Fiction and Fact: Book Pairings for Nonfiction November!

I’m a little late in getting started with NonFiction November this month, but I do have a few reads lined up for the coming weeks.

non fiction

2018’s Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness and Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves! Nonfiction November is a month dedicated to celebrating nonfiction and this week’s challenge is to pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title.

I read quite a lot of fiction that is based on fact (it’s one of my favourite genres) and I have a few reviews lined up for later in the month. In the meantime, here are a few pairings that would make for interesting back to back reading!

The Cure by Carlo Gébler and The Burning of Bridget Cleary by Angela Bourke

In March 1895, in Tipperary, Bridget Cleary, a healthy, intelligent and attractive 26 year old, fell ill with what was possibly bronchitis. Just over a week later, her husband, aided by her relatives, including her father, burnt her to death in her own kitchen and buried her in a makeshift grave. Her family to believe that they had killed a changeling, a sickly, frail facsimile left in the place of Bridget when she was abducted by fairies. Her husband insisted that his real wife would soon return at a nearby fairy ring, riding a white horse. Of course, she didn’t and her husband was jailed for his part in her murder.

Often cited incorrectly as the ‘last witch burned in Ireland’ the story of Bridget Cleary lives on in legend and in Angela Bourke’s wide ranging examination of the case The Burning of Bridget Cleary, she not only explores the crime against Bridget, but the social and cultural and folk lore beliefs in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century.

Carlo Gébler turns the tragedy into a fictional tale with The Cure, but sticks quite closely to the facts, creating a claustrophobic tale that brings Bridget vividly to life. You can read my review from earlier in the year here.

The Girls by Emma Cline and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

Helter Skelter is now a classic of true crime writing, exploring the terrifying case of Charles Manson and the murders that were carried out by his followers, who were mostly young women. Written by Vincent Bugliosi who prosecuted the criminal case against Manson, Helter Skelter explores what motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and more importantly, what motivated the young women who blindly obeyed his orders?

Emma Cline’s The Girls takes the Manson Murders as her inspiration for this tale of Evie Boyd, a young teenager in the 60s who becomes embroiled in a cult with a charismatic leader. Interestingly, Cline looks at the story through Evie’s obsession with Suzie, another girl in the group and explores the pain and confusion of those teenage years where you look for acceptance and community.

 Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates and Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite books – an epic, fevered book exploring the life of troubled star Marilyn Monroe, which uses conjecture and poetic license to create a portrait of a troubled woman in search of someone to take care of her. It’s a dangerous undertaking and Oates does skirt with reality to fit her thesis. Many may not care for her reading of what happened to Marilyn and where she places the blame for her death, which is why it would be good to read this alongside Anthony Summer’s Goddess.

Goddess is an exhaustive and explosive work which comes to similar conclusions about Monroe’s death as Oates does, but with the heft of over 600 interview and references to back it up. Summer was a well- respected journalist who had previously written about the Kennedy’s and this is considered the definitive book on Marilyn Monroe

Gull by Glenn Patterson and The DeLorean Story: The Car, The People, The Scandal by Nick Sutton

The story of John DeLorean, his legendary car, Back to the Future and the infamous cocaine bust is one of myth, but in Gull, Glenn Patterson tells the well-worn story from a distinctly Northern Irish point of view. In the novel, the story of the rise and swift fall of the DeLorean car is told from the perspective of DeLorean’s American fixer and a female factory worker at the plant that promised so much to the people of Northern Ireland and delivered so little. This is a fun and engaging read and as Patterson’s author’s note says: “I made this all up, apart from the bits you just couldn’t.” I reviewed Gull for last year’s Reading Ireland Month.

For a more factual rendition of what happened to the DeLorean Dream you could pick up Nick Sutton’s The DeLorean Story.  Sutton was a senior manager who worked for DeLorean from the beginning of the saga to its inglorious end and explores the planning behind the car, the British government’s involvement and the swift and pubic downfall of the company and the man.

With a new movie, Driven, coming out this year about John DeLorean’s life, it looks like public interest in his story isn’t about to wane any time soon!

Have you read any of these pairings? Do any appeal? Do check out all the other great pairings posts for Nonfiction November!

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Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

30 Comments Leave a comment

  1. The Marilyn Monroe books sound very intriguing. While I don’t tend to read very much in the way of non-fiction, I always seem to enjoy it when I do. Maybe that’s down to the skill of writers (e.g. Joan Didion, Olivia Laing) alongside the nature of the subject matter.


  2. These multiple book posts are a killer! I feel I must read Helter Skelter (loved The Girls, btw) and The Cure – unfortunately it’s out of print so I shall have to see if I can get hold of a second-hand copy. Please don’t do this to me again… 😉


  3. Interesting pairings! I really love Joyce Carol Oates’s style of writing: so sharp, clever, and full of life. I hadn’t known she published a book about Marilyn Monroe, but I’ll have to add it to my list.


  4. I love your picks, what an eclectic and interesting range of topics in these pairings! Blonde is also one of my favorites, I absolutely loved it when I read it years ago. I’m excited to see your mention of the Bridget Cleary book, I’d considered reading that one when I was looking for creepy Halloween-time reads. Happy to hear you recommend it. It sounds so disturbing though. I’m always wondering if I should read Helter Skelter since it’s considered so highly in true crime, but I’ve never been so interested in the Manson murders. It sounds like maybe it addresses more about the psychology behind it than just the gory details.


    • Helter Skelter is relatively well balanced but the very nature of those crimes lends itself to a certain gruesome titilation. Bridget Cleary is excellent. Really thorough and puts the crime in context without being dry. Bridget really comes to life.


  5. Oooooh some fantastic pairs here!! Both Helter Skelter and The Girls are on my TBR – I think you might have just inspired me to read them back to back 😉 Thank you!!


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