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Posts tagged “Historical Fiction

Historical Novel Society: Oxford 2016 Part One

Evening all! Yes, that’s right, it’s September and that means it’s Festival Season in the Book World after the ones in Music World. A good time to mingle with famous people, spend a fortune on books, meet up with friends and make new ones.

First of all is the Historical Novel Society’s biennial (not biannual, or is it? Anyway, it’s every couple of years) which was held at Oxford University. First up was a panel discussion on what the Next Big Thing might be. Here are some of the periods mentioned:

  • Second World War: many younger people are not as aware of the events of this time. It is mainly covered in espionage but there isn’t much known about other events such as the war in Africa.
  • Ancient Greece: Has not been as widely written about as Ancient Rome, which has been very popular over the last few years.
  • People from a wider range of backgrounds throughout the ages, although there is increasing diversity as there is more translated material becoming available.
  • The Cold War. This is a fascinating time period and a new generation are coming of age with no memory of it.

The impact of television series were mentioned as being very popular with serials such as Downton Abbey and The Last Kingdom being two recent examples. There was also discussion on how historical fiction can be labelled in a book shop. Should it have its own section or put in general fiction or those crossed with other genres such as crime be put in that sections? One thing everyone agreed on was as long as the writing is good and tells a good story that is all that matters.


Read Through History: August 2016

It’s summertime! And here’s what I’ve been reading during the heatwave:

1) Sovereign by C. J. Sansom. Book Three in the Shardlake series sees the lawyer join Henry VIII on his tour of the North. This was an audiobook version and a very good reading.

2) The Severed Wing by Martin Gidron. This was the joint winner of the 2001 Sidewise Award with Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia. This is set in a world where the United States enters the First World War earlier and Hitler does not rise to power. Want to know more? Read it!

3) Young Bloods by Simon Scarrow. This is the first of a series of novels that follow the lives and careers of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. I can’t wait to read the next one.

4) Inceptio by Alison Morton. This is another alternative history where the Western Roman Empire continues in a land known as Roma Nova. This is a fast-paced thriller set in the modern day and I look forward to reading the rest.

5) The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy. This is the first in the Bernica series set during the early Anglo Saxon settlements of England. This is a very interesting story set during a little-known period of Britain’s history.

6) Tales from Alternate Earths. This is a collection of short stories set during different times ranging from a Chinese treasure fleet reaching the Americas before Columbus, Kennedy surviving the assassination attempt to dinosaurs ruling the earth. Read it to find out more.

Right, it’s Festival Season. Best do some ironing…

Read Through History: July 2016

Summer’s here and here’s what I’ve been reading over the last few weeks…

1) The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander. This is set in England shortly before James II was overthrown. A young lad, desperate to stave off a blackmailer, becomes a coffee racketeer and is drawn in to a plot against the king. A good story with a really good sense of place.

2) Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg. I read this on holiday in Copenhagen and learned a lot about the Greenlandic people and those who go to live in Denmark.

3) We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen. I started reading this gripping crime thriller (signed by the author) on what was a Scandinavian day for me: reading a book written by a Norwegian in a Danish hotel after a day out in Sweden.

4) Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom. The second in the Shardlake Series, this sees the lawyer searching for the lost secret of Greek Fire while also trying to prove a young woman’s innocence in a murder.

5) Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd. In interesting story with two parallel storylines: one in the twentieth century and the other in 1711.

Read Through History May and June 2016

Yes! That’s right! A double bill, ladies and gentlemen! Why? Because… well… I didn’t get round to it last month.

Anyroad, here’s what I’ve been reading over the last two months:

1) Vespasian: Rome’s Fallen Eagle by Robert Fabbri. The fourth installment in the Vespasian series shows the Roman General travelling to Germany and Britain. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series very much.

2) Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois. This is the winner of the 1999 Sidewise Award for Alternative History looking at what might have happened if the Cuban Missile Crisis had escalated. Very interesting.

3) SPQR by Mary Beard. I read this as I watched the series on BBC. I’m going to have to re-watch I Claudius at some point.

4) The Lord Darcy Series by Randall Garrett. This classic work won a Special Achievement Award from the good people who give out the Sidewise Award. This is a Sherlock Holmes-esque series set in the twentieth century where the world is governed by magic rather than physics and where Richard the Lionheart lives for another twenty years before being succeeded by his nephew Arthur. Some really good stories here.

5) Clough: The Autobiography by Brian Howard Clough. I watched the Damned United film recently and was interested to find out more about the legendary football manager.

6) The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. Set in seventeenth century Bavaria, this is a crime thriller set during the times of the witch trials. A very good story.

7) Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle. Winner of the 2000 Sidewise Award this follows the story of Ash, a company commander in an alternative fifteenth century where a new Carthaginian Empire is establishing dominance over Christendom with the help of Golems.

8) Independence Day: Crucible by Greg Keyes. If you want to know what happened after the first film before you go and see the second then have a read of this.

9) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. This novel set in Amsterdam around the time of the Dutch Golden Age is the winner of many awards and deservedly so. I liked it very much.

Read Through History: April 2016

It’s a Bank Holiday and spring is… springing? Anyhow, here’s what I read over April between running a half marathon and praying my knee didn’t fall off afterwards:

1) Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Now I know this isn’t historical fiction but I did see somewhere it’s future history and I fancied a change. Very interesting book and I hope to read the other two at some point.

2) Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light by Matt Wingett. I went to Matt’s talk on Sir Arthur as part of the Portsmouth Bookfest. A very fascinating account on how the creator of Sherlock Holmes became a Spiritualist.

3) Making History by Stephen Fry. Another winner of the Sidewise Award which looks into the consequences of two people stopping Hitler from being born. A worthy winner.

4) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. After many, many recommendations I finally got round to reading this. Glad I did, too.

5) Vespasian: False God of Rome by Robert Fabbri. After really enjoying the first two ages ago I finally got round to reading number three and picked up where the last one left off. Today I started the fourth one.

Anyway, enjoy the last couple of hours of the Bank Holiday (unless you’re reading this at the end of the month, in which case enjoy the whole Bank Holiday. Or you’ve travelled back in time…)

Read Through History: March 2016

I suppose it’s too late to make an April Fool’s joke now, is it? Why is there this superstition that it’s bad luck to play tricks on people after midday? Was this dreamt up by the same people who dictate that all traces of Christmas must be swept away on 6th January?

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve been reading between Easter Eggs:

1) Samurai: Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford. Really good young adult novel set in 1600s Japan. I wish this had been published when I was young!

2) How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove. Alternative history set in the years after the Confederacy won the American Civil War. Winner of the 1997 Sidewise Award and rightly so. A very good read.

3) Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Some encouraging non-fiction about why you should embrace your own creativity. Give it a read.

4) Ziggyology by Simon Goddard. A very interesting biography of the famous David Bowie alter-ego.

5) The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson. Very descriptive novel of the witch trials of the early seventeenth century.

So there we have it. Tune in next month to see what new books have sprung from the bookshelves.

Read Through History: February 2016

Sorry I’m late. I thought I’d give this new keyboard a try so there’s every chanse thère c0uld bè some speling £nd pùnctuation mistakes heeeère.

And I’m cooking my dinner at the same time so this is going to be interesting…

Anyhow, this is what leaped down from the bookshelves in February:

1) Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp. An American archaeologist travels back to Rome in the Sixth Century and introduces much Twentieth Century technology. This is often cited as one of the earliest works of alternative historical fiction and received a special Sidewise Award and rightly so.

2) The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis. The book that inspired the film starring David Bowie.

3) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I saw the film adaptation of this a couple of years ago so it was good to read the book.

4) The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth by Stuart Clark. A really interesting tale of Keplar and Galileo and how they struggled to prove their theories in the face of political and religious upheaval.

5) Voyage by Stephen Baxter. Winner of the 1996 Sidewise Award where Kennedy survives the assassination attempt and challenges humankind to travel to Mars once they have landed on the Moon.

So there we go. Now, when’s spring going to… well… spring?

Read Through History: January 2016

So, anyone still writing 2015 by mistake? Yes, I have once or twice…

Anyhow, here’s this month’s offering of books.

1) A Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale. This is an alternative history which explores the Roman Empire lasting until the Middle Ages and exploring the Americas. This follows the story of a Roman General living with Native Americans. Very interesting story.

2) Turn of the Tide by Margaret Skea. A great story of a family feud set in Renaissance Scotland.

3) The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto. Last Autumn I attended a Nordic Noir talk and signing at my local Blackwells and read this book by the Finnish author. Really good story and I didn’t guess whodunnit!

4) Pasquale’s Angel by Paul J. McAuley. This is an alternative history of the Italian Renaissance where Leonardo da Vinci was an engineer rather than an artist. This was the winner of the first Sidewise Award for Alternate History in the 1990s.

Read Through History December 2015

Merry Belated Christmas and a Happy New Year! Well, 2015 is almost over and (touch wood) there are still no signs of the Millennium Bug. Anyhow, while we wait for this century to reach the big 16, here’s what I’ve been reading:

1) Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. A very good retelling of the folk tale by the same name, set in 1920s Alaska.

(And if you’re after re-tellings of legends and folk tales in historical settings, have you bought this yet?)

2) When the Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan. Got this as a giveaway from the Portsmouth Bookfest (tickets for 2016 on sale soon!) A really good retelling of the Christmas Truce of the First World War, 101 years ago.

3) A Christmas Carol and Other Writings by Charles Dickens. Not only does this have the well-know story but other writings too, such as The Haunted Man.

4) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie. Christmas is not complete without a ghost story or a murder mystery. I’ve not finished it yet so don’t tell me how it ends!

Anyhow, enjoy the rest of 2015 and have a very good 2016!

Read Through History: November 2015

Another year is almost over already, can you believe it? This blog will be history itself soon.

And speaking of history, here’s what I’ve been reading (and listening to):

1) Heresy by S. J. Parris. I listened to the audiobook of this tale about an Italian in the service of Sir Francis Walsingham after fleeing the Inquisition. Really good. I look forward to reading/hearing the others in the series.

2) Ink that Bleeds by H. D. Loughrey. A collection of short stories from an up and coming writer. Really worth reading. I look forward to seeing her debut novel on the shelves.

3) The Queen’s Man by Rory Clements. A prequel to the John Shakespeare series that sees a fictitious older brother of William work for Sir Francis Walsingham to uncover a plot concerning Mary Queen of Scots. Very interesting with some good detail of the period.

4) Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell. The latest of the Saxon Stories and a really good one. I’m looking forward to the next book. The TV series isn’t bad either.

5) Just One Damned Thing After Another  by Jodi Taylor. A group of historians are doing a unique kind of research by actually travelling to the events themselves. Very interesting and funny.

Right, probably should think about Christmas shopping. I might even do the shopping as well…