Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Vladd67, Oct 11, 2009.

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    Vladd67

    Vladd67 Stake Holder

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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I have to confess to a weakness for Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael novels. Not the world's best, but pretty well researched as far as I can judge. I've actually been to some historical sites around Winchester and impressed the guide with my knowledge of local convents and the Stephen-Matilda civil war thanks to close reading of some of them!

    I think I'd be worried, though, if history was taught through historical novels, as the article seems to suggest, even if only tongue in cheek. Though that would still be preferable to students learning it from dross like 'The Tudors' on TV I suppose.

    J
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    nixie

    nixie pixie druid Staff Member

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    I've found that historical fictional is very informative, sometimes events, places and people are mentioned and I've found myself researching them.

    Freda Warrington's Court of the Midnight King is a perfect example, started me off with my fascination for Richard III.

    Also Mary Gentle and Bernard Cornwell have me searching to see how accurate they are.
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    nj1

    nj1 monkey is magic

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    When at school I absolutely HATED history, boring to say the least, but reading books like Hannibal (Pride of Carthage), Gates of Fire, various Alexander stories, a few Roman, Religion plus the authors already mentioned, I now adore Historical fiction (eventhough i've never read Renault), with Scarrow (escpecially his excellent Napoleon series) and Cornwell up there with the best IMO. While Flashmans been on my to get list for sometime (note to self, Must find Flashman).

    As long as artistic lisence is noted and the reasons given then i'm not that bothered if a book isn't exactly as things happened, sometimes an author needs to bend the tale a little to make the book flow smoothly
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    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    Historical Fiction is my favourite too! The history books might tell you WHEN or HOW things were done , but not neccessarily WHY. HF allows novellists to use their creative imagination combined with actual historical events to allow the reader an opportunity to get into the mind of famous characters and be given an understanding as to why they may (or may not) have carried out certain actions.

    It also allows the average man in the street to be given a voice , something that the history books rarely do , other than to refer to them as peasants or serfs. series like CJ Sansome's Shardlake allow the reader to see Tudor England through the eyes of someone unlikely to be mentioned (if he had really existed) in any historical text.
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    Sparrow

    Sparrow Science fiction fantasy

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth


    Me too.

    Anne Perry does some very well researched, and true to the times, Victorian detective novels. Her first half dozen William Monk and Thomas Pitt books are very believable. And it's sort of cool that Ms. Perry is a convicted murderer... it lends a certain reality to her work that the average mystery writer can't match.
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Lindsey Davis's series of Falco novels, starring an informer/private detective in first century Rome, give an almost unrivalled picture of what it was like away from the Imperial palaces and military glory. Well worth a read.

    And I second Vladd's recommendation of Flashman - and can I add CS Forester's Hornblower to the list? For sheer balance between Napoleonic Navy minutiae and powerful storylines, he's still the best, IMHO...
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    The Ace

    The Ace Aye fur Alba

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    I agree with that one, Pyan, with the exceptions of the lictors' axes and Falco dropping a lorica segmentata over his head.

    A lictor'd never unbind his rods to get at the axe and hard experience has shown that assistance is needed to put on strip armour so that it fits properly, coupling freedom of movement with protection.
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    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    I bow to your practical experience, Ace - I gather it's not like slipping on a t-shirt, then?...:D
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    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    I went out and bought ALL of the Cadfael novels , and find them really hard to get into. I loved the tv series , and thought Derek Jacobi was brilliant , but the books are not as accessible. It's not that I don't like the premise of a medieval detective , having devoured Sansome's Shardlake series (the first actually involving a murder in a monastery) , just that they seem hard going.

    Not as hard going as Hornblower was - at first. But once you got into Forester's style of writing and nautical terms , they become compulsive reading,

    I think of all historical reading Graves' I Claudius series is my favourite
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Ah, now I found Derek Jacobi completely wrong for the part of Cadfael - so I think, marvin, you need to disconnect all thoughts of him and the TV series in order to get into the books. Mind you, it helped that I was interested in the herbs as much as the murders and more than the love story side plots!

    I agree about I, Claudius and Claudius the God though - impeccably researched books. (And Derek Jacobi again - do I sense a common thread?)

    I haven't read a lot of Forester, but I've read all of O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels and I'd have said he's the better stylist. Couldn't get on with the Dudley Pope Ramage books at all, though.

    J
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    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    Haha , hadn't thought about the DJ connection! Having watched the tv series first , I had pre-conceived about Claudius/Cadfael before attempting the novels. Whereas this helped with characters in Graves' novels , you're right the character portrayed by Jacobi is entirely different. Perhaps I need to approach it from another angle.
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    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Thats why i read historical fiction, a good enough HF will teach you more about history,show realism than a boring historical biography can.

    Even the decent ones has historical footnotes at the end.

    C.S Forester is THE HF writer for me, the straightforward writing style with great characters,more historical realism,knowledge than you can find in 10 books.

    He did win the biggest prize in the english language.

    His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

    Founded in 1919, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and are Britain's oldest literary awards
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    nixie

    nixie pixie druid Staff Member

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    I've developed a fondness for Jean Plady's books. Have read her Plantangent series and am now on the Tudors
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    jojajihisc

    jojajihisc vast and cool

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    Interesting that the author mentions Renault's The King Must Die as the place to start for historical fiction. My wife loved reading that book when she was a teenager and probably hasn't read another historical fiction novel since. Damn her. My sister really likes Bernard Cornwell, my mother Diana Gabaldon and two of the better books I've read this year were historical fiction as well - The Frontiersman by Allan W. Eckert and The Terror by Dan Simmons.
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    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Conn Iggulden is the HF for my siblings. Two of my brothers,one sister read all his books.

    Simon Scarrow is for them too.

    Conn is great, he is Forrester in today's HF, realistic,great characters,great action.
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    Rosemary

    Rosemary The Wicked Sword Maiden

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    Loved history at school, although mostly the more ancient history.

    I enjoyed Peter's Brother Cadfael novels as well.

    However, my favourite is the series written by Edward Rutherfurd, starting with Old Sarum. A lot of research went into his books.

    Another good series I really enjoyed but I'm afraid I have forgotten the author was about LLewelyn, King of Ireland and his descendants.

    I find that reading FH makes me want to do more research into the subjects, almost as enjoyable as reading the books! :)
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    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    I feel the same about wanting to read more history books about the stories,period you read.

    Nautical,historical times I didn't find interesting before reading a good HF book about them.
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    rdenning

    rdenning New Member

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    Yes I agree that a good historical fiction can really educate you about a period. I think the trick is that fiction makes you see and experience the world THROUGH the eyes of a character which you have become attached to and care about and so you start to experience the world as if you were there and that has to be the best way. That is why living history events are so popular.

    There is a potential weakness however in that the reader has to be aware that the writer may be taking liberties with history and sometime radical changes. Take films like Braveheart as an example. So I usually check out the history AS WELL after I have read the book.
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    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

    In my opinion the best historical fiction concetrates on the minutaie. No need to mess with historical fact, as that's interesting enough as it is ; but concentrating on the characters of the period, their thoughts opinons and actions, really bring history to life.

    We know what famous histoical characters did and what heppened in the period they lived ; but what where their hopes and fears? And what of the courtiers, landowners or peasants ; the ordinary folk of whom the history books rarely speak. Historical fiction is a great way of speculating on how people lived their lives from day to day.

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