Пью второй месяц - кофе для похудения с имбирем. Очень довольна результатом!

Do You Love/Hate Richard III?

17 August 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Vulpes Libris will discuss Richard III during the week. “We won’t be providing any definitive answers this week, but we will – we hope – be offering a reasonably balanced overview of the most controversial and enigmatic monarch England has ever known.” Discussion topics include Shakespeare’s Richard III, Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour, Emma Darwin’s A Secret Alchemy (due out in the U.K. in November 2008), Sir John Everett Millais’ painting, The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, two different versions of Richard III in film, and Annette Carson’s Richard III: The Maligned King. Annette Carson will join in at the end of the week. (Tip of the hat to EC at Historicalfiction.org for the head’s up.)

Richard III Week

  • To Prove a Villain (Monday)
  • The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman (Tuesday)
  • Writing wrongs to make A Secret Alchemy (Wednesday)
  • The Shadows in History’s Eye (Thursday)
  • The Trouble with Richard III on Film, or just The Trouble with Richard III? (Friday)
  • The Maligned King by Annette Carson (Saturday)
  • Interview with Annette Carson (Sunday)

Fiction and Non-fiction on Edward II

14 August 2008 — fuzzyhistory

I have admired Alianore’s Edward II blog from afar for awhile. I was catching up on my blog reading tonight when I found her post on fiction and non-fiction on Edward II. It’s a great list with short annotations.

I read two of the fictional titles on her “like” list – The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham and The Lion of Mortimer by Juliet Dymoke. Both of these are excellent. I intend to re-read them.

I’ve been watching for Brenda Honeyman’s books at used book sales for several months. She’s not easy to find. I’ve seen some of her titles associated with the name Brenda Clarke. Unfortunately, she’s not available through my local library. I may have to go the interlibrary loan route (since she’s on Alianore’s “like” list).

Don’t miss the comments on the post. They’re equally informative and entertaining.

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

Similar to Black Ships (review), Lavinia comes to light through Virgil’s Aeneid. But it picks up the story where Black Ships ends – with Aeneas’s marriage to King Latinus’s daughter, Lavinia, after defeating the enemies of Latium.

Lavinia, who never speaks in the original Aeneid, visits a sacred cave where she meets the shade of the dying Virgil. He tells her of what is to come – of Aeneas, the coming battles, her future child and more. You know the end of the story – or you think you do – before Aeneas arrives. But you don’t know how it ends.

Even though the story isn’t new, I found it compelling. Le Guin’s style of writing sucked me in and I put the book down only twice before finishing it. I wonder, though, if I had read the Aeneid and knew the story well, if I would have found it as compelling. I think so, especially since Le Guin gives voice to Lavinia, but I’ll never know for certain.

I especially appreciate the author’s end note, which is more of a historical essay. Here, Le Guin explains why she chose to re-tell the last part of the Aeneid. She talks about the geography of the region and the sources she used to pinpoint the locations in Lavinia. She also discusses what parts – or rather, what emphasis of the original Aeneid – she minimized and why.

While both Lavinia and Black Ships are great reads, perhaps especially for people like me who never had the opportunity to read the Latin Aeneid, I enjoyed Lavinia a bit more. Perhaps it’s just the romance of Lavinia’s story; perhaps it’s the writing of a more seasoned author. I don’t know. But I simply did not want this book to end. Rating: Very Good+ (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)

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Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman – ARC

10 August 2008 — fuzzyhistory


Updated 13 August 2008. Yipee! I received an advance reading copy of Sharon Kay Penman’s upcoming novel, Devil’s Brood, through a promotion offered on Shelf Awareness.

It’s the third book in a trilogy that includes When Christ and His Saints Slept (book 1) and Time and Chance (book 2). According to the book cover, Devil’s Brood takes place during the last days of the tempestuous marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I’m reading it now and I really like it.

The author’s Web site now features an excerpt from the novel. It’s due out in U.S. bookstores in October 2008.

Thanks, Penguin Group and Shelf Awareness! (Click the image above to pre-order the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.

Stealing Athena by Karen Essex

9 August 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Stealing Athena tells the story of the deconstruction of the Elgin Marbles during the early 19th Century. Originally belonging to the Parthenon, the Elgin Marbles comprise marble sculptures created, or supervised, by the Greek sculptor Pheidias. In 1801, Thomas Bruce, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, received permission to remove them to England. He did so over the course of several years at great expense and not without mishap.

While the politics of both countries regarding this event, as well as the disruption of the Napoleonic Wars, provide interesting background, the story centers around the lives of two women – Bruce’s (called Lord Elgin) wife, Mary, and Aspasia, the consort of the Athenian politician Perikles during the 4th Century B.C. Both women suffer to a greater or lesser degree because they live in a world that did not recognize their status except as a man’s chattel.

Thus, the premise of the novel intrigued me. But, unfortunately, the anachronistic portrayal of Aspasia, as well as oft-mentioned feminist ideals out of context with the times and anachronisms in conversations amongst ancient Greeks (particularly, the use of modern coarse slang) contribute to my overall dissatisfaction with the book.

If this were the sum of the problems with the novel, I might still have rated it “good” as defined in my chart. But the story fails to engage. I became bored at about page 150 and remained bored until the end. I was unable to connect with either Elgin or Mary.

Elgin was an irritating conniving vengeful bully, who despite his role in government, remained clueless about people and politics. Mary, more a woman of her times than Aspasia, was too innocent and saintly – a Mary Sue. Rating: Fair.

Amazon to Acquire Abebooks

1 August 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Amazon announced today it would acquire the online used books aggregator Abebooks. Abebooks will continue to operate independently. It’s Web sites will remain in operation.

LibraryThing posted a note indicating that Abebooks owns a minority share in the company. Therefore, if the deal receives approval from the shareholders and the Federal Trade Commission, Amazon will own a minority share in LT.

While LT assures customers they will see no changes, my hope is that Amazon will pay more attention to how LT handles tags. Maybe Amazon will even license LT technology for tags and improve the handling of such for those of us who also are customers of Amazon. Hint! Hint

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Historical Fiction on the English Civil War

29 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 15 September 2008. While the label, English Civil War, is a bit of a misnomer, it refers to a series of events and conflicts that take place in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales from 1625 to 1660. “During this period, the Stuart kingdoms … were ripped apart by religious and political unrest. But the conflict of the 1640s wasn’t a purely British phenomenon, it was part of a wider struggle for supremacy between Catholics and Protestants in Europe.” (BBC/The Open University, Civil War)

The British Civil Wars site provides a timeline of events as does the BBC/The Open University. Seattle University’s A.A. Lemieux Library offers an excellent list of sources, which includes biographies, treatises, research databases and more.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Or for books currently available at Amazon, follow the title links. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for referral purchases.

Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). Some of the works listed are biographical novels on King Charles I, who reigned during much of this time. If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book. Or I haven’t found any information about it.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. The first war provides the background with detail on the New Model Army and the Digger Movement. Read the full review.

By The Sword by Alison Stuart. Lovers on opposite sides of the conflict.

A Call of Trumpets by Jane Lane. Deals with the war and the relationship between Henrietta Maria and Prince Rupert.

Charles the King by Evelyn Anthony. A sympathetic look at Charles I, focusing on his marriage to Henrietta Maria. Includes much historical information about the events of the English Civil War.

A Crowning Mercy by Bernard Cornwell and Susannah Kells. A love story set against the English Civil War.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory. The gardener John Tradescant becomes lover to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

The Faithful Lovers by Valerie Anand. This is the 4th book in the Bridge Over Time series.

The Green and the Gold by Christopher Peachment. Biographical fiction about Andrew Marvell, who was a spy in the service of Oliver Cromwell.

Havoc, in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett. A “somber account of a man facing a crisis of spirit and conscience in” the early years of the English Civil War. (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Hostage Prince by Vanessa Hannam. A romance with the lovers’ families on opposite sides.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. A historical mystery set during the Restoration period – about 3 years after the end of the English Civil War. Read the full review.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart. A plot against Oliver Cromwell provides the background for this love story.

Lord Greville’s Captive by Nicola Cornick. A Harlequin romance set against the English Civil War.

Mara Haviland by Sue Hull. A romance set against the English Civil War.

Mary of Carisbrooke by Margaret Campbell Barnes. The laundress Mary Floyd (actual historical person)  cares for Charles I during his captivity in Carisbrooke Castle prior to his trial and execution.

The Moon in the Water by Pamela Belle. Historical romance series with the first 2 books set during the English Civil War. Subsequent titles are The Chains of Fate, Alathea (post Civil War with detail about the London fire of 1666), and The Lodestar (set during the reign of Richard III).

My Lord Foxe by Constance Gluyas. Accurate characterizations of Charles and Henrietta Maria.

Myself, My Enemy by Jean Plaidy. The first book in the Queens of England series focuses on Henrietta Maria, the daughter of King Henry IV of France, who married Charles I.

The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Part of the Morland Dynasty series (#4), the book opens in 1630 and leads up to the struggle between king and parliament.

Pargeters by Norah Lofts. An epic novel set during the war and Restoration period.

Phoenix Rising by Jean Evans. Focuses on the power struggle between Charles I and his son.

The Proud Servant by Margaret Irwin. Subtitled The Story of Montrose, it relates the career of James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, a proponent of the king.

The Questing Beast by Jane Lane. Biographical fiction on John Pym, who managed the money Parliament needed for the War.

The Quickenberry Tree by Annette Motley. A family story during the English Civil War.

Rider on a White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Rokeby by Sir Walter Scott. A poem on the events following the Battle of Marston Moor.

The Severed Crown by Jane Lane. The last months of the reign of Charles I told through letters.

Shadow Flies by Rose Macaulay. Biographical fiction on the poet, Robert Herrick.

The Stranger Prince by Margaret Irwin. Subtitled The Story of Rupert of the Rhine, this is biographical fiction on the nephew of Charles I.

They Were Defeated by Rose Macaulay. “Real 17th-century poets (including Robert Herrick) mingle with fictional characters …. She [Macaulay] paints a vivid portrait of one of England’s most turbulent periods.” (Amazon.com)

Turncoat’s Drum by Nicholas Carter. The first book in the Shadow on the Crown series “portrays life in 17th-century England through the eyes of the common men and women who fought and died for the distant causes of Parliament and the King.” (Amazon UK) It’s followed by Storming Party, And King’s Men Crow, Harvest of Swords, and Stand by the Colours.

Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory. This stand-alone sequel to Earthly Joys follows John Tradescant the Younger into the service of King Charles I.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge.

Wife to Mr. Milton by Robert Graves. Tells the story of Marie Powell, the poet Milton’s first wife. The English Civil War and the execution of Charles I provide the background.

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. A story about a family’s hardships when the man leaves for war. This is the first book in a series of 4. It’s followed by Herald of Joy, A Falling Star and Treason’s Gift.

The Winter Prince by Cheryl Sawyer. Romantic suspense involving Mary Villiers, the Duchess of Richmond and wife of James Stuart, and Prince Rupert of Bohemia.

Woodstock; or, the Cavalier by Sir Walter Scott. A romance.

The Young and Lonely King by Jane Lane. Biographical fiction on Charles I.

The Young Montrose by Nigel Tranter. Biographical fiction on James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose. Montrose is the sequel.

Additional Resources

The English Civil War Through the Restoration in Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography, 1625-1999 by Roxane C. Murph. Available for sale; not online.

Novels of the 17th Century, HistoricalNovels.com

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While England Sleeps by David Leavitt

27 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Now a well-to-do has-been writer in his mid-50s, Brian Botsford is haunted by events of the late 1930s when fascism was on the rise in parts of Europe. In 1936, he was 22 years old and living at home, though his parents had died recently. He depended financially on a wealthy interfering aunt.

Lured by the strong pull of Communism amongst the circle of his acquaintances, Botsford attends a gathering where he meets Edward Phelan, a man 2 years younger and from the working class. Edward accompanies Botsford to the apartment where he recently moved.

Their brief sexual encounter leads to a more involved relationship. But whereas Phelan is comfortable with his sexuality, Botsford is not. Eventually his interfering aunt talks him into meeting a woman, who, he convinces himself, he ought to marry.

The woman – Philippa – knows him better than he knows himself. She rejects him. But in the meantime, Phelan discovers the betrayal and flees to Spain into the arms of the Communists.

Botsford’s reminiscences continue as they relate his feelings of sexual confusion and his eventual pursuit of Phelan. Readers gain snippets of insight into the dealings of the Communist Party, attitudes toward homosexuality and the conditions of war – the Spanish Civil War.

But, alas, this is not a novel about war or politics. Rather, it is a coming of age story – a tale about a man, who, by the time he accepts his homosexuality, finds it is too late for the one he loves.

Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of homoerotic sex. Rating: Very good. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)

Black Ships by Jo Graham

25 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Born of The Aeneid, Black Ships retells the story of Aeneas, the last prince of Troy, from the point of view of a female oracle. Known variously as Gull, Linnea, Pythia and Sybil, she walks with Persephone, the Lady of the Dead, serving as her voice when she communicates with the people.

Troy has fallen when the story opens. Gull is the child of a slave woman. Because of an accident that cripples her, she becomes Pythia’s acolyte. In a few years, at the tender age of 12 or 13, Gull becomes Pythia through the death of her mentor.

Aeneas arrives in Pylos seeking a place for his people to live. Pythia joins Aeneas at this point and travels with his people.

Centered around the trials and tribulations of their travels from Pylos to their final destination, Latium, near the future Rome, Black Ships describes the economic crisis of the times (approximately 1200 BCE) and how people coped with it.

While I very much enjoyed the story, I wonder if this modern retelling loses something of the reality of the times of Virgil’s Aeneid. The men seem too kind-hearted (e.g., Aeneas’ treatment of Basetamon), too deferential to Gull – though at times they believe her to be more a god than a woman. There are sword fights and skirmishes, but the battle scenes aren’t related in the same graphic detail as the travels or the relationships amongst the people.

At the end of the day, Black Ships is as much a love story as it is a historical novel. It’s in no way, shape or form the kind of trashy bodice-ripper often associated with the genre, historical romance. But neither is the novel what I would call historical fantasy. There is legend, but no dragons. There is mystique, but no magic.

While the categorization is unlikely the author’s fault, potential readers should be prepared for an emotional journey rather than a fast-paced romp through imagined lands. Rating: Very good. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.

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The God of Spring by Arabella Edge

19 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

In 1818, Théodore Géricault began painting his masterpiece on the shipwreck of the Medusa. It was a politically sensitive subject at the time in that the government-appointed captain of the ship abandoned its crew and passengers to die, fleeing to safety on a lifeboat. The God of Spring – so titled, explains the author, in accordance with the concepts of “self-sacrifice, celebration and death” that stem from the Aztec God of Spring - tells of Géricault’s obsession with his work. Indeed, obsession may not be a strong enough word to describe the artist’s state of mind. Several times while reading this tale, I wondered if he bordered on insanity.

Starting with Géricault’s illicit love affair with his aunt, which he ended when he became obsessed with the Medusa, Edge takes the reader back in time to relive the last six years of his life. You experience his insecurities in love, friendship and fame, his knowledge about art and painting as well as what he learns – about the composition of color, illness and human suffering - in order to produce The Raft of the Medusa. You endure the instability of his mind as he obsesses over bringing to life the survivors’ story.

Edge is a gifted storyteller. I never thought I would have an interest in how a masterpiece came to be. But without ever becoming sidetracked by the political scandal itself, Edge draws the reader in to Géricault’s work and the last days of his life. Rating: Very Good. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.