It’s Week Two of Nonfiction November and it’s Doing Dewey’s week – see the main post here.

Week 2: (November 8-12) – Book Pairing with Katie at Doing Dewey: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 

I usually find this week quite tricky, because it’s difficult if you don’t read much historical fiction, I think. Well, both novels I’m choosing this time are historical novels, so that bears my theory out!

The Sagas keep everyone going

In my first pairing, I put Sally Magnusson’s novel “The Sealwoman’s Gift” and the memoir/travelogue “Saga Land” together. Full disclosure: I haven’t finished reading “Saga Land” yet. But in both, the Icelandic sagas are woven through the narrative, being retold in fuller form in “Saga Land” but with Guðrun from Laxdaela Saga appearing in both. In “The Sealwoman’s Gift”, the sagas anchor the central character in her old world when she’s confronted with a new one, and in “Saga Land” they act as a link from Australia to Iceland and as something to return to when Kari confronts his past and patrimony.

In addition, both book covers feature a lovely depiction of the sea, in almost the same colour!

The Gambia then and now

For my second pairing, I’m taking Alex Haley’s “Roots” as a historical novel rather than a work of straight nonfiction: like “The Sealwoman’s Gift”, it uses real people’s lives and historical events / ways of living in the world, but Haley invents the details and discussions within that (no less powerfully, of course). The first third of the book is set in The Gambia, and even after Kunta Kinte has left his home continent, he thinks back to it, and Haley returns there at the end, and Toufah Jallow’s memoir, “Toufah” is also set in The Gambia. I found the contrast of the sophisticated rural village system in the 19th century and the sophisticated yet corrupted urban system in the 21st century interesting, and the fact that women’s lives in both seemed to be controlled and made smaller by the men, but certain women stand out and stand apart.


Do you think these pairings work?