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Bar none the very best historical novels . . . .

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In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2008 11:57:57 PM PST
Cassandra says:
Margaret- Always happy to point out an awesome book to a fellow enthusiast. :) Part of the reason that I like The Light Bearer (aside from the fact that it's an amazing book) is the fact that it's not very well known. Certain authors start out well, but then seem to sort of coast by on their fame, which makes authors like Donna Gillespie such a great find. I love promoting worthy authors that no one has ever heard of. (Best part of working in a bookstore, IMHO. Well, that and the discount.) ;P

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 6:46:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2008 6:47:25 AM PST
ash says:
wrong thread, sorry

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 11:34:22 AM PST
OK, Chuck, I stand corrected about choosing one all time favorite. Should have said one of such. An all time favorite is one that comes knocking at the door of my memory, demanding to be read again. Katherine is the most recent. Other excellent ones include:

Water of Life by Henry Morton Robinson
Jubilee by Margaret Walker (the reverse side of GWTW)
The Cry and the Covenant by Morton Thompson (19th century Europe medical hero Semmelweis)
The Jesuit by John Gallahue - 1930s Europe
Steven Saylor's Sub Rosa Series (ancient Rome mysteries)

I've been able to find the old ones thru Amazon's used books. So happy to find this way of learning other readers' favorites and sharing mine. I have many new TBR's.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 11:59:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2008 12:14:32 PM PST
Selene says:
Cassandra, I noticed on this forum somewhere (but do you think I can find it now?!) a post by Donna Gillespie, where she mentioned that she is currently working on a third book in the "Light Bearer" series. The second one, "Lady of the Light", is already out.
So many people have mentioned LB as a favourite on different threads through this forum, that I can see I'm just going to have to get hold of a copy!

One of the best parts of working in a library is also getting access to untold
books! :)

P.S. Is there a Search topic/keyword function (as opposed to tag search) for this forum that I'm just not seeing?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 2:17:30 PM PST
Joan.....Your well read.....this forum has made me realize how many books I have on my TBR and TBRR.....thanks for sharing your great list....

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 2:37:47 PM PST
ash says:
A couple more to add to the list of history books I consider the best, for me

>Sinai Tapestry by Edward Whittemore (a little known author who deserves to be well known)

>Katherine Anya Seton

>Journeyer Gary Jennings

>City of Dreams Beverly Swerling

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 5:19:30 PM PST
Cassandra says:
Selene, I couldn't find Donna Gillespie's post (maybe I'm looking at the wrong thread - I'm pretty new to the Amazon forums), but I'm excited to hear that she's working on the third. It seemed like it took forever for Lady of the Light to come out. Hopefully book 3 will take less time!

I thought of another one that sort of fits, in the manner of Tolstoy and Dickens: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. It's immensely long and complex, and sometimes a little disjointed, but it's (arguably) the first novel every written, so I make allowances. It offers a fascinating look at life in Heian Japan, following the life of "Prince" Genji. If you're going to read it, go for broke and get the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition edited by Royall Tyler (ISBN 014243714X). The chapter overviews and character lists at the beginning of each chapter are lifesavers in a book where the characters - particularly the women - are referred to by titles (i.e. Lady of the Peony Pavillion) that change periodically with no notice.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 5:35:48 PM PST
Jerrie Brock says:
I gave quite a few when I made my recomendations, so I will repeat my all time favorite may have been lost in the shuffle. I range all through history, from the very ancient onward and still I think "And Ladies of the Club" has to be one of the best written most interesting books I have ever read. Like others I plow through probably close to 50 to 100 books a year so one faovrite is no easy task. I do not know if would qualify for the guys as the best but it is a great history of America. The writing is suberb. It starts at the end of the Civil War and runs through to the beginning of the Depression following one woman's life. It was based on that woman's letters and written by a neice over a 60 year period. Nearly 900 pages of tiny print and never, ever a moment when it was not good. The Author was Helen Hooven Santmeyer (Sanametyer) something like that. My all time favorite out of thousands.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 5:58:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2008 6:01:27 PM PST
Selene says:
Chuck- you're quite right , choosing only one book, or even just a few, out of all the books you love is really just an intellectual exercise, though fun to think about. It's also a very subjective exercise as different stories will appeal to different people, though looking through the threads I am starting to notice several titles coming up more than once. I know I could just as happily choose any number of titles as I'm a bit like Ash, started reading adult books at about 12 (just as well my parents didn't realise what I was reading at times!) and so over the years have gone through an awful lot of books.

The main trouble I'm finding after devouring all these books is that stories often stay with me, but authors and titles don't always, making it hard to track them down. I'm finding this forum very helpful for rediscovering novels which have become lost in the mists of time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 6:07:09 PM PST
Selene says:
Cassandra- No, I couldn't find the original post by Donna Gillespie, either, which caused me some frustration- we could definitely do with a keyword search option for tracking down posts of interest seen previously (if there isn't already one that I'm too blind to see!)

Thanks for the tip about "The Tale of Genji" -- sounds interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 8:58:53 PM PST
Hello Selene....Yes! As a young lad of 13...I Sneakly; read a few of my father's Mickey Spillane novel's....quite educational and graphic....Yes! reading these threads are like VM's song "Into The Mystic" so many familiar titles and so many books over the years everything gets a bit fuzzy and mystical when trying to remember the reading experiences.....a few weeks ago I finished DOTG and it sort of blew me away...very heavy.....couldn't pick up up another book for awhile....But that's what I love about books....They are magical...reading a great passage...that can take your breath away.......I guess all that time traveling/walking has taken it's toll on my brain....But then again "Into the Mystic is not a bad place to be....More reading fodder ahead...on my reading stand I have Cornwells "Sword Song" Whyte's "Standard of Honor" and Lawhead's "Scarlet" so I have 900+ pages ahead..... I'm quite amazed at the amount of reads that are mentioned on these threads obscure, old and new...but always interesting....Peace

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2008 10:49:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2008 10:50:01 PM PST
Selene says:
Cassandra, I can never let a mystery lie, so eventually tracked down the Donna Gillespie post.
Text follows:

< Jan 19, 2008
D. Gillespie says:
I was just cruising past this board and was delighted and amazed to see that both you, Fan of the Past, and Lilyflora mentioned my book as a favorite. Wow! Thank you! I'm always surprised when anyone has heard of me at all, but to be picked as a favorite is just wonderful.

Yes, a third book is on the way (Lady of the Light is the middle book in a trilogy) and I'm getting ready now to send the first 200 pages to my editor...and hoping she likes them. Right now the new book has the scintillating title of Auriane III -- I hate coming up with titles and usually let someone else do it. So, no, all the ends are not tied up in Lady of the Light, and I admit to at least one cliffhanger. This wasn't intentional on my part, really -- I would have preferred to do these 2 books as one extremely long book, but my publisher balked at that. So the story had to be cut off at some point. But I do promise a happier ending for this final book!>

(Darkly muttering to myself here- a keyword search would have been much easier! I know, enough already!)

I noticed earlier your mention of Lisa See's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan", which I really enjoyed- a poignant story.
LS has also written an excellent series called the "Red Princess mysteries", set in contemporary China and featuring female detective, Liu Hulan.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 2:13:07 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2008 2:17:37 AM PST
Cassandra says:
Selene- Thanks for looking that up! It's nice to know she's working on it and that it's at least at the point where her editor is looking at a chunk of it. :)

I'll have to dig up the Red Princess mysteries, since I really enjoyed Snow Flower and I love mysteries with female detectives. And since you liked SF&SF, you should check out Empress by Shan Sa, which chronicles the life of Empress Wu. I liked it even more than Snow Flower. :)

PS. I definitely agree with you about the keyword search - it takes me forever to find anything!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 5:41:49 AM PST
M. A. George says:
Selene--"The Tale of Genji" is a wonderful, difficult, and alien book-11th century Japan, Heian period. Getting into the midset of Lady Murasaki is not easy, nor understanding this period. May I recommend reading something like "The World of the Shining Prince"? A fine study of the Heian period with many references to the book and to Genji, the "Shining Prince" himself. I would not recommend trying to read it cold. I only managed an edited version (alone, 1,000 pages.) Reading about Lady Murasaki first would help as well.

Well, I am studying Wagner's "Ring Cycle" now, words and music--and it is a lot of work, just as understanding "The Tale of Genji" is. But with all great art, it is worth the effort. So good luck to you!


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 9:49:26 AM PST
N. Cassidy says:
I've read about 7 pages of this forum and I'm absolutely shocked I haven't seen I, CLAUDIUS and CLAUDIUS THE GOD mentioned once! Two of the finest books ever!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 10:07:49 AM PST
check out the Ancient Greece and Rome thread....many mentions ......

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 10:25:16 AM PST
M. A. George says:
Cassidy--you will find many references to the Claudius books in the Ancient Greece and Rome forum--my own included.


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 11:05:50 AM PST
Miriam says:
I'll agree that War and Peace is both the best historical novel and the best novel of all time.
A few others that I loved or liked very much and haven't noticed here:

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Time and Again by Jack Finney. This book fits many genres, including both historical fiction and science fiction- also mystery and romance.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Margaret Atwood seems to be able to do any genre wonderfully. Two of my favorites can be classified as historical fiction: Blind Assassin and Alias Grace.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 12:22:30 PM PST
I'm having difficulty understanding folks that label one classic as the all time greatest novel.....Many of my favorites are in "the eye of the beholder"

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 4:56:48 PM PST
kmg says:
I read Tim Willocks' "The Religion" several months ago and loved it! I haven't seen it mentioned much in any forums. I have read all of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels and fell in love love with "The Lords of Whitecastle".

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 8:17:48 PM PST
I'm glad to see someone else liked Journeyer by Gary Jennings as much as I did. This book has stayed with me for years!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 10:46:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2008 11:00:41 PM PST
Selene says:
Margaret- The Tale of Genji" is one of those books that I've had for some time on my list of books that I should read, but have been putting off because I know they'll require lots of time and undivided attention, so it's a good idea of yours to maybe do a bit of NF research first.

With TTOG and "Empress", another suggestion from Cassandra, not to mention "The Light Bearer' (which I've just ordered) I can see that I'm going to be busy!

At a less complex level, I've read and enjoyed quite a few of Laura Joh Rowland's "Sano Ichiro" mysteries, set in Japan of the late 1600s.

P.S. Are you studying Wagner for pleasure or as part of a course of study?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 10:54:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2008 11:10:30 PM PST
Selene says:
Gary Jennings' "Journeyer", the story of Marco Polo's travels, was a great adventure story, wasn't it, Lori?

Another real humdinger historical fantasy/adventure that I loved was "Wyvern", by A.A. Attanasio.
His "Hunting the Ghost Dancer", the story of the last Neanderthal, also made a lasting impression on me, but that one leans even more towards the mystical/fantasy area.

Miriam, I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's "Penelopiad: the myth of Odysseus and Penelope"- really good. A retelling of the old legend, this version as seen through the eyes of Odysseus' long-suffering wife. Plenty of dry humour and a Greek chorus as well!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2008 11:53:57 PM PST
Cassandra says:
Ok, Selene, stop me if this gets annoying, but if you're looking for a book to sort of ease you into reading Genji, you might try The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. It's similar to Genji in setting and subject, but it's much shorter and less complicated, and also less well-known. I took a class on the Tale of Genji in college and our prof had us read this as well. Royall Tyler's introduction in the Penguin Classics Deluxe version is also very useful, as he gives a great synopsis for the time period and culture.

And I've looked at Rowland's Sano Ichiro mysteries (in fact, I think I picked one up at a used bookstore that's around here somewhere), but I haven't gotten to reading them yet. Glad to know they're worth reading. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2008 5:43:17 AM PST
M. A. George says:
Selene--I beleive I have read a couple fo the Sano Ichiro mysteries. Not bad at all, thoguh I have lost track of the series and will have to check them out on Amazon.

I am studying Wanger just for pleasure--or to find the pleasure there. I am reitred so have lots of time. It is a hard slog, but I am getting to appreciate much of it. Though I must admit, when I got the DVD of "Ssgfried", I took it upstairs to watch on my bed, in comfort. Then I feel asleep through the whole second act. "Fall asleep through Wagner?" I hear you say. Well, yeah, parts of it. Segfried is pretty quiet for Wagner, until the last act. Yoho-to-ho!


PS. Don't forget about "The World of teh Sining Prince" I would not have understand anything that was going on in Genji, or why, without this (or someting like it). The Heian Japanese had very strange ways. Agree about "The Pillow Book" Much more accessible, and not a novel, but a diary of daily court life.
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