Normal Women: Nine Hundred Years of Making History

Synopsis

Normal Women: The #1 New York Times bestselling historical novelist delivers her magnum opus—a landmark work of feminist nonfiction that radically redefines our understanding of the extraordinary roles ordinary women played throughout British history.

Did you know that there are more penises than women in the Bayeux Tapestry? That the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was started and propelled by women who were protesting a tax on women? Or that celebrated naturalist Charles Darwin believed not just that women were naturally inferior to men, but that they’d evolve to become ever more inferior?

These are just a few of the startling findings you will learn from reading Philippa Gregory’s Normal Women. In this ambitious and groundbreaking book, she tells the story of England over 900 years, for the very first time placing women—some fifty per cent of the population—center stage.

Using research skills honed in her work as one of our foremost historical novelists, Gregory trawled through court records, newspapers, and journals to find highwaywomen and beggars, murderers and brides, housewives and pirates, female husbands and hermits. The “normal women” you will meet in these pages went to war, ploughed the fields, campaigned, wrote, and loved. They rode in jousts, flew Spitfires, issued their own currency, and built ships, corn mills and houses. They committed crimes or treason, worshipped many gods, cooked and nursed, invented things, and rioted. A lot.

A landmark work of scholarship and storytelling, Normal Women chronicles centuries of social and cultural change—from 1066 to modern times—powered by the determination, persistence, and effectiveness of women.

Editorial Review

In “Normal Women,” Philippa Gregory embarks on a formidable journey through the annals of British history, repositioning women from the margins to the very heart of historical narrative. This groundbreaking work of feminist nonfiction emerges not only as Gregory’s magnum opus but also as a seminal contribution to the historiography of England. With a keen eye for detail and a storyteller’s flair, Gregory, a seasoned historical novelist, leverages her extensive research skills to illuminate the lives of women across nine centuries—from the Norman Conquest to the threshold of modernity. This expansive, inclusive tome challenges traditional historical narratives, presenting a history that is as much about England itself as it is about the women who shaped it.

Gregory’s “Normal Women” is a testament to the extraordinary roles played by ordinary women, whose contributions have been overlooked or sidelined in mainstream history. Through her diligent trawling of court records, newspapers, and journals, Gregory introduces us to a diverse array of female figures: from highwaywomen to housewives, pirates to pilots, all of whom played pivotal roles in shaping the social, political, and cultural landscapes of their times. This work not only highlights the persistence and effectiveness of women through centuries of social and cultural change but also redefines our understanding of history itself. At over 500 pages, accompanied by illustrations and a full-color insert, “Normal Women” stands as a behemoth of scholarship and storytelling. Gregory’s ability to weave together the individual stories of these women into a cohesive and engaging narrative ensures that readers will luxuriate in every word, coming away with a radically redefined understanding of British history. In “Normal Women,” Gregory has not only crafted a landmark work of feminist nonfiction but also provided a template for how history should be told, with women firmly at its beating heart.

Other Reviews

“Lively, timely, and gloriously energetic. Each page bursts with life, and every chapter swirls with personalities left out of traditional narratives of Britain’s past. Philippa Gregory has produced something rare and wonderful: a genuinely new history of [Britain], with women at its beating heart.” Dan Jones, New York Times bestselling author of The Plantagenets

“You’ve devoured her novels, but now Gregory shows off chops as a historian. . . . An amazing read.” —The Los Angeles Times

“An expansive, inclusive, and elegantly woven nonfiction account of the lives of women in England from the Norman Conquest to the modern day. To describe it as merely a retelling is to undermine a core principle: This is a history of women in England, yes, but it is also a history of England, full stop. . . . At more than 500 pages, with extensive endnotes and a 30-page index, Normal Women is a behemoth you may be inclined to skim until you realize you’re actually luxuriating in every word.” —The New York Times

“Gregory has the novelist’s eye for the quirky and the vivid; the wryness of a confident narrator. [Normal Women] is a lasting work of social history.”
The Times (UK)

“A triumph of popular history.” The Spectator

“This ambitious book is a rich contribution to women’s public history—and a powerful reminder that normal women have long made history.” BBC History Magazine

“Magisterial, exhaustively researched . . . A colourful panorama of social history. Gregory is a gifted storyteller and this well-illustrated read zips along at an enjoyable pace. . . . Her insights are fascinating.” Daily Mirror (UK)

“Gregory brings her extensive knowledge of women in society over the centuries to . . . [this] tour de force of research.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Richly researched…reveals a number of surprising truths.” New York Post

Stunning. . . . Full of surprises. . . . A brilliant, essential read.The Independent

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Normal Women Nine Hundred Years of Making History by Philippa Gregory
4.5/5
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.5 stars
Publication Date: February 27, 2024
ISBN13:978-0063304321

Author: Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is a renowned British novelist and historian, celebrated for her meticulous research and compelling storytelling in the realm of historical fiction. Born on January 9, 1954, in Nairobi, Kenya, Gregory spent her early childhood in Africa before moving to England. She pursued her education in English literature at the University of Sussex and later earned a PhD in 18th-century literature from the University of Edinburgh. Gregory first made her mark with “Wideacre” (1987), a novel that set the stage for a successful writing career. She is best known for her Tudor Court and Cousins’ War series, which have gained international acclaim and were instrumental in rekindling popular interest in England’s medieval and Tudor periods. Her novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” is particularly celebrated, having been adapted into both a BBC radio drama and a major motion picture, showcasing her ability to bring historical figures to life with depth and nuance.

Beyond her fiction, Philippa Gregory has made significant contributions to the field of history through her non-fiction works, particularly with her landmark book “Normal Women,” which shifts the historical narrative to center on women’s experiences and contributions throughout British history. This work reflects Gregory’s dedication to feminist nonfiction, challenging traditional historical narratives and highlighting the roles of ordinary women in shaping history. Her approach combines rigorous historical research with a narrative style that captures the imagination, making the past accessible and engaging for a broad audience. Gregory’s influence extends beyond literature; she is an active voice in discussions on historical accuracy and representation in media. Through her novels, non-fiction, and public engagements, Philippa Gregory continues to be a pivotal figure in bringing women’s stories to the forefront of historical discourse.

Sources

  • Philippa Gregory – Official Website – Philippa Gregory. (2014). Philippa Gregory. https://www.philippagregory.com/

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