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Old 11th October 2009, 07:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...cle6866930.ece
I feel that decent well researched historical fiction can be as informative as some non fiction books. Any one who has read the Flashman books, for example, and followed up the footnotes will get a grounding in Victorian history.
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Old 11th October 2009, 09:25 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

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.

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Old 11th October 2009, 09:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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Old 11th October 2009, 09:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

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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Old 11th October 2009, 10:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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Old 12th October 2009, 12:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís the truth

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Judge ~I have to confess to a weakness for Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael novels.

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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Old 12th October 2009, 12:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

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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Old 12th October 2009, 12:32 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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Old 12th October 2009, 12:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

I bow to your practical experience, Ace - I gather it's not like slipping on a t-shirt, then?...
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Old 12th October 2009, 09:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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Old 12th October 2009, 10:11 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

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.

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Old 12th October 2009, 10:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís the truth

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Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
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
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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Old 28th October 2009, 03:05 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And that’s the truth

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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Old 28th October 2009, 04:31 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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Old 28th October 2009, 06:18 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Fictional history is best. And thatís 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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