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Old 02-08-2004, 07:51 PM
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Recommend some historical fiction set in Britian, please


I just finished The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. I loved it, and especially appreciated all the insight it provided into that period of history. It occurred to me that reading historical fiction might be a painless way for me to learn some British history, so now I am looking for recommendations.

We are visiting Yorkshire and Northumberland in May, so anything set in either of those places would be especially welcomed. I am not a history scholar (can't you tell?) so anything reasonably accurate would suit me fine.
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Old 02-08-2004, 10:25 PM
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Well, I don't know about "reasonably accurate," but they're good reads. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michale Faber, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue.
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Old 02-09-2004, 02:39 AM
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There's Catherine, Called Birdy has always been a favorite of mine. God's Thumbs!
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Old 02-09-2004, 02:50 AM
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Sharon Kay Penman (if I spelled her name right) has some good stuff about the War of the Roses, as well as some good stuff about the Welsh wars. Very good historic fiction. Dredging my memory, the titles were Here Be Dragons, When Christ and His Saints Slept, The Sunne in Splendor and The Reconning. There were a few more, but those are the ones I remember off the top of my head. These books give a lot of good historical background about England and Wales, and a bit of Scotland as well.

You could check out the Horatio Hornblower books as well if you want a bit later period...this gives some good insights into how the British military worked, with some good background on the people in the Navy especially.

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Old 02-09-2004, 05:50 AM
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I logged in to suggest Slammerkin only to see that liirogue has already mentioned it. I thought it was a little-known book too!

Well worth a read though and based (somewhat loosely) on a true story of a prostitute in London in the 18th Century.

J.
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Old 02-09-2004, 05:56 AM
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If you fancy reading about a dashing cad, the Flashman series is extremely accurate historically, but maybe more about empire than just Britain.
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Old 02-09-2004, 09:45 AM
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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

London by Edward Rutherfurd

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
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Old 02-09-2004, 10:25 AM
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The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn is a great read. It's a pretty fast read (at least it was for me!)

Robin Maxwell has others as well that you may find interesting.

Margaret George has two that I've read twice each, one on Henry the VIII and one on Mary Queen of Scots. They're both kind of sloggy books but are great reads!

If you want a great biography on Queen Elizabeth I read The First Elizabeth by Carolly Erickson. Historical information, great biography AND it reads like a novel! Some great pictures in there as well.

Hope this helps!
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Old 02-09-2004, 01:13 PM
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Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd.
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Old 02-09-2004, 05:37 PM
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Thanks, everyone. These sound great. Keep 'em coming.
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Old 02-09-2004, 05:46 PM
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A second vote here for The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Loved that book.

Sarum by Edward Rutherford is quite good, but also quite long. I think it would work nicely as reading material on the flight to the U.K.
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Old 02-09-2004, 06:09 PM
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If you like mysteries, you may also consider Anne Perry. She writes Victorian mysteries, and her books always have historical figures and events woven into the plot. You may also learn a fact or two about the Crimean war.
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Old 02-09-2004, 06:32 PM
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Roberta Gellis has a whole historical romance series set in the time period of Richard I through Henry (whichever it was who succeeded John). She has a degree in medieval literature and works pretty hard to get the details right. In order, the books are
  • Roselynde
  • Alinor
  • Joanna
  • Gillian
  • Rhiannon
  • Sybelle.
I can highly recommend them. They're good stories, the women are strong characters, the history and politics are explained pretty well, and the societal details are interesting.

As an aside, I bought a whole batch of Anne Perry books after seeing PBS's adaptation of The Cater Street Hangman. I'm selling them off/giving them to the local used bookstore because I feel weird having books written by her in my home. She's one of the two girls from Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. I don't know why it weirds me out, it just does.
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Old 02-09-2004, 06:57 PM
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Yes, she did commit a horrific crime, but I do believe that she is remorseful. Doesn't change the facts, however.

If anyone saw the adaptation of Cater Street Hangman , don't let that steer you off Anne Perry if you have never read her books. The movie did an awful job of the book, IMO.
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Old 02-09-2004, 07:01 PM
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Hmm. It actually takes place with the English army in France (though they're in Brittany, which was part of England at the time, or something)...

Anyway, The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell was outstanding. Main character is an English archer in the Hundred Years War.
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Old 02-09-2004, 07:43 PM
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I'm busy re-reading Sherwood by Parke Godwin right now.

It's a pretty good take on the Robin Hood legend set during the period in which William was consolidating his hold on England after Hastings. It does a very good job of making the feel of the time come alive for the reader...especially the cultural conflict between William and his Norman vavasors and the salt of the earth Saxons.
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Old 02-09-2004, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chicksdigscars
Yes, she did commit a horrific crime, but I do believe that she is remorseful. Doesn't change the facts, however.
I never said it was a reasonable reaction. (Though ghods know, it took me forever to be comfortable with the fact that emotions have little to do with logic.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by chicksdigscars
If anyone saw the adaptation of Cater Street Hangman , don't let that steer you off Anne Perry if you have never read her books. The movie did an awful job of the book, IMO.
Oddly enough, seeing that adaptation is why I went out to buy the books. I enjoyed the first few, but later books just . . . started to seem boring. I suspect that's part of the reason I'm getting rid of them, but being squicked is a bigger one.
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Old 02-09-2004, 08:07 PM
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This is fairly "recent" historical fiction, and one of my favorites:

Piece of Cake, by Derek Robinson. It's about RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain. I like how it dispels the myth of the fearless warrior.
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Old 02-09-2004, 08:20 PM
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If you like a bit of romance in addition to your historical information, Diana Gabaldon is fun. (Weird how often she has been mentioned on SDMB lately...) The first few novels in her Outlander series center around the second raising. You know, Bonnie Prince Charlie and that lot. Beware! Her books keep getting larger and larger.
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Old 02-09-2004, 10:56 PM
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The Sara Douglass series "The Crucible" is a pretty good read.
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Old 02-09-2004, 11:08 PM
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And as long as you're reading Edmund Rutherfurd, you should also read his third book set in England, "The Forest".
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Old 02-09-2004, 11:11 PM
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Second RitzyRae's recommendation of the Outlander series. My wife got me hooked on it and now I'm anticipating each new book.

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Old 02-09-2004, 11:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chicksdigscars
Yes, she did commit a horrific crime, but I do believe that she is remorseful. Doesn't change the facts, however.

What did she do? When I google "Anne Perry" and "crime" all I get back are her books.
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:13 AM
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What did she do? When I google "Anne Perry" and "crime" all I get back are her books.
As a teenager, she helped her best friend (at the time) kill her mother. Rent Heavenly Creatures for the full story. Or google the HC FAQ.
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:31 AM
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If you like mysteries, I highly recommend two authors:

Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael

Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma

If you don't like mysteries, Ellis Peters was the pen name of Edith Pargeter. She wrote quite a few historical fiction, one about the 1303 battle of Shrewsbury A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury . She also wrote a series The Brothers of Gwynedd: Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:34 AM
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One of my very favorite pieces of historical fiction is Forever Amber which is set in England during the reign of Charles II, I think. Lots of interesting things going on during that time period, but I don't want to give it away. Amber is somewhat of a Scarlet O'Hara figure and the writing is really reasonably good. It's been around for about sixty years, but it is still in print. That says something for the quality. It is long, but isn't that desirable in a book that you can't put down? The author is Kathleen Winsor.

You asked about historical fiction, but the one book that I would want to reread if I were going to Yorkshire was written in the 1970's and is the true story of a young vet in the Yorkshire dales in the 1930's. It is James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small.. It was enormously popular when it was published and lead to a series of books and my favorite television series of all time. It is riotously funny and has more local color than any other stories that I've read.
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:39 AM
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If you like fictionalized biographies, you might want to try Jean Plaidy's books.

They were written some time ago-- Plaidy (also known as romance novel writer Victoria Holt) is now deceased. Just recently, her historical biographies of the Tudors were re-issued.

She's not the greatest writer, and the books are rather short, but they're an entertaining "beach read."

Another fictionalized biography I would suggest is The Book of Eleanor by Pamela Kaufman. It's a first-person account of the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles is also told in first person-- the story of Elizabeth I.
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Old 02-10-2004, 02:01 AM
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I'm not big into historical fiction - but I did recently read Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford, a novel of the life of playwright Christopher Marlowe. IMO Burgess very effectively evokes the (evidently very cut-throat) politics and culture (and vocabulary) of Elizabethan England.

Might not be easy to find, though.
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Old 02-10-2004, 05:35 AM
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I really enjoyed Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South." Although it was written in 1855 so it's not set in the past but written there. Public Domain Goodness
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Old 02-10-2004, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoe
You asked about historical fiction, but the one book that I would want to reread if I were going to Yorkshire was written in the 1970's and is the true story of a young vet in the Yorkshire dales in the 1930's. It is James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small.. It was enormously popular when it was published and lead to a series of books and my favorite television series of all time. It is riotously funny and has more local color than any other stories that I've read.
Well, James Herriot (Alf Wight) WAS a real person, and he was a vet in Yorkshire in the 30s. But most of his stories fall into the category of "rural myth". He as good as admitted it himself in later years.
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Old 02-10-2004, 08:16 AM
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Elizabeth Chadwick
The Conquerer
The Champion
and other similar books on the Middle ages. Pretty enjoyable reads.
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Old 02-10-2004, 08:43 AM
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There is a series of books by Jack Whyte (no, not Jack White of the White Stripes) which are attempts to place Arthurian characters into the actual England of the time, and to explain some of the key events within the legend via more reasonable, contextually appropriate alternatives.

The first book is The Sky Stone and takes place during the time of Arthur's grandparents in the late 4th century A.D., as the Roman Empire begins to neglect its British holdings. One of the lead characters ends up unearthing a large meteorite (i.e., Sky Stone) which is used in the making of Excalibur.

Well-rendered, very readable - the books feel historically plausible. The characters are a tad thin, but even a basic knowledge of the legend tends to fill that in.

Worth a read.
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Old 02-10-2004, 08:50 AM
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There's Catherine, Called Birdy has always been a favorite of mine. God's Thumbs!
Hmm. My post is supposed to look like this.

There's Freedom & Necessity, which is dumped into fantasy instead of historical fiction because one of the characters is being pursued by a secret occult society, and maybe because Brust and Bull are both noted fantasy authors. Anyway, it's set in Victorian England and involves the Chartist movement and reaction against the Corn Acts (I think it's the Corn Acts). With special and lengthy guest appearance by Frederich Engels! And it's an epistolary novel! What more could you want?

This is a children's book, but Catherine, Called Birdy has always been a favorite of mine. God's Thumbs!

Addendum: I second the Brother Cadfael mysteries. There're some movie adaptations from BBC that are somewhere between wonderful and okay, depending on which book is being dramatized.

The James Herriott books are good too, but, like Sparrow says, not entirely true. Read them with a grain of salt, and just enjoy.
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Old 02-10-2004, 09:22 AM
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OK, this isn't a novel; but it deals with the part of the UK you'll be visiting, and is a cracking good read by one of the best storytellers in the world:

"The Steel Bonnets" by George MacDonald Fraser. (author of the rollicking "Flashman" novels, and the excellent novellised autobiographies "The Genreal Danced at Dawn," "MacAuslan in the Rough," "The Sheik and the Dustbin," and one of the best books recently about the private soldier in WW2, "Quartered Safe Out Here."

"The Steel Bonnets" is about the Scottish Border Reivers--bands of cattle-rustling outlaws that plagued Anglo-Scottish border in the 16th Century. The real Original Gangstas, it was said that "If Jesus Christ were emongest them, they would deceave him." They were big into blackmail and, essentially Viking-like terrorism of the farm people of northern England. It's a great book, very readable.

Their depredations were so bad that in 1524, the Bishop of Glasgow called a Curse down on the Reivers and all their descendants, known as the "Monition of Cursing," which must still be a model of its type:

Quote:
I curse their heid and all the haris of thair heid; I curse thair face, thair ene, thair mouth, thair heise, thair tongue, thair teeth, thair crag, thair shoulderis, thair breist, thair hert, thair stomok, thair bak, thair wame, thair armes, thais leggis, thair handis, thair feit, and everilk part of thair body, frae the top of their heid to the soill of thair feet, befoir and behind, within and without. I curse thaim gangand (going), and I curse them rydland (riding); I curse thaim standand, and I curse thaim sittand; I curse thaim etand, I curse thaim drinkand; I curse thaim walkand, I curse thaim sleepand; I curse thaim risand, I curse thaim lyand; I curse thaim at hame, I curse thaim fra hame; I curse thaim within the house, I curse thaim without the house; I curse thair wiffis, thair barnis, and thair servandis participand with thaim in their deides. I way thair cornys, thair catales, thair woll, thair scheip, thjair horse, thair swyne, thair geise, thair hennes, and all thair quyk gude (livestock). I wary their hallis, thair chalmeris (rooms), thair kechingis, thair stanillis, thair barnys, thair biris (cowsheds), thair bernyardis, thair cailyardis (cabbage-patches).... thair plewis, thair harrowis, and the gudis and housis that is necessair for their sustentatioun and weilfair.
...and that's just the first page; there's three more! The Monition of Cursing in full (PDF file)
A great "what-if" novel is Len Deighton's "SS-GB", which is a serviceable detective tale set in a Britain that has been conquered by the Germans in 1940.
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Old 02-10-2004, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
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If you like mysteries, I highly recommend two authors:

Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael

Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma

If you don't like mysteries, Ellis Peters was the pen name of Edith Pargeter. She wrote quite a few historical fiction, one about the 1303 battle of Shrewsbury A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury . She also wrote a series The Brothers of Gwynedd: Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall
Obviously, I also highly recommend the Brother Cadfael mysteries. They provide a very interesting view of everyday life in mideval time... the people are fairly ordinary, doing more or less ordinary stuff as they go about their business of making a living, dealing with families, solving murders, etc.
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Old 02-10-2004, 11:58 AM
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WTF? Anne Perry and Heavenly Creatures? Where did you get that? I know the movie is a true story that happened in New Zealand. A 10 second check came up with Anne Perry being from England and no mention of a crime. Try again.
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:47 PM
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Looked into it deeper and I am finding the Heavenly Creature Anne Perry connection but I have not found a cite that I would say is 100% accurate. Ms Perry's own webpage says nothing about ever being in New Zealand (not surprising either way) don't know why I'm interested, I haven't read any of her books.
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:49 PM
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Yes, it IS true that Anne Perry was one of the teenagers involved in the crime dramatized in Heavenly Creatures. Obviously, Anne Perry is not her real name. She now lives in Scotland, not England. Her real name was Juliet Hulme.

Go here for just one review of the movie. Do a Google search on Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures and you will find many more.

http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/mo.../heavenly.html
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Old 02-10-2004, 12:53 PM
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Or if you do a Google search on Juliet Hulme, you get this New Zealand website.

http://www.crime.co.nz/c-files.asp?ID=18
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Old 02-10-2004, 01:25 PM
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Roberta Gellis (already mentioned) also has the three 'Magdalene la Bartarde' murder mysteries, set in the time of King Stephen, which are excellent.

If I may, I would also recommend the books of Paul Doherty, especially:

The Roger Shallot journals - set in the reign of Henry VIII
The medieval mystery's featuring High Corbett - set in the reign of Edward I.

Rosalind Miles, 'I Elizabeth' isn't bad.

Although it isn't fiction, Alison Weir is very readable - 'Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley' is presented in the manor of an investigation, and is excellently researched.

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker is phenomenal, set during WW1 (set in Frnace and England as you might expect).
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Old 02-10-2004, 09:24 PM
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SARUM ? ? is that it ?

History via architecture. A fun read, though implausable lineage derived characters that span centuries. My hazy recollection is that it was a damn fun read, and you learnd lots bout cathedral construction......... if that's ur thing.

me, I liked it, but then, I like cornbread in buttermilk yum yum
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Old 02-10-2004, 09:50 PM
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Well, the best ever historical series set in Britain, IMHO is the ongoing Dynasty series bt Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I don't think they are easy to find in the US, but they are available at Amazon, I think. This is a continuing series, starting in the 1400s with the Wars of the Roses, and follows the fortunes of a Yorkshire family (and a house) over history. Right now she is on volume 26, and has hit about 1910. She is an excellent writer- some of her characters are unforgettable- and there are no feisty modern 20th century heroines in long dresses- the characters think and act in the character of their times.

Through the eyes of a family (mainly the women, but some of the men too)- she covers the Wars of the Roses, the Tudor reformation (you would like volume 2- the Dark Rose, set at the Tudor court, although I think she is a little easy on Anne Boleyn!), the Civil War, the Restoration, Jacobite Rebellions, The American Revolution, and the industrial age, and everything in between- from the lives of servants to life at court.

The early volumes cover more time (40 or 50 years in some cases), but as the series goes on, you can tell she fell in love with her characters and slowed down, filling in a lot more details and secondary characters.

I can't recommend this series highly enough- as soon as one book comes out, it's hard to wait a year for the next one (and I've been waiting for "the next one" each year for 15 years or so!). Her website is at http://www.cynthiaharrodeagles.com/morland.htm
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Old 02-11-2004, 03:04 AM
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I just thought of another mystery series and I can't believe I forgot it. The Catherine Levendeur mysteries by Sharan Newman. Even though they're mostly set in medieval France, in later books the characters travel to England, and a rather prominent character IS English. The first one just astounded me when I read it, as I hadn't been expecting it to be much good, just coming off a Mary Higgins Clark kick and having a general low opinion of mystery novels. The first one is Death Comes as Epiphany. There are about six of them, and I believe they can all be found on Amazon.
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Old 02-11-2004, 09:07 AM
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Fun topic! I can't wait to hunt down some of the books folks have mentioned.

Some others:

Also a children's/young adult book, but The Forestwife is another great take on the whole Maid Marian story.

I highly recommend Possession, which is half modern-day literary mystery and half love story about two nineteenth-century poets whose characteristics are cribbed from the Brownings, a couple of more obscure Victorian poets, the poems of Coleridge and Keats, etc. And forget what the critics said, the movie was fantastic.

And if you haven't discovered them yet, run, don't walk, and get the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. They take place both in Victorian England (although the series is now up to post-World War I in its chronology) and the British-occupied Egypt of that period, and the heroine and her family are early Egyptian archaeologists (British in nationality) who keep getting caught up in murder mysteries. The author is an Egyptologist herself, and her geographical and archaeological details are flawless - I once wrote a paper on a site mentioned in her books, and everything my research turned up sounded familiar! Plus the characters are great, the writing style is very funny (I find myself reading bits aloud to whoever's in the room), and you'll love Amelia. The first book (and one of the best) in the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank - but do yourself a favor and don't read the back of the book before you read the book. In my opinion, they give too much away.

Hope that's what you meant by historical fiction! Although in the Amelia Peabody series, real characters and real historical events are woven in quite nicely.
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  #45  
Old 02-13-2004, 06:01 PM
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Wow! I am so grateful so many people replied with so many good suggestions. I am heading off to the bookstore tomorrow.
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  #46  
Old 02-14-2004, 11:40 PM
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You might try this series by Dewey Lambdin.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...408415-5623314

Historical fiction - British Naval stories centered around Alan Lewrie
  #47  
Old 02-15-2004, 01:10 AM
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Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor. It's set in Restoration London.
  #48  
Old 02-16-2004, 10:22 AM
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I recommend just about anything by Norah Lofts. Her books portray everyday life in historical Suffolk with a stark reality that is almost bleak.
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  #49  
Old 02-25-2004, 11:10 PM
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I had to resurrect this thread because I just finished Phillipa Gregory's The Queen's Fool. If you liked The Other Boleyn Girl, I think you'll like this book.

I warn you: it has a touch of the supernatural, so if this kind of thing irritates you, you may not like it as much as the other. (It's the story of a young girl in Queen Mary's court who has occasional precognative visions.)
  #50  
Old 02-26-2004, 01:34 PM
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Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle is a favorite of mine. Here is a link to an article about how accurate it really is. OTOH, it isn't all set in England. OTOOH, it is about British colonialism and exploration of the Congo, so it is history.
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