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Cecelia Holland

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Margaret
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Cecelia Holland

Post by Margaret » Tue September 21st, 2010, 3:39 am

I'm amazed we don't have a thread yet for this author. She writes historical fiction for serious connoisseurs of the genre. Her novels are always meticulously researched. A lot of historical novelists do a good job getting the details of the events right and portraying the setting details with reasonable authenticity, but many fewer really get the characters' attitudes, personalities and behavior right. Holland does all of this well. Where she disappoints some readers is in portraying characters who are so true to their time they become unsympathetic for modern readers. Also, she is a literary writer who is often more attuned to her characters' sometimes subtle inner development than to the plot flow of external events, so some readers find her novels slow moving. Personally, I find most of them engrossing - though the California novels interest me less than the novels set in medieval Europe, perhaps because Holland's great appeal for me is the way she offers a window into the psyches of people in cultures that are extremely different from my own - and California in the 1800s is a more familiar setting to me.

There are reviews onsite of Rakóssy, Great Maria and City of God (all by MLE). Jerusalem was a BOM this past May (see thread).

At HistoricalNovels.info, I've reviewed Great Maria, The High City and now The Secret Eleanor, about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I really liked The Secret Eleanor. With this novel, I think all Holland's special strengths as a historical novelist are evident, but in addition, she has created highly sympathetic characters (though she never romanticizes them; they're all flawed human beings), and crafted an intensely suspenseful plot. I found it a page-turner, which is not the way I would usually describe Holland's novels, much as I relish them.

Any other Cecelia Holland fans out there? Which of her novels are your favorites?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

annis
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Post by annis » Tue September 21st, 2010, 4:43 am

Fancy us not already having a Cecelia Holland thread! CH is a longtime favourite of mine, and I can’t understand how her older books have gone out of print :( Her spare, nuanced style has great impact and her characters are cleverly drawn so that you get a real sense of their essential natures. I ‘ve noticed how skilfully she enhances mood and events in her novels by matching them to the natural world, and was very interested to see her discuss this in the interview she did with Ariadne on her Reading the Past blog. http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/2010 ... uthor.html

I haven’t read all of CH’s books by any means. I’d love to read the Viking series, but the library doesn’t have them and I just can’t buy every book I want (though I do try!) Favourites include Jerusalem and The Great Maria, but I do have a soft spot for her moody, conflicted Irishmen; Laeghaire from Firedrake and Murtaigh from Kings in Winter.

I’m curious about Eleanor’s sister Petronilla as a mousy creature though- she must have had looks and style (and/or maybe money) to have caught the eye of Count Raoul I of Vermandois at the French court. All sorts of ructions arose when he put aside his wife so he that he could marry Petronilla instead.

From Wiipedia:
Petronilla accompanied her sister to the French court, where she met the very-married Count Raoul I of Vermandois, a cousin to her brother-in-law Louis VII of France. He repudiated his wife and married her, and they were excommunicated by the Pope. Pope Innocent II promised to lift the excommunication, but recanted his promise in 1143. Hostilities flared, and Louis VII infamously burned Vitry-le-François. Finally the Pope died and his successor Pope Celestine II lifted the excommunication at Council of Reims in 1144.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Tue September 21st, 2010, 4:17 pm

I’m curious about Eleanor’s sister Petronilla as a mousy creature though- she must have had looks and style (and/or maybe money) to have caught the eye of Count Raoul I of Vermandois at the French court. All sorts of ructions arose when he put aside his wife so he that he could marry Petronilla instead.
Raoul remarried in 1152 (the same year Eleanor succeeded in getting her marriage to Louis VII annulled and marrying Henry), so he had evidently ended the marriage with Petronilla before that. In The Secret Eleanor, Holland portrays Petronilla as quite demoralized at being discarded by Raoul. In the early chapters, she wears widow's white, sits hunched over, and doesn't smile much - none of which does much for a woman's looks.

I haven't read all of CH's books either. Must make a note to read Firedrake and Kings in Winter. Perhaps with the upsurge in popularity of historical fiction, she will become more popular with general readers. The Secret Eleanor is likely to have more general appeal than most of her other books, with its sympathetic characters and zippy plot.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

chuck
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Post by chuck » Tue September 21st, 2010, 5:29 pm

Margaret...I concurr....CH is terrific....For me her characters with all their faults and inconsistencies etc(real people)....Live and breathe....One of my favorite characters is Rannulf, the Templar Knight in "Jerusalem"...The anger and sexual tension is a accurate portrayal of the paradox facing of the Warrior Monks.....
Last edited by chuck on Tue September 21st, 2010, 5:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

annis
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Post by annis » Tue September 21st, 2010, 7:06 pm

Posted by Margaret
The Secret Eleanor is likely to have more general appeal than most of her other books, with its sympathetic characters and zippy plot.
Not to mention the secret weapon - Eleanor herself! Seems like we just can't get enough of her---

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Tue September 21st, 2010, 8:44 pm

you know, i respect your tastes so much that i really feel i should give holland another try. but im warry after the poor experience that "jerusalum" was for me. but i feel i shouldnt dismiss a writer based on one book. especially one who writes about so many areas of interest to me. both "great maria" and "rakosky" are settings id really like to read about.

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Post by Misfit » Tue September 21st, 2010, 9:49 pm

I haven't had the best of luck with her. I liked her two Lily Nevada books well enough (but definitely not great), wall banged The Bear Flag (and I usually eat up anything set in old California), and tried three or four others of her older books and didn't get past the first chapter. I was pretty underwhelmed with Secret Eleanor as well. I'm finished.
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Tanzanite
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Post by Tanzanite » Tue September 21st, 2010, 9:55 pm

I rather enjoyed The Secret Eleanor - especially the relationship between the sisters. Great Maria was a little more difficult for me to get through but by the end, I was glad that I read it. She seems to have written about some interesting times/places and I'm planning on reading some of her older books in the future.

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Ariadne
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Post by Ariadne » Tue September 21st, 2010, 11:27 pm

I think my favorites are Great Maria and Rakossy, and I enjoyed Secret Eleanor as well. I was on serious Eleanor overload at that point, having just finished the Weir, and so I was especially glad to read a different take on her life. (Thanks for linking my interview, Annis!) Rakossy was a brutal and heroic tale, with some surprisingly tender moments as MLE noted in her review.

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Wed September 22nd, 2010, 12:52 pm

I think Holland's writing style might be an acquired taste. It does take some getting used to, and some of her books are easier to get into than others. Sometimes I don't like minimalist writing, but Holland's works for me. So far I've read and enjoyed The Firedrake, The Death of Attila, Rakossy, and Great Maria. I have Jerusalem and Until the Sun Falls Down in the TBR. Am also interested in her Viking novels (have a weakness for those Vikings!), but I'm waiting to see if more of them get released as ebooks, and the few that are out there as ebooks are the higher priced ones. One of these days I'll make a decision about whether to pony up for the print or ebook editions. She is on my list of authors for whom I'd like to read her entire output.

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