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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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Michy
Bibliophile
Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue July 27th, 2010, 5:06 am

"Margaret" wrote:One potential candidate for a Revolutionary War failsafe list might be Edward Rutherfurd's New York


I wouldn't have thought of this, because I was sooo disappointed in New York. I really enjoyed Rutherfurd's earlier books, but this one was the worst he's put out, IMO. Of course, I did listen to an abridged audio version so perhaps all the "good parts" were cut out. But I didn't like it even well enough to give a print version a try.

"Chris Little" wrote:Failsafe recommendations:

HF authors that patrons generally came back for more included Binchy,


Interesting.... many years ago I read a lot of Binchy, she used to be one of my favorites, but I never would have thought of her as HF.
Last edited by Michy on Tue July 27th, 2010, 5:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Tue July 27th, 2010, 12:51 pm

No, not at all.

I never cared for Rutherford, but someone who writes in a simlar but much better way is Michner. His books Hawaii and Poland were the type that gave readers a taste of the history of the place, and a need to learn and read more. Trying to reread any of his books doesn't work for me; my reading tastes have changed too much. But I think for someone who hasn't read much HF, he might be one to start with.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Tue July 27th, 2010, 2:27 pm

"Ash" wrote:No, not at all.

I never cared for Rutherford, but someone who writes in a simlar but much better way is Michner. His books Hawaii and Poland were the type that gave readers a taste of the history of the place, and a need to learn and read more. Trying to reread any of his books doesn't work for me; my reading tastes have changed too much. But I think for someone who hasn't read much HF, he might be one to start with.


Ash that is exactly the same as me! I've never been a Rutherford fan, but in the past have really liked Michener, but I might find them a bit of a slog now.
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 » Tue July 27th, 2010, 2:31 pm

I've read a few Micheners and enjoyed them: in particular, Poland and Caravans. It's been many years since I've read Michener, so I don't now how he'd hold up for me now. I, too, found Rutherfurd's work very similar. One of the things I liked about Rutherfurd is that he would often work a bit of irony or quirkiness into his characters and scenes.

With regards to HF about the Revolutionary War that might have broad appeal -- I just finished Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane, which is set in Virginia during the Revolution. It was a top-notch book, very well-written, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series (seven in all) which continue in time up to WWII. Dawn's Early Light has interesting and engaging characters, with several historical figures worked into the plot in a plausible way. It's basically a romance, but a chunk of it is devoted to battlefield scenes, so I think it would appeal to both men and women.
Last edited by Michy on Tue July 27th, 2010, 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Tue July 27th, 2010, 2:44 pm

"Michy" wrote:I've read a few Micheners and enjoyed them: in particular, Poland and Caravans. It's been many years since I've read Michener, so I don't now how he'd hold up for me now. I, too, found Rutherfurd's work very similar. One of the things I liked about Rutherfurd is that he would often work a bit of irony or quirkiness into his characters and scenes.


I really enjoyed Caravans. It wasn't quite as long as some of the others. I read the Israel one - The Tel? Forgotten its title. I loved Centenial, both the book and the film. I also enjoyed his earlier, shorter works. Sayonara, The Bridges at Toko Ri, and South Pacific.
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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sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Tue July 27th, 2010, 3:11 pm

The Source is the Israel one. Fantastic.
I'm very happy to hear people mention both Poland and Caravans. These are not among the most cited Michener novels, but I think they're both great.
I still have a few of his to work through. I started reading them about 10 years ago but they still read as good to me.

Yes, Rutherfurd is a modern-day Michener in format. I've not read his last two or three, but definitely Sarum and the often overlooked Russka were great. Already by London and The Forest, he was getting more plodding for me.

Another similar book was Roma by Steven Saylor. Much more lightweight than Michener, but same sort of structure. I found it much more engaging than his Gordianus mystery series.

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Tue July 27th, 2010, 6:37 pm

As a Brit, I am fascinated by the American Revolution. I have read non-fiction on the subject (but probably more from a British/political perspective). So I am very interested in the novels mentioned here. Having studied European history during 19th/20th centuries ad infinitum through various degrees, I now rarely delve any later than the French Revolution, not because I hate them, just because I need something different and with a different approach. The American Revolution hits many of my buttons for content.

Any suggestions for fiction relating to this period is gratefully received.

I found Poland very readable despite the fact that I am generally not fond of novels that sprawl across time. I was particularly interested in the period of union with Lithuania even if the novel skirted rather more difficult later issues. However, I found Rutherford tedious.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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cw gortner
Bibliophile
Location: San Francisco,CA
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Postby cw gortner » Tue July 27th, 2010, 6:46 pm

"sweetpotatoboy" wrote:Another similar book was Roma by Steven Saylor. Much more lightweight than Michener, but same sort of structure. I found it much more engaging than his Gordianus mystery series.


I really enjoyed Saylor's ROMA. The sequel EMPIRE is due out soon. I've been offered an advanced copy for review and am looking forward to it.

Of Rutherford's work, I've enjoyed RUSKA and LONDON. I have several of his others but haven't gotten to them yet. I find I need to be in a certain mood for his work. I read SARUM too long ago to comment; like PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Follett, the saga books become so long, with such vast casts of characters, by the end I've usually lost more than I retain :)
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!
THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
[B]THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE LAST QUEEN
[/B]

www.cwgortner.com

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cw gortner
Bibliophile
Location: San Francisco,CA
Contact:

Postby cw gortner » Tue July 27th, 2010, 6:47 pm

"sweetpotatoboy" wrote:Another similar book was Roma by Steven Saylor. Much more lightweight than Michener, but same sort of structure. I found it much more engaging than his Gordianus mystery series.


I really enjoyed Saylor's ROMA. The sequel EMPIRE is due out soon. I've been offered an advanced copy for review and am looking forward to it.

Of Rutherford's work, I've enjoyed RUSKA and LONDON. I have several of his others but haven't gotten to them yet. I find I need to be in a certain mood for his work. I read SARUM too long ago to comment; like PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Follett, the saga books become so long, with such vast casts of characters, by the end I've usually lost more than I retain :)

Forgot to add: For American Revolution books, I can't recommend highly enough Martha Peake by Patrick McGrath.
THE QUEEN'S VOW available on June 12, 2012!

THE TUDOR SECRET, Book I in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles
[B]THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE LAST QUEEN
[/B]



www.cwgortner.com

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Matt Phillips
Reader

Postby Matt Phillips » Tue July 27th, 2010, 7:16 pm

"Margaret" wrote:Part of the problem here, I think, is the seeming obligation to write about the American Revolution from a patriotic American perspective which never questions the rightness and greatness of the Revolution, enshrining it in a haze of rag-tag majesty and sacrifical glory. This sort of thing tends to quash true literary depth. I'd love to see a Wolf-Hall style treatment of the Revolutionary War that would plunge us back into the time period so effectively that, while reading, we might almost forget who ultimately prevailed. Taxes, I think, were just one of many issues that upset American colonists, but then as now, anger tends to crystallize over money as one of the more concrete symbols of oppression, real or imagined. I think many colonists felt disrespected by the English government over a broad range of issues, and disrespect can often arouse a fury that would seem out of proportion to the actual monetary impact of a tax. Anytime an issue arouses enough passion to lead to a war, there should be the potential for a humdinger of a good novel - if a writer approaches it with the freedom to portray the characters and the issues unhampered by what amounts to a hallowed origin myth.


Those are all good points. It doesn't just boil down to "taxation without representation"; rather, that was the crucible for larger emotions and tensions that had been building for several years. Many (but far from all) colonists felt the British government was using them like a parasite rather than letting them grow and develop according to their own best interests, which had been the status quo for the first 150 years of the colonies' existence. The colonists who felt this way protested, the British ignored and then overreacted to their concerns, the cycle repeated a few times, and things spiraled downward to bloodshed.

This is a hard dynamic to capture in a novel, compared to the arguably more tangible, clear-cut, more uniformly understood issues that led to the Civil War. In the Revolution, people fought for one side or the other (this was also a civil war, remember) based a wide variety of motivations: ideology, economic interest, family allegiance, pre-existing local feuds, community defense, etc. It would be interesting for a novel to address the Revolution through those diverse lenses, how the Revolution changed those characters and what the outcome meant for them. It's my understanding that Sally Gunning's The Rebellion of Jane Clarke is a pretty even-handed treatment of many of these issues.

In the case of my WIP, my characters live on the frontier, where their motive is simple self-preservation against Tory and Indian enemies. Ideology doesn't mean much when your crops are burning and your children are missing. That said, the real people they're based on stayed on the side of independence when it might have been easier and safer to switch.


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