliant piece of research and a touching evocation of a particular summer when, among other things, the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were secretly planning their elopement, Tennyson was planning a walking tour in Switzerland that included a visit to Charles Dickens, P. T. Barnum was touring with “General Tom Thumb,” and the artist Benjamin Haydon was approaching suicide. I was bowled over by the richness of lives lived packed into just two hundred pages.

By Alethea Hayter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sultry Month as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wine and dine with Victorian London's literati in a heatwave in one of the first ever group biographies, introduced by Francesca Wade (author of Square Haunting).

Though she loved the heat she could do nothing but lie on the sofa and drink lemonade and read Monte Cristo .

'Never bettered.' Guardian
'Brilliant.' Julian Barnes
'Wholly original.' Craig Brown
'A pathfinder.' Richard Holmes
'Extraordinary.' Penelope Lively

June 1846. As London swelters in a heatwave - sunstroke strikes, meat rots, ice is coveted - a glamorous coterie of writers and artists spend their summer wining, dining and opining.

With the ringletted 'face…


Book cover of The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

This novel was a big bestseller in 1856! I read it because I saw a reference to it as having religion as a strong theme and I thought it would be useful research for my book. While it turned out to be of little use for that, I found it fascinating for its picture of family life. I did not anticipate the subplot about the abuse of opium in infant care. Critics claim that the portrait of Ethel, the protagonist, made possible the later depictions of Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. It’s a bit long-winded but a good read. And if you are looking at my list, you probably like long-winded 19th-century novels anyway.

By Charlotte Mary Yonge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos. (2) In books where there are images such as portraits, maps, sketches etc We have endeavoured to keep the quality of these images, so they represent accurately the original artefact. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Book cover of The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

I love primary sources and histories that reproduce them. Here is another amazing feat of historical detection. “Details have been taken from eye-witness accounts; original Certificates of Registration, paintings, and contemporary lithograph drawings have been reproduced,” may sound dry but this book is alive with the voices of immigrants telling both tragic and triumphant tales. Anyone whose Irish ancestors came to North America between 1846 and 1851 will want to examine the numerous passenger lists that Laxton includes. I think of this book and all it taught me when I visit my hometown and stop by the monument commemorating Irish immigrants on the shore of Lake Ontario.

By Edward Laxton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Famine Ships as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1846 and 1851, more than one-million people--the potato famine emigrants--sailed from Ireland to America. Now, 150 years later, The Famine Ships tells of the courage and determination of those who crossed the Atlantic in leaky, overcrowded sailing ships and made new lives for themselves, among them the child Henry Ford and the twenty-six-year-old Patrick Kennedy, great-grandfather of John F. Kennedy. Edward Laxton conducted five years of research in Ireland and interviewed the emigrants' descents in the U.S. Portraits of people, ships, and towns, as well as facsimile passenger lists and tickets, are among the fascinating memorabilia in The Famine…


Book cover of The Half-Sisters

Katie Lumsden Author Of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

From my list on surprisingly feminist Victorian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Victorian literature after reading Jane Eyre when I was thirteen years old. Since then, I’ve worked my way through Victorian book after Victorian book, and my own novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, is a love letter to Victorian fiction. One of my key interests within Victorian literature has always been its exploration of gender and gender roles. There are so many fantastic Victorian proto-feminist novels, and while some are still remembered and read, many more have been largely forgotten. These are just a few of my favourite proto-feminist Victorian novels, all of which are very underrated and very much worth a read!

Katie's book list on surprisingly feminist Victorian

Katie Lumsden Why did Katie love this book?

Published in 1848, The Half Sisters is the story of two sisters, Alice and Bianca, who grow up without knowing of the other’s existence.

Alice is middle-class, legitimate, and respectable, and goes on to have the life Victorian women were meant to have – namely, marriage. She is also bored and unhappy. Meanwhile, her sister Bianca, who is working-class, illegitimate, and definitively not respectable, chooses a different path.

Keen to make a career for herself, she becomes an actress, and throughout the novel passionately defends women’s right to work. The novel is engaging and accessible, though often forgotten now, and I love how it fantastically examines the different options open – and, indeed, closed – to women in the Victorian period.

By Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Half-Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the "public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank…


Book cover of Dombey and Son

Katie Lumsden Author Of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

From my list on surprisingly feminist Victorian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Victorian literature after reading Jane Eyre when I was thirteen years old. Since then, I’ve worked my way through Victorian book after Victorian book, and my own novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, is a love letter to Victorian fiction. One of my key interests within Victorian literature has always been its exploration of gender and gender roles. There are so many fantastic Victorian proto-feminist novels, and while some are still remembered and read, many more have been largely forgotten. These are just a few of my favourite proto-feminist Victorian novels, all of which are very underrated and very much worth a read!

Katie's book list on surprisingly feminist Victorian

Katie Lumsden Why did Katie love this book?

Dombey and Son, first published in 1846–8, is, for me, a take-down of Victorian gender roles.

Mr. Dombey is everything Victorian men were meant to be: unemotional, focused on money and commerce, driven by duty not passion – and he is clearly in the wrong. He entirely dismisses his daughter, Florence, caring only for his business and for the son who will inherit it; for him, girls and women are scarcely human.

Through the characters of Mr. Dombey and his daughter, Dickens sets up a debate between traditional Victorian ideals of masculinity and femininity – in which femininity emerges victorious. There is so much I find wonderfully proto-feminist in Dombey and Son – I haven’t even started on the wonderful character of Edith! – and I can’t recommend it enough.

By Charles Dickens, Andrew Sanders (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dombey and Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'There's no writing against such power as this - one has no chance' William Makepeace Thackeray

A compelling depiction of a man imprisoned by his own pride, Dombey and Son explores the devastating effects of emotional deprivation on a dysfunctional family. Paul Dombey runs his household as he runs his business: coldly, calculatingly and commercially. The only person he cares for is his little son, while his motherless daughter Florence is merely a 'base coin that couldn't be invested'. As Dombey's callousness extends to others, including his defiant second wife Edith, he sows the seeds of his own destruction.

Edited…


Book cover of Jill

Katie Lumsden Author Of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

From my list on surprisingly feminist Victorian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Victorian literature after reading Jane Eyre when I was thirteen years old. Since then, I’ve worked my way through Victorian book after Victorian book, and my own novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, is a love letter to Victorian fiction. One of my key interests within Victorian literature has always been its exploration of gender and gender roles. There are so many fantastic Victorian proto-feminist novels, and while some are still remembered and read, many more have been largely forgotten. These are just a few of my favourite proto-feminist Victorian novels, all of which are very underrated and very much worth a read!

Katie's book list on surprisingly feminist Victorian

Katie Lumsden Why did Katie love this book?

Jill is a little-known but fascinating novel from 1884 about a young woman who, bored of her upper-class life, runs away from home to become a maid.

Jill is everything Victorian women weren’t meant to be: ambitious, scheming, brave, happy to lie, and much more interested in money than marriage. She’s also a bit in love with the woman she works for, which Victorian women certainly weren’t meant to be either.

There is so much I love about Jill, but one of my favourite things about it is how it turns Victorian tropes and expectations on their head, taking the set-up of a typically male adventure narrative and giving it to the character of Jill. It’s a wonderfully proto-feminist Victorian classic and well worth a read.

By Amy Dillwyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jill is an unconventional heroine - a lady who disguises herself as a maid and runs away to London. Life above and below stairs is portrayed with irreverent wit in this fast-paced story. But at the centre of the novel is Jill's unfolding love for her mistress. On the surface a feminist manifesto, Jill is a poignant story of same-sex desire and unrequited love. An accessible new introduction tells the autobiographical story on which the novel is based - the author's own passionate attachment to a woman she called her wife, but who she couldn't have.


Book cover of The Odd Women

Katie Lumsden Author Of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

From my list on surprisingly feminist Victorian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Victorian literature after reading Jane Eyre when I was thirteen years old. Since then, I’ve worked my way through Victorian book after Victorian book, and my own novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, is a love letter to Victorian fiction. One of my key interests within Victorian literature has always been its exploration of gender and gender roles. There are so many fantastic Victorian proto-feminist novels, and while some are still remembered and read, many more have been largely forgotten. These are just a few of my favourite proto-feminist Victorian novels, all of which are very underrated and very much worth a read!

Katie's book list on surprisingly feminist Victorian

Katie Lumsden Why did Katie love this book?

Published in 1893, The Odd Women focuses on women’s rights in the late Victorian period.

The odd in the title doesn’t mean strange but left out – not part of a pair. There were more women than men in late Victorian Britain, meaning that many women didn’t marry – which was a big deal in a society that saw marriage and childbearing as the end goal in life for women.

At the heart of The Odd Women are Rhoda Nunn and Mary Barfoot, both passionately dedicated to the cause of women’s rights; they run a typewriting school, offering women new career prospects and fulfilling single lives.

The novel has its limitations – Rhoda and Mary are only really concerned with the plight of middle-class women – but it is nonetheless a powerful criticism of injustice and patriarchy. 

By George Gissing, Patricia Ingham (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Odd Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`there are half a million more women than men in this unhappy country of ours . . . So many odd women - no making a pair with them.'

The idea of the superfluity of unmarried women was one the `New Woman' novels of the 1890s sought to challenge. But in The Odd Women (1893) Gissing satirizes the prevailing literary image of the `New Woman' and makes the point that unmarried women were generally viewed less as noble and romantic figures than as `odd' and marginal in relation to the ideal of womanhood itself. Set in grimy, fog-ridden London, these…


Book cover of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Karen Swallow Prior Author Of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

From my list on Victorian stories that have lessons for today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a little girl who fell in love with stories who grew up to be an English professor--which is another way of saying that it's my job to help others fall in love with great stories, too! I especially love novels from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries because so much new was happening in the world then that continues to shape how we understand ourselves today. So much has changed and yet the human condition--with all its challenges, disappointments, and dreams--hasn't changed.

Karen's book list on Victorian stories that have lessons for today

Karen Swallow Prior Why did Karen love this book?

This literary masterpiece employs some of the most common tropes of early novels: letters, a diary, an old mansion, forbidden love, rumors, gossip, and an overall air of foreboding mystery.

These are the ingredients that make for a gripping story. Yet, Anne Bronte does so much more in this remarkably pioneering work.

In fact, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of the earliest novels address head on alcoholism and domestic violence. It is at once a feminist novel and one that celebrates love that endures—but, most importantly, love based on equality.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall resists the age-old myth that a woman can change a man (or vice-versa).

By Anne Brontë,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

A beautiful edition of Anne Bronte's most enduring novel, to accompany her sisters' greatest books in Penguin Clothbound Classics.

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the…


Book cover of The Light Princess

Hester Velmans Author Of Slipper

From my list on forgotten fairy tales every adult should read.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of seven, already a devoted bookworm, I came upon a large stack of early-20th century children's magazines filled with stories, poems, and especially fairy tales, some the classic kind, and some weird, scary or unfamiliar. I don't know where those dog-eared, well-thumbed annuals came from, or what happened to them afterward – they were lost or given away when our family moved, I suppose. But I have never forgotten them, or the effect they had on my imagination and longings. I've been searching for those long-lost tales ever since... and it finally led me to decide I would just have to write a few of my own.

Hester's book list on forgotten fairy tales every adult should read

Hester Velmans Why did Hester love this book?

The 19th-century Scottish writer George MacDonald is said to be the father of the modern fairy tale, inspiring C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and many others. I chose The Light Princess because I find it his most charming tale: it's about a princess under a wicked spell who has been made weightless, unable to obey the laws of gravity. As in all good fairy tales, a prince eventually comes along to drag her back down to earth. He must sacrifice himself for her, but in the end, it is she who rescues him – from a feminist perspective, a most gratifying conclusion.

By George MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Light Princess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

George MacDonald (1824-1905), the great nineteenth-century innovator of modern fantasy, influenced not only C. S. Lewis but also such literary masters as Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien. Though his longer fairy tales Lilith and Phantastes are particularly famous, much of MacDonald’s best fantasy writing is found in his shorter stories. In this volume editor Glenn Sadler has compiled some of MacDonald’s finest short works―marvelous fairy tales and stories certain to delight readers familiar with MacDonald and those about to meet him for the first time.


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