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)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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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Historical Fiction on Richard III

2 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Updated 7 September 2008. The 30 years (1455-1485) that make up the Wars of the Roses – a period of intermittent civil strife between Lancastrians and Yorkists – tested the character of many a man. Much historical fiction stems from this era. Add to the troubled times, an unsolved mystery involving the disappearance of two princes, and you have the perfect background for a story. Since Richard III reigned at the time of their disappearance, and since the Battle of Bosworth, where he died, marks the end of the Wars, it was perhaps inevitable that he become a frequent subject of historical fiction. Thus, I’ll start the pathfinders to which I refer in my introductory post, with him.

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). If there is no comment following the title, I haven’t read the book.

Broken Sword by Rhoda Edwards. Very dry reading that covers the last 2 years of Richard’s reign. For the earlier years, see Fortune’s Wheel.

Crown of Roses by Valerie Anand. Realistic character portrayal.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard assesses the character of Richard III from his hospital bed. Somewhat dated ideas. Pro-Ricardian.

Fortune’s Wheel by Rhoda Edwards. Dry reading that covers the early years of Edward IV’s reign, when Richard served as his loyal second-man. For Richard’s reign, see Broken Sword.

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. First in a series that stretches from the Wars of the Roses to present day, this story features brief appearances from Richard III. It’s sympathic.

The Killing of Richard the Third by Robert Farrington. The first book in a trilogy that features an amateur secret agent. It covers the years, 1483 to 1495. Pro-Ricardian. The other two titles in the series are Tudor Agent and The Traitors of Bosworth.

The King’s Bed by Margaret Campbell Barnes.

King’s Ransom by Glenn Pierce.

The Lodestar by Pamela Belle. The main character joins the Duke of Gloucester’s household. The novel suggests one possibility concerning the fate of the young princes. The book is considered a prequel to the author’s English Civil War series.

The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters. While I enjoyed the early books in the author’s Amelia Peabody mystery series, I couldn’t finish this one. Roxane C. Murph, past chairman of the American Branch of the Richard III Society, said this about it: ”The Murders of Richard III has been rather controversial. I enjoyed the book, and was surprised by the unfavorable reactions of some Ricardians. Peters pokes fun at some of the more uncritical defenders of the king, but there is no malice in her work. I suppose it just proves that some of us are over-sensitive on the subject, or perhaps we take ourselves too seriously at times.”

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett. A sub-plot centers around what happened to one of the princes, but the book itself is not about Richard III. Major characters include Sir Thomas More and the German artist, Hans Holbein.

Richard III by Shakespeare. Largely exaggerated, historically inaccurate, but nonetheless a great classic.

The Rose at Harvest End by Eleanor Fairburn. Book 3 in a four-part series on Cicely Neville, Richard III’s mother. This one covers 1461 to the death of Edward IV in 1483. Other titles in the series: The Rose in Spring (#1), White Rose, Dark Summer (#2) and Winter’s Rose (#4).

A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith. An imagined love story about Richard III and his fictional mistress, Kate Haute.

Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewynne. A historical romance with the typical cheesy cover of a bodice-ripper. But consumer comments indicate it portrays better-than-average historical research.

The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth. This title is the first in a series. I thought the characterizations were over-the-top. Purple prose. Pro-Ricardian. There are two more in the series: Crown of Destiny and Fall from Grace.

The Seventh Son by Reay Tannahill. A bit on the dry side, the author gives a balanced portrayal of Richard III. He’s neither evil nor a saint.

The Sun In Splendor by Juliet Dymoke.

The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. An epic novel of the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. Pro-Ricardian.

To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell.

Treason by Meredith Whitford.

Under the Hog by Patrick Carleton. I haven’t read this one yet. It can be difficult to track down at a reasonable price. Originally published in 1938, it is a pro-Ricardian classic.

We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman. I haven’t read this one. Romantic. Pro-Ricardian.

The White Rose by Jan Westcott. I haven’t read this one. Westcott wrote more romance than historical fiction. Former Richard III Society Fiction Librarian, Jeanne Trahan Faubell, says The White Rose is “a romantic novel greatly sympathetic to Elizabeth and Anthony Woodville.”

Additional Resources

Barton Library Catalogue (Richard III Society)

Medieval Fiction Reading List

Ricardian Fiction: Trash and Treasures

The Wars of the Roses: Fiction

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