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Posts tagged ‘Historcial Fiction’

And for the August path….

So I did the disappearing act again but I was travelling on business for 4 whole weeks and the project implementation kind of sucked all life force out of me, leaving me with no time for anything I hold remotely close to my heart – eating, travelling, writing; the only indulgence I had been reading and that too with limited timeframes. I keep promising myself that I will not let the Project Manager me take over the writer me and time and again I fail. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and there is after all a mountain of bills to be paid! Nevertheless, not to be deterred by temporary setbacks, we march on boldly and I present to you my August reading list (Yes! I know, I never got back to all of you with my July plan, but there is still time and I will get back!)

Reading classics1. Bleak House by Charles Dickens – Great Expectations had me hooked! Since I SO LOVED the book as an adult, I decided to be brave and venture forth with what many scholars have termed as the most ambitious of Charles Dickens’s work. At 800+ pages, it’s definitely voluminous even by Mr. Dickens’s standards; but so far I am loving Esther, Ada, Robert, Caddy and Mr. Jardynce ; I am overawed with the sarcasm and the sensitive detailing without indulging into crass sentimentalism on the state of poverty and hope that the ending will hold as good!
2. The Blood Letter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty – Based on the true historical account of Don Julius, the illegitimate son of Rudolph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, circa. 1600 and his mental illness, the book captures his dynamics with Marketa, the daughter of the local blood letter/barber, whose help is secured to treat the Prince. Rich in details, shedding light on one of the lesser discussed aspect of European history, I am completely hooked on to this book; will definitely post a review when done
3. Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr – I picked this up on a whim since it had some very strong parallels to Wild Swans – Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang and since I loved it, I am hoping Daughters would be interesting too! (Yes! I know it’s unfair to have such expectations from two completely different genres of authors, but I am only taking of the subject!) I have not read the book as yet but the synopsis on Kindle which promoted me to buy the book states that it’s a family saga of three generations of Christian Palestinian women from 19th century to modern-day. I love everything Middle Eastern and here’s a historical fiction about woman in the Middle East; I mean how could I let this one go??

4. Embers by Sandor Marai – I have heard a lot of great reviews about Sandor Marai though have never read him. On recommendation of my sister, I picked this one up and so far, it’s very unusual and keeps you gripped. In a secluded Castle in Bavaria, a General prepares to entertain an old comrade, and the meeting will lead to some secrets being unfolded of betrayal and friendship and the memory of the long dead wife of the General.
5. The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Tolerance by Kate Armstrong – Kate Armstrong is one my favorite writers and I loved her History of God and Holy Wars. I had picked this one up some time ago, but just did not find any time to complete the same. The author reviews how some of the most popular religions of the world, Hinduism, Daoism, Monotheism all evolved from violent times in an effort to create order among increased chaos. Hope to post a review soon.

That’s my list for this month! Considering half the month is past; but I am still looking forward to all these readings and I promise to come back with details

More on History and Story

india calcutta bookstore
india calcutta bookstore (Photo credit: FriskoDude)

Continuing on my previous musings of historical novels, I must own that my very first introduction to the genre of historical novels began with M M Kaye’s The Shadow of the Moon- set in 1857 India, it chronicles the Sepoy Mutiny through the principle characters of Captain Alex Randall and Winter de Ballesteros.  It might not be her most famous book, especially when one compares it to her epic work – The Far Pavilions, the immortal love story of Captain Ashton and Princess Julie, in the backdrop of the third Anglo Afghan War, but maybe I read the former at an impressionable age, it remains a favourite! I know all the high brow’s are lifting thier eye brows at my taste, but I love MM Kaye…so there!

When it comes to historical novels,nothing  beats the genre of James Michener and lately Edward Rutherford. Of all Michener’s writings, The Source remains my all-time favourite and a comfort book. I am obsessed about Israel and a story about this land is told through the multiple layers of its history and the heirs of Ur (the first man), it’s bound to much used in my collection! Then there are what I consider flighty historical novels – Leon Uris and his Mila 18, Exodus and The Haj, all of which I have read and re-read and adore, but cannot be really considered serious body of history, many be excluding Exodus. They are great reads, but thier historcial depth leaves a lot to imagination! Then there is Michelle Moran; she has written exhaustively about Egyptian History – Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen and Cleopatra’s daughter, but I believe the one book that is far better than all of these is her last work – Madam Tussaud. It’s a rich complex tale of young a Marie Tussaud, an artist specializing in wax figurines and forced to make death masks in the background of the French Revolution. Again great stories but no sense of real history. Then there is Lord Jeffery Archer and his Cane and Able and Where the Crow Flies and Only Time will Tell. Great reads set usually during the period of 1890-1950s, documenting the rise and fall of iconic characters and their loves and lives. Read em, enjoy em and forget em! There is Philippa Gregory and her mammoth works on Tudor England, especially The Other Boleyn Girl and it’ sequels, The Queen’s Fools, The Virgin Lovers etc. Not particularly correct history, but then I could be completely mistaken!

In terms of serious classic historical novels, I think Umberto Eco and Hillary Mantel lead the brigade. I took forever to read The Name of the Rose, but once I finished it, I was in awe of the whole work. Not many people like the book and there is enough controversy around the same, but at the end of the day it’s a very good read. Wolf Hall is also a modern classic as Mantel explores the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in a brilliantly researched book, which keeps very close to history. There is Robar Harris and his Imperium, Lustrum and Pompeii and if you cannot guess, they are all based on Ancient Rome and I am not particularly fond of them and find these works tedious! There is John Masters and his series of novels based on Colonial India, The Nightrunners of Bengal, The Ravi Lancers and his most famous Bhowani Junction, though I think his best work is The Nightrunners. Alex Rutherford, the pseudonym for the husband and wife duo of Michael and Diana Preston who have written a very accurate and extremely captivating series on the first five Mughal Emperors of India. A S Byatt is another well-known literary figure requiring little introduction. Her Possessions captures the beauty of Victorian England and merging with lyrical poetry that traces the forbidden love affair of Randolph Henry Ashton and Christobel LaMotte.  I am even more enamoured of her “The Childern’s Book’ which traces the lives of Wellwoods and Cains through 1890’s to 1914, though there are times I do feel the story should “get a move on”. Colleen McCullough and her Master of Rome series is also an exhaustively researched work that traces the end of Roman Republic.

My unmatched picks are Conn Iggulden, and JG Fuller and Peter Carey. Iggulden has written extensively on rise and fall of Julius Cesar in his four part novels – The Empire series. But my personal favourite are his Conqueror series that traces the rise and fall of Chengiz Khan and Mongols during 15th century. Rich in details and customs, it not only presents Chengiz in wholly different light, without any apologies for his deeds. Valerio Massimo Manfredi is another of my favourites. I loved his The Alexander Trilogy, but my real prized possession is The Lost Army, based on the accounts of Xenophon and his Anabasis and the legion of 10,000 that was sent to support Artaxerxes II against his brother, Cyrus of Persia, it is tale that vividly captures the life and times of Ancient Greeks and one of the most remarkable adventures in human history. JG Fuller won his Pulitzer for The Seize of Krishnapur and I must own its one of finest accounts of the Indian mutiny without any unnecessary glorification to the cause of either side and a true account of men and women tested in most trying times. Oscar and Lucinda is Pater Carey’s best. He has written The True History of the Kelly Gang – epic tale of a family through the various stages of Australian history and can be aptly called the great Australian novel. But nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing compares to Oscar and Lucinda, the obsessive compulsive gamblers on a boat to Australia and an incorrigible bet of transporting a glass Church from Sydney to Bellingen, come together to make a classic read!

To end with, I must confess, I have a huge thing for Salman Rushidie’s works, though many a times his writings take me on an intellectual trapeze act where my mind can no longer follow! I know enough has been written and cried about Midnight’s Children, so I’ll let it be and instead talk about The Enchantress of Venice that interplays and alternates between 16th century India and Akbar’s court and the 15th century Florence! It’s filled with images and scenes that bring it to life two magnificent eras of world history with all its caprices!

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