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Failsafe historical fiction

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Failsafe historical fiction

Postby EC2 » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 10:29 am

This article about reading recommendations came up at Twitter this morning.
http://mobile.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/07/21/recommendations
I thought it was interesting and had some valid points about the kind of 'doors' that will suit different readers. I didn't altogether agree with the choice of failsafe books, but it did set me to thinking. If you had to choose 3 historical novels where every reader could find at least one that they would enjoy, what would you suggest - given that reader tastes are going to be very diverse. I've only just started pondering the mix of titles, but I'll report back when I've had a proper think.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 2:20 pm

I've heard Nancy Pearl on NPR, and she is very fun to listen to.

However, I don't believe there is any such thing as a "failsafe" book; that is, a book that anyone will like. That's like trying to pick a food that anyone will like. Impossible.

That being said, I would like to hear your recommendations. Or anyone else's!

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: A Trail through Time by Jodi Taylor & Angel by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 3:17 pm

OK, here's mine:

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (yep you'll probably shout at me, but speaking personally this is the book that got me seriously back into HF)
Dissolution by C J Sansom (more of a histmyst I know, but might be one to tempt the guys into giving HF a go)
Currently reading "A Trail through Time" by Jodi Taylor & "Angel" by L J Ross

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 5:45 pm

Michy, I think you are right and there is no such thing as a failsafe book, but I thought it would be fun to think of 3 that might if you could suspend disbelief. It gets you thinking because you have to think outside your own comfort zone in order to widen the net to suit all tastes so that at least one out of the three is going to suit someone.

So I'd say something like

Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
Here Be Dragons - Sharon Kay Penman
The Silver Pigs by Lyndsey Davis

Or
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Gallow's Thief by Bernard Cornwell
Flashman by George Macdonald Fraser

Or
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (which I couldn't get through but other love).
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnolley
Under an English Heaven by Robert Radcliffe
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 6:26 pm

I also don't think there are any failsafe HF books, esp given how many subgenres there are- romance, fantasy, speculative.....Not only would it be difficult to find such a book given where the person is in terms of knowlege and interest, but you have to take into consideration someones mood and interest that specific day. A book like Birds Without Wings took me three tries till suddenly I was in the story.

Regardless, I do love recommendations, and she's as good as any resource.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 6:49 pm

Interesting comments from Nancy Pearl. Recommending books for other people is quite an intuitive process - obviously you start with what they already like, but often as not it's cues you pick up from chatting that give you ideas about what might suit.

What really intrigued me was that fact that "Nancy Pearl is so iconic that when the Archie McPhee novelty company decided to create a librarian action figure, they modeled it after her."

There's a librarian action figure? Way to go!

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 7:41 pm

It's interesting that the books (or most of them, anyway) that Madeleine and EC mentioned are HF. Not surprising! ;) I think, though, that the books that would appeal to the widest audience are those that transcend genre. I'm thinking of some of the classics, if for no other reason than because they have stood the test of time, which itself indicates that they have a broad appeal.

I'm thinking along the lines of Les Miserables or A Tale of Two Cities or A Christmas Carol. Les Mis and A Christmas Carol, especially, have exceeded the bounds of typical classics, in that they have really taken on a life of their own in the 20th century.

But even books like these I couldn't say are really "failsafe" because I don't believe that anyone and everyone would like them!

P.S. I just realized that EC titled this thread "failsafe historical fiction", so I guess some of my comments above missed the mark! However, even if we're talking just HF, veering towards the time-tested classics would probably have the best chance of appealing to the widest audience.
Last edited by Michy on Fri July 23rd, 2010, 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 8:19 pm

"annis" wrote:There's a librarian action figure? Way to go!


There's a new book released earlier this year, that has a librarian on the cover wearing a red cape!

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SarahWoodbury
Avid Reader
Location: Pendleton, Oregon
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Postby SarahWoodbury » Fri July 23rd, 2010, 10:44 pm

Because so many people grow up saying "I hate history!" (I remember accidently eavesdropping in a bathroom stall once on such a conversation), I think HF sometimes needs an additional 'gateway', which is a willingness to read something historical at all. That falls under 'setting', true, but people think very differently about reading a book set in Seattle, and one set in Seattle in 1872 . Pillars of the Earth, interestingly, is a well-rounded 'gateway' book that I've heard people often recommend, though many people on this forum despise it.

For HF, some people seem to get into it through Arthurian stuff--historical fantasy--and then segway into reading something in a similar era (Bernard Cornwell) with less of a fantasy element. But clearly, given the opinions on this forum, it might be hard to come up with a book that everyone likes!

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Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Sat July 24th, 2010, 12:08 am

Oh gosh. Just three? There is such a huge range of HF out there, depending on where and how you go. What gets some folks wildly excited will bore others to tears (The title The Angel's Game just popped into my head -- I loathed it). And I adored The Name of the Rose, but then I also had four years of Latin under my belt, and picked up on most of the literary allusions and the like.

What I'd Pick for a newbie to the genre:

(the Guys)
The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
Until the Sun Falls by Cecelia Holland
Flashman by George McDonald Fraser

(the Gals)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
Angelique by Sergeanne Golon


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