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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

Posted in English Civil War, Revolts & Revolutions.. Comments Off on Historical Fiction on the English Civil War

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.)

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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.

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Historical Fiction with a Gay Theme or Character

19 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 8 September 2008. After reading As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, I was curious about the availability of historical fiction that centers around a gay character or theme. Below is a select list. If you know of a historical novel that fits this description but is not on the list, please comment.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of the novels below. 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). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. Set during the English Civil War, the story involves a gay man’s slow descent into insanity. Read my review of As Meat Loves Salt.

The Bitterweed Path by Thomas Hal Phillips. Friendship and love between two Mississippi boys a generation after the Civil War.

The Carnivorous Lamb by Agustin Gomez-Arcos. A story of incestuous love during the politically repressive times of Franco’s rule in Spain.

The Charioteer by Mary Renault. Portrays the complicated relationships of gay men during World War II.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal. A contemporary novel about a gay man’s coming of age in post-World War II America.

The Confession of Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy. On the relationship between Pier Gaveston and Edward II as told from Gaveston’s point of view.

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. Set in pre-World War I Italy, the novel focuses on the obsession of a middle-aged artist for a young man, who represents lost youth.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory. Set against the English Civil War, a gardener becomes lover to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. A historical mystery set in Victorian England circa 1862. Amazon calls it a “damning critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy.” Other titles in the series (Tipping the Velvet, Affinity) also deal with lesbians in Victorian times.

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault. Biographical fiction on Alexander the Great.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. The first book in the Masters of Rome series deals with Gaius Marius and to a lesser extent, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who had a homosexual relationship with the Greek actor Metrobius.

The Flowers of Adonis by Rosemary Sutcliff. Biographical fiction on Alkibiades, an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War. He was Pericles’ ward and Socrates’ friend. Classified as juvenile fiction.

Fortune’s Favourites by Colleen McCullough. The third book in the Masters of Rome series introduces Pompeius Magnus, Julius Caesar and Marcus Crassus.

Gaveston by Chris Hunt. On the relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston. Contains explicit sex; sometimes categorized as erotica. See my review.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Contemporary fiction on gay male relationships during the 1950s. Takes place in Paris.

Goat Song by Frank Yerby. Coming of age story during the Peloponnesian War.

The God in Flight by Laura Argiri. Set during the 1880s at Yale, this is a love story between a male student and a male teacher.

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault. On the relationship between two Athenians, Alexias and Lysis.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon. The second book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series is set during the Seven Years’ War and involves a Jacobite plot.

Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon. The third book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series is an anthology of short stories involving Lord John. The best is Lord John and the Succubus.

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon. The first book in the Lord John Grey historical mystery series.

The Master by Colm Tóibín. Biographical fiction on Henry James.

Maurice by E. M. Forster. Contemporary fiction in that it was written during 1913-1914 and deals with Edwardian attitudes toward homosexuality. The book was not actually published until 1971, and in that sense could be considered historical fiction.

Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg. The first book in the Mordred Trilogy treats Mordred, the illegitimate child of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay, sympathetically. It also imagines him as gay.

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. On the relationship between Bagoas and Alexander the Great.

The Phoenix by Ruth Sims. Deals with late 19th Century attitudes toward homosexuality. Includes themes of poverty, child abuse and insanity.

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander by Ann Herendeen. The novel purports to deal with bisexuality as well as homosexualty, but the outcome is unbelievable, totally silly. I gave it 2.5 stars on LibraryThing for entertainment value.

The Waters of Babylon by David Stevens. On the life and homosexual relationships of T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a Lawrence of Arabia).

While England Sleeps by David Leavitt. A doomed love story set during the rise of fascism in Europe and the Spanish Civil War. Read the full review.

Additional Resources

Speak Its Name – a blog on historical fiction with gay characters.

The List – the above-referenced blog compiles a list of fiction with gay characters. Be advised that it consists of fiction in many genres, including historical romance and erotica.

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How to Clean and Care for Your Books

17 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Keeping your books clean generally requires little more than patience and a few common household items. If you want to invest a small amount of time and money, you can protect your books and keep them in good repair.

What You Need

  • A soft clean cloth. I prefer soft cotton, such as flannel, or soft terry cloth.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Dry cleaning pad. Also called document cleaning pad. Library supply companies, such as Brodart, sell these.

Books with Laminated Covers

If the book has a laminated cover, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the cloth. Do not pour the alcohol directly on the book. Then gently rub the cover until it is clean. Use this method to clean softcover books or dust jackets protected with a layer of laminate.

Hardcover Cloth Books

For books without dust jackets, or books consisting of cloth-covered boards, rub the dry cleaning pad over the boards. As long as the cloth hasn’t begun to fray, you don’t have to be particularly gentle. Some stains may require a bit of hard rubbing.

I do this outside because the dry cleaning substance breaks down during the rubbing process – as it should. You’ll have to brush it off the book when you are finished.

Books without Laminated Covers

Some old paperbacks or old dust jackets do not have a layer of laminate. You’ll also see books where the laminate is peeling away. In this case, do not use rubbing alcohol because it’ll eat the color. It may even destroy the cover.

For dust jackets, protect them from further dirt and wear with a plastic book cover. Library supply companies sell these.

Books that Smell of Smoke

Despite what you may read elsewhere, nothing absorbs the smell of smoke from a book. At best, you may cover up the odor with a stronger fragrance – perfume, for instance. But you’ll never rid the book entirely of the smell.

What You Need

  • Box with airtight lid.
  • Room air freshener.

If you prefer a strong odor of perfume to the smell of cigarette smoke, for instance, find a box with an airtight lid. You can buy a plastic box with an airtight lid at most department stores.

Stand the book up in the box so that the lower page edges are the only part of the book touching the box. Place the air freshener in the box with the book, but make sure it isn’t touching the book. Keep the book in the box for 2-3 days.

Cleaning Gunk from Pages

If you have ever opened a used book to find a dead fly, or worse, stuck to the pages, then you know what I mean by “gunk.” If the gunk is thoroughly dry, take a small piece of light-weight sandpaper and rub it gently over the gunk until it falls away. This is a fairly gross job. You may want to wear rubber gloves.

Protecting Your Books

If you want to protect your books from dust, dirt or just day-to-day handling, store them in a bookcase in an upright position. Never store hardcover books in piles or place them so that the spine is horizontal rather than vertical. Doing so may weaken the spine and may cause it to break.

Use a feather duster often to keep them free of dust. Protect book jackets with plastic covers.

One final thought: If you use Glu-B-Gone, or a similar oil-based product, to remove sticker residue, take care. Do not use it on a book you want as a collector’s item. Rubbing alcohol – assuming the surface is laminated – will work to remove glue eventually. These products leave an oily residue that can stain the book.

Do you have any book cleaning or repair tips? Please leave a comment.

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Historical Fiction on Alfred the Great

15 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 30 August 2008. The reading list below comes out of a discussion in the Historical Fiction forum at PaperBackSwap.com. Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom was book of the month in July. While discussing it, a question about the historical accuracy of the characterization of King Alfred came up. Members also wanted to know about other historical fiction that deals with Alfred.

As Cornwell explains in the historical note, his characterization follows that of Alfred’s contemporary biographer, Bishop Asser. (For the full text of Asser’s biography, see Online Medieval and Classical Library.) 

The British Monarchy site states: “[A]t the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran….” Quoting Asser, the essay continues, ”‘Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them….’” Toward the end, it describes Alfred as a “religiously devout and pragmatic man” – all of which jibes with Cornwell’s portrayal.

In a review of The Last Kingdom entitled “Hits and Myths,” Bristol University research fellow Joanne Parker confirms the author’s reliance on Asser. ”Cornwell’s portrait of a sickly and sinful young Alfred is faithful to The Life of King Alfred, a history believed to have been written in or shortly after his reign, by a Welsh bishop called Asser.”

But the title of the review implies there is perhaps too much reliance on myth. Indeed, Parker wonders if Cornwell at times confused Alfred with Arthur. “Alfred’s name mysteriously mutates to ‘Arthur’ – the king who, throughout the 20th century, has so effectively supplanted the Saxon as the nation’s favourite medieval monarch.” (See pages 207 and 327 of the hardcover edition.)

There is an interesting discussion taking place on Historical Fiction Online regarding Cornwell’s characterization of Alfred.

Regarding additional historical novels that depict Alfred the Great, see the reading list below. Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of the novels below. Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

The Dragon and the Raven: The Days of King Alfred by G. A. Henty. Juvenile fiction about a young Alfred. No reading level provided.

The Edge of Light by Joan Wolf. Biographical fiction on Alfred flavored with romance. This is the last book in a trilogy on early British history. It includes The Road to Avalon (#1) and Born of the Sun (#2).

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle. Juvenile biographical fiction (Gr. 5 – 8) on Aethelflaed, the teenaged daughter of King Alfred.

Escape to King Alfred by Geoffrey Trease. Juvenile adventure story (Gr. 5 – 8) surrounding Danish invasions during King Alfred’s reign.

The Flame in the Dark by Basil Bonallack. On the first years of Alfred’s reign.

King Alfred’s Viking by Charles W. Whistler. Subtitled A Story of the First English Fleet, the book description states it involves “Alfred’s rise to the throne as seen through the eyes of an outsider, Ranald the Viking.”

The King Liveth by Jeffery Farnol. Carries the subtitle, A Romance of Alfred the Great Based on the Old Chronicles.

The King of Athelney by Alfred Duggan. Alternate title is The Right Line of Cerdic. Biographical novel on Alfred. It’s also a sequel to Conscience of the King, which is on the life of Cerdic Elesing, King of Wessex.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. This is the first book in the Saxon Chronicles. Alfred is a young man – in his late teens or about 20. To date, subsequent titles are The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North and Sword Song. Read my review of The Last Kingdom.

The Price of Blood by Doris Sutcliffe Adams. “A historical novel of the England during the reign of King Alfred, at the time of Viking invasions in the 9th century. A Christian Dane named Niall, who is taken prisoner after having been shipwrecked on the coast of Devon, is torn between loyalty to his fellow Danes and the people of Christian faith.” (BookSplendour Catalog at Biblio.com)

Raven’s Wind by Victor Canning. A boy serves Alfred before he becomes king. Possibly young adult fiction.

Wulnoth the Wanderer by Herbert Inman. Cited in Historical Fiction And Other Reading References For Classes In Junior And Senior High Schools by Hannah Logasa, this is probably young adult fiction. It carries the subtitle, A Story of King Alfred of England

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Historical Fiction on Revolts and Revolutions

14 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 30 July 2008. Having just concluded one of the most moving books I have ever read – As Meat Loves Salt – and following it with Q by Luther Blissett, it seems a good time to begin to list historical novels about revolutions that came about as a result of oppression. Because such a list could be a book in and of itself, what appears below are representative titles for select uprisings taking place from the late 13th Century to the 20th Century.

Over time, I will expand each subheading individually. The section on English Civil Wars has been expanded.

Use the resources available in Find Books to locate copies of these novels. Green titles comprise those I really enjoyed (Excellent to Very Good rating). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

The American Revolution (1763-1783)

Arundel by Kenneth Roberts. On Benedict Arnold’s invasion of Canada through Quebec.

The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara. Sequel to Rise to Rebellion.

Rabble in Arms by Kenneth Roberts. Sequel to Arundel told from the loyalist point of view.

Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell. Loyalist point of view.

Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. On the Boston Massacre and the days that follow.

American Slave Rebellions (1700s and 1800s)

Amistad by Joyce Annette Barnes. On the 1839 mutiny of the Spanish slave ship, Amistad.

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron. On Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831.

Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

English Civil Wars (1625-1660)

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. The first war provides the background. It deals specifically with the Digger Movement.

The Faithful Lovers by Valerie Anand. Part of the Bridge Over Time series (#4), the English Civil War provides the background.

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.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge.

The French Revolution (1789–1799)

City of Darkness, City of Light by Marge Piercy.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. Multiple points of view.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

German Peasants’ War (1524-1527)

Perfection by Anita Mason.

Q by Luther Blissett. Currrently reading.

Speak to Her Kindly by Jonathan Rainbow. On the Münster Rebellion, a later (1534-1535) attempt by the Anabaptists to establish a New Jerusalem.

Hundred Years’ War (1339-1453)

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell. The U.K. title is Harlequin. This is the first of a trilogy that takes place during the Hundred Years’ War. Vagabond (#2) and Heretic (#3) complete the trilogy.

Kemp Passage At Arms by Daniel Hall.

Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Nigel serves King Edward III during the Hundred Years War.

The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Nigel now leads a band of English bowmen known as the White Company.

Jacobite Rebellions (1715 and 1745)

Devil Water by Anya Seton. On Catholic nobleman Charles Radcliff and his daughter during the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.

White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley. Biographical fiction on Anne Farquharson, a female leader during the 1745 uprising.

Peasants’ Revolt (England, 1381)

Company of Rebels by Elizabeth Lord.

Confession of Jack Straw by Simone Zelitch.

The Constant Star by Prudence Andrew.

Russian Revolution of 1917

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

The Iron Flood by Alexander Seravimovich.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander. On the final days of the Romanov’s.

Petersburg by Emily Hanlon. On events in 1905, a precursor to the 1917 revolution.

The Revolutionist by Robert Littell.

Scottish Wars of Independence (1285-1371)

The Bruce Trilogy  by Nigel Tranter. Biographical fiction about Robert the Bruce. Includes The Steps to the Empty Throne, The Path of the Hero King and The Price of the King’s Peace. Covers the first Scottish War.

The Fields of Bannockburn by Donna Fletcher Crow. Subtitled A Novel of Christian Scotland from Its Origins to Independence, this is an ambitious novel.

The Wallace by Nigel Tranter. On William Wallace, one of the leaders during the first Scottish War against England.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

12 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

It’s been a long time since a book held me in its grip so completely I was unable to put it down. Fortunately, it’s the weekend and I could tune out all but the narrator, Jacob Cullen.

To say Cullen is a troubled man is to gloss over what drives him. Impoverished at a young age and sent from his home with his brothers to serve a wealthy Royalist family during the English Civil War, Cullen grows up disillusioned, insecure and distrustful.

Within the first 100 pages, he commits murder (to thwart a charge of treason), theft (to survive) and rape (to claim what is his). You witness a man who is violent and, perhaps mad. When he escapes into the arms of the New Model Army, and his lover-to-be, you know his story will end badly. But because you see the world through Cullen’s eyes, you hope against all reason that somehow things will turn out alright.

They don’t. But not because As Meat Loves Salt is a work of historical fiction and therefore, the ending is known. History simply provides the environment. Weary of the war, Cullen and his lover, Christopher Ferris, escape to the home of Ferris’ wealthy Aunt. Eventually, Ferris’ involvement with radical political thinking leads him to organize a farming commune with the biblical implications of a New Jerusalem.

Ferris is opposite Cullen in almost every respect. He is slight and gentle to Cullen’s muscular build and violent ways. But he possesses an inner strength that Cullen has never had. He’s stubborn. About the commune, he is Cullen’s equal in obsessive behavior.

The tale, then, is not just about history. It’s about a relationship between men when one borders on the brink of insanity. It’s about a Puritan upraising and sexual confusion. In the words of the author, who I think says it best, “It’s about longing, about being cast out from happiness into a shattered world, about the fear that there is some evil inside you that drives others away. It’s about the possibilities that love holds out to people, its power to ennoble and to enslave. It’s about the futility of trying to hold on to love by force.” Rating: Excellent. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)

Posted in Book Reviews, English Civil War. Tags: , , . Comments Off on As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

How To Find Used Books at a Good Price

10 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Often, the books I would like to read are out-of-print, so I have to look beyond the usual suspects (Borders, Barnes & Noble) to find them. Amazon, of course, sells out-of-print books through its marketplace (used booksellers), but is the lowest price the best deal?

Having sold books online for a time, I know that sources for readers (as opposed to collectors) are many and highly competitive. This means that if you’re willing to spend some time searching, you can probably find a good deal.

Tip: If the source (Amazon, eBay) rates sellers based on buyer feedback, pay attention to the numbers. Is that 1 cent book (with $3.99 shipping) the best deal if the seller has a 90 percent rating or lower? Review the feedback before you buy.

Under Find Books in the Fuzzy History menu, you will find many of the resources I use. My strategy for finding a used book typically goes like this:

  1. Search my county library system. Check with your local public library about online access to its catalog. Many libraries also provide access to the catalogs of other libraries. You may also try WorldCat, if libraries in your area participate.
  2. Search my online trading source, PaperBackSwap.
  3. Search BookFinder. I prefer this search engine because it returns the price with shipping included. If I find the book at a price I’m willing to pay, the search is over.
  4. If BookFinder fails to find the book, I search Amazon (and Google, if necessary) to verify that I have the correct spelling for the author and title.
  5. If BookFinder finds the book, but the price is too high, I search eBay and Half.com separately. If there are no copies, or if I want to try to find a better deal, I save the search in eBay. New results will be sent to my inbox. I’m patient because I have lots of other books to read while I wait for a good price.
  6. I set up a “want” at AbeBooks. AbeBooks is a consortium of used booksellers. Once you register (free) with the site, you may set up a want list. For each title, you may set the highest price you’re willing to pay. When a book matches your specifications, AbeBooks sends you an e-mail message. You’ll have to be fast, though, as someone else may have the same “want.” (One of my recent “wants” came in at $10, when my original search turned up $85 as the lowest available price.)
  7. Search for it at local book sales. Use Book Sale Finder to find the dates and locations for book sales in your area sponsored by non-profit entities, such as libraries and churches.

Finally, if the book you want to buy is a new book, use the resources in Find Books. (You may limit a BookFinder search to new books.) But before you buy, go to DealLocker and check out the book coupons. You will often find unannounced deals here.

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