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Historical novels that aren't utter drivel?

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:11 pm
by sally
On a quest for things to read in the bath or late at night when I can't be bothered with anything remotely 'worthy'. Quite fancy a few historical novels that are diverting reading, but preferably where the background research isnt total garbage, though I'm happy to accept that certain liberties may have been taken in the name of fiction.

Any historical period, don't mind what genre- scholarly, bloodthirsty or bodiceripper (as long as its not too pink and fluffy :roll: ). Whats out there that might fit the occasion and stand up to being dunked in bathwater?

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:22 pm
by steve stanley
Simon Scarrow's Roman stuff or Jonathon Lunn's 'Killigrew' series(Victorian naval.....Think Indiana Jones meets Hornblower)
or Humphrey's(?) 'Jack Absolute'(three so far,V.good 18thcent derring-do..Jacobites,Wolfe at Quebec,War of independance)
Steve

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:47 pm
by Annis
Sharon Penman was recommended to me, and 'Here Be Dragons' is a good read! :D

Re: Historical novels that aren't utter drivel?

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:55 pm
by Karen Larsdatter
I've heard that the Kristin Lavransdatter series (by Sigrid Undset) is good, but I haven't actually read it myself.

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:52 pm
by PaulMurphy
The Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett is top of my recommended list, and has been for many years. Set initially in C16th Scotland, it follows the wayward younger son of a lowland family as he struggles with several challenges.

The series then takes off around the world (France, Russia, Malta, etc), covering mercenary companies, sieges, intrigue and power hunger, and a little bit of denied or suppressed love along the way.

A cracking read throughout, and never disappoints - give it a go.

For afters, she then wrote a second series about a merchant from Bruges, which was 95% as good.

Paul.

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:57 pm
by Høvding
Bernard Cornwell the saxon stories are excellent, with a historical footnote relating to events in each book

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:32 am
by Mad Mab
The Robert Carey Mysteries by P F Chisholm are fantastic. Late Elizabethan Border Reivers.
There are 4 of them:-
A Famine of Horses
A Season of Knives
A Surfeit of Guns
A plague of Angels.
Well written with an engaging hero based on a truly remarkable real-life man. :D
mab

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:00 am
by Botwot
Second Mad Mab's comments about the Carey novels

In the wider Elizabethan context, you might also want to try the Novels written under her own name as Patricia Finney

Glorianas Torch
Unicorn's Blood
Firedrake's Eye

And the series co authored with Grace Cavendish

Assassin
Betrayal
Conspiracy

Spy/Detective/mystery types

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:10 am
by Botwot
Second Mad Mab's comments about the Carey novels

In the wider Elizabethan context, you might also want to try the Novels written under her own name as Patricia Finney

Glorianas Torch
Unicorn's Blood
Firedrake's Eye

And the series co authored with Grace Cavendish

Assassin
Betrayal
Conspiracy

Spy/Detective/mystery types

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:13 am
by matilda
I've really enjoyed the boudicca books by Manda Scott,

not a period of history I know much about, so can't comment on accuracy, it took a bit of getting into, but once you're there - you really are there!

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:22 am
by Mad Mab
The Falco novels by Lindsey Davis are fun. I don't know how accurate they are (Romans aren't my period) but the characters are great and they fairly crackle along. Kind of Roman detective attempting to be in the style of Sam Spade except his family keep getting in the way :lol:
Also the Hawkwood books by James McGee. Regency thieftaker.
I also like the Susan Gregory books about Simon Bartholomew, a medieval physician (sorry, I have a weakness for historical crime :oops: ). The characters are great fun.

mab

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:35 am
by Phil the Grips
The Shardlake books by CJ Sansom are a good read- Dissolution, Dark Fire, Revelation etc.

Starting in the days before Henry VIII is about to knock everything down and following a worldly wise lawyer and his lusty secretary around as events unfold and people take advantage of the turbulent times to commit fraud and murder.

"Tamburlaine must die" Louise Welsh. Novella following Chris Marlowe's last 24 hours that can be read in the length of a good bath and perfectly captures the paranoia, character, politics and attitudes of Elizabethan London.

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:42 pm
by Stephen Dobson / Rab
Another vote for the Patricia Finney books - really interesting characters (although do read them in order, or you might get put off as a friend of mine did by having the insane minor character's visions of the Virgin Mary as one of the narrators!), and a good exploration of male friendship.

I love the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien (all 20 of them) set in the Napoleonic era British Navy. More male friendship and subtly changing characters over the whole cycle. I've re-read them all about five times since I discovered them a few years back.

And I do recommend the Cornwell 'Warlord Chronicles' (dark ages, gritty Arthurian adventure).

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:47 pm
by Annis
Botwot wrote:And the series co authored with Grace Cavendish

Assassin
Betrayal
Conspiracy

Spy/Detective/mystery types

I thought those were children's books?! But anyhow, they are good, although I have only read the first two.

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:54 am
by Rod Walker
Elizabeth Chadwick.

www.elizabethchadwick.com

The Champion is one of my favourite books.

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:42 pm
by Nigel
yes the Lunn stuff they are great steam powered Hornblower by an author whoo is not precious about killing people off

Scarrow absolutely

Malinson oh yes superb but getting a bit prissy

Ratcatcher yes too

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:44 pm
by Calendula
"A Conspiracy of Paper" by David Liss - a little known one about the machinations of the beginnings of the stockmarket. Found by accident in a charity shop and really enjoyed!
http://www.davidliss.com/conspiracy.html

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:23 pm
by Mad Mab
OK, only 'technically' historical, but 'The Dracula Tapes' by Fred Saberhagen is a really fun read. Retells Bram Stoker's Dracula from Dracula's point of view where the count makes himself out to be totally misunderstood and surrounded by complete idiots. IT can be truly hilarious (especially the part where Harkins tries to behead him with a spade!)
The 2 sequels are 3rd person narrative and not nearly so much fun.

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:23 pm
by gregory23b
Flashman - any and all of them


Patrick O Brien - Aubrey and Maturin series, any and all of them.

Dorothy Dunnet - Nichollo rising series, great adventure.

Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:44 pm
by Ellen Gethin
Some brilliant suggestions here - I can only add Sylvian Hamilton, who wrote The Bone Pedlar, Pendragon Banner and The Gleemaiden (medieval adventures of a holy relic seller), and recommend a visit to www.historicalfiction.org

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:12 am
by Marcus Woodhouse
I don't know what it is historical/horror/sci-fi (not sure the author is too sure either) but I re-read Ash again.

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:59 pm
by Margareta
I think that "Ash" goes mostly under "alternative history". From the same author (Mary Gentle) "1610: A Sundial in a Grave" is also very good (also alternative history, sort of telling "The Three Musketeers" from a tilted perspective).

I would recommend "Relics" by Pip Vaughan-Hughes. Entertaining, historically correct, sexy, cynical and brutal enough. And short.

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:49 am
by auldMotherBegg
I really enjoyed the Winston Graham 'Poldark' series... I never saw the old TV series, only have read the books. I like that there's lots of sequels... it lets you follow the family's life and times... I am not sure if it's absolutely accurate, historically, but I think it is a stonking good romp through the 18th century.

Speaking of stonking good romps in the 18th century, don't forget Henry Fielding's 'Tom Jones'. Things are so different in words from movies, you get so much more out of it if you can imagine the scenes.

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:53 am
by auldMotherBegg
I also like Diana Gabaldon, and her Jacobite series... the 'time travel' bit may come under the heading of "utter drivel", but I loved them!

Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:04 pm
by steve stanley
auldMotherBegg wrote:I also like Diana Gabaldon, and her Jacobite series... the 'time travel' bit may come under the heading of "utter drivel", but I loved them!
Hate to admit it,but so do I!.......despite a few irritating errors(riding wearing plaids...grumble...whinge)
Steve

Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:43 pm
by Nutcracker
Robert Harris' "Fatherland" is a good book, just started reading it. A chi9lling insight into what could have been.

Josh

Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:56 am
by nathan
Second vote for Elizabeth Chadwick. The Greatest Knight is a good one to start with.

Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:58 am
by Christabel
Mary Stewart's "The Crystal Cave" and "The Hollow Hills" - brillliant books written in the 1970s about Myrddin (Merlin) a bastard prince who as a boy crawls around in the hypocuast of his Welsh King grandfather's palace unwanted and eavesdropping on great matters until his second sight kicks in. His life changes dramatically when is kidnapped by - well, I won't give too much away.
And, if you don't mind the fact that it's a children's book, Rosemary Sutcliff's "The Eagle of the Ninth." Still superb...

Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:36 pm
by Stephen Dobson / Rab
Christabel wrote:And, if you don't mind the fact that it's a children's book, Rosemary Sutcliff's "The Eagle of the Ninth." Still superb...
Hear, hear :)

Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:32 pm
by Phil the Grips
"Moonfleet" and "Warrior Scarlet".