Favorite Settings in Historical Fiction
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When you are looking for a new book to read, which time periods and / or places do you get most excited about, or tend to enjoy more than others? Which are you bored of, loathe with a passion, or wish people would write more on?
I love reading about Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, or 1700's America.
The more recent the setting, the more disinclined I am to be interested in a HF book.
World War II is interesting, and I used to actually go hunting down books on the Holocaust or war-era Germany. Now, though I'm sure there are more amazing books on these topics, they seem to be everywhere, and I've read so many of them. The same is definitely true of the Tudors!
I can't find anything to like about Civil War books. For one thing, I generally don't like American history, especially the 1800's. The Civil War especially... Maybe this is because I spent most of my childhood in Virginia where the Civil War apparently happened only 5 years ago. It can get annoying.
I wish that there were more books about Ancient times in general, the Aztecs, the ancient Middle East, and books about commoners set in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. There are plenty about kings and queens, but not so many about ordinary folk, unless they're mysteries.
I'd be happy if there wasn't another book set in Tudor England, but that won't happen. I prefer medieval England, Italy, France, between 1066 and 1485. It's a wide range, I know, but my interests are far and wide.
I couldn't agree more about the Tudor England setting. That's what started me on historical fiction but you can only read so many books about the same thing. I am trying to move more towards historical fiction set in the middle east but I find it hard to locate good books sometimes.
I really enjoy books about western Europe pre-1066, pre-Christian Ireland and post-Civil War America (westward expansion). I would love to find more books about female pirates.
Ditto the Tudors--been done to death! Also not so interested in fiction set in Victorian England by modern authors because of all the classics that I love from that era. My current obsession is for ancient civilizations and Imperial Rome. In the past I've done American Revolution/Civil War/western expansion and have recently circled back to that as I write a series of linked stories based on my ancestors. Also have enjoyed prehistory, the Plantagenets and WWII in the past, but haven't revisited. Haven't read any fiction about female pirates but have read a non-fiction book (She Captains) which I enjoyed.
Agreed with everyone re: Tudors/Victorian England. Way way too overdone. I don't really have a favorite, just anything interesting, and the less common the better (generally)! I loved The Eight with its varied settings and times, it was brilliant, and I learned a good bit of history that I had no idea would be involved! I read a good bit of WWII/Holocaust stuff, but while the historical fic can be great, I do prefer wholly true accounts there (though I did think The Dark Room was wonderful for showing some less commonly thought about perspectives). Really I like my historical fic to give me a good glimpse of the time & place, and to teach me (through the story, not overtly of course) about it, wound around an intriguing story.
I personally love the western expansion stuff, but also love 18th settings....England and Scotland. I love Roman history but haven't gotten into any historical fiction, although I have several on my list to read. Agree with the whole Tudor thing, way overdone.
I love to get "lost" in historical fiction: medieval anywhere, ancient anywhere. I don't get terribly excited about the Crusades and the Templars anymore, it seems there are a great many of those and there don't seem to be new perspectives coming out. The Dark Ages (pre-Crusades) are interesting when they involve the socio-political-economic influences.
Try Sharon Kay Penman's Lionheart, remember. Almost all of the story is in the middle east.
Jamil Ahmad's The Wandering Falcon is excellent historical fiction about the wild area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Calligrapher's Night by Yasmine Ghata is set in early twentieth century Turkey and Lebanon -- before the fall of Beruit and when Turkey was still in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
And sometimes, the best historical fiction is that which opens up an unexpected place or time. I found this true of The Long Ships by Bengtsson, which is simply a marvelous adventure story set in Medieval Denmark and Finland (among other places) at the time of King Harald Bluetooth. (yes, the namesake for the wireless technology).
#11 Ellen, thanks for the heads-up on that. Will definitely keep an eye open for it.
#12 Southernbooklady (re: King Bluetooth), did he have a blinking piece of metal embedded in his ear? LOL
I like any time period before WW1, but my favorite settings are Scotland, Norway, Ireland and England. But, lately, I've been interested in places I know less about like China, Persia, Egypt, etc. I really enjoyed The Blood of Flowers set in 17th century (I think) Persia. I've also read several histrical fiction books by H. Rider Haggard that were really excellent. I haven't read his more popular Quartermain adventures, though.
I like to read about almost any time and any place. I think my favorites are ancient Rome, medeival Europe, and early North America. I especially like stories that are more about ordinary people and how they lived rather than the aristocracy.
I really enjoy ancient Rome and Egypt, medieval and also WWII. I especially enjoy books set in foreign settings and cultures. For some reason the Victorian era and the time just before and after don't particularly interest me though. I'm usually happy to give anything a try.
I often think it would be good to read about the more common folk in history but have come to the conclusion that their lives must have been fairly monotonous and dreary a lot of the time so it must be difficult for authors to come up with ideas to feature this group of people. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Year of Wonders about a village dealing with an outbreak of the plague.
>16 by Roro8, If you're looking for "regular folk," you could check out Barry Unsworth's Morality Play, about a group of "players" just trying to get by, and a particular incident they run into. I don't know that it's especially historically accurate (some of the stuff seemed a little more imaginative than truly historical to me, but then I'm certainly no expert on the period, so who knows, maybe I'm just ignorant! lol), but it's a medieval setting and it was an interesting somewhat fun read, I thought.
Morality Play is a fantastic story. It is one of the few books to gracefully infuse modern sensibilities into an authentic historic setting.
I found it quite interesting, definitely a more unique tale. I picked it up on a whim (like most things, lol) from the library, because the title made me wonder what it was about and it had no jacket, so I was more curious, and read the first page to get a little idea of what it was. It intrigued me, so home it went! :)
If you like historical mysteries, Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael books take place in eleventh and twelfth century England. They are about ordinary people with the backdrop of English Civil War. I like them very much.
I used to read a lot of Ancient Egypt, but lately I'm growing a bit disheartened with the quality of books about that time period. I still like to read about Ancient Rome, and any ancient civilization for that matter. I also like medieval England, and Edwardian/Victorian mysteries, because all of the new scientific advances in that time period make for an interesting read. World War Two - non-Holocaust stories - also interest me a lot.
Recently, I've been trying to expand my historical reading in a geographical sense. Reading fiction set in the Middle East and Asia - like the Genghis Khan series by Conn Iggulden, or the series by Jenny White about an official in the Ottoman Empire, the first book is The Sultan's Seal.
For a series set in Ancient Egypt, the Egyptian Novels by Wilbur Smith were fun. They jumped back and forth between the past and the future. The first The River God grabbed me when it first came out.
Seafaring with or without pirates is usually good, on old sailing ships. I'm getting a little oversubscribed on Victorian now, but love a medieval setting or interesting periods of European history like the Gothic invasions or the huns, as long as the author does their research. There's nothing worse than reading a badly researched novel and getting pulled out of the story over a factual or cultural error.
>23 jaqdhawkins:. I like a good seafaring pirate style novel now and again. Do you have a favourite that you would recommend?
So very much agree re: Tudors/Victorian England - beating dead horses into mince...
I used to like seafaring/sailing as a teenager, but now I feel everything interesting has already been written by O'Brian/Kent, and 'new' novels are just pale comparisons.
My favourite times are 'When things could have gone so different for Europe', eg Charlemagne, Martin Luther, the coalition wars, world wars... but, being German, I have done WW2 (and the cold war) to death in my teens, so don't feel like reading any more about that (and some of the new stuff seems truely hair-raising, judging from the blurbs).
Another thing I do not enjoy are novels that switch back-and-forth in time, that always feels like the author didn't do his historical research properly and switches time to make up for lack of knowledge. I prefer to get immersed into the historical culture and society, especially re: morales and beliefs that differ from today.
Oh, this link might be interesting; on NaNoWriMo, there was a 'Historical Fiction pet peeves' thread.
I love books set in the south (U.S.A.) and the 1800s. I love pioneer stories. Actually, I must confess to enjoying most any HF. :-)
I agree; I love fiction about pirates. I'm currently reading Gentleman of Fortune, by Evelyn Tidman, and I mean to read the Hornblower books (though those are more naval than pirate). I find Wilber Smith's Birds of Prey to lack sympathetic characters and to be too vulgar for me.
I also wrote my own pirate/privateer novel (see my page for details--I won't spam here) and am writing book 2 now. I think Sid Meier's Pirates! got me started really focusing on that stuff, though what little boy doesn't enjoy a good pirate story?
I'd like to write one set in Carthaginian era, though there would probably be a strong nautical element too (Hanno the Navigator). I guess any era where there is still a lot to discover is good, though it's all discovery for the reader. It's the most interesting way to learn history, though I could read Wikipedia for hours too...
Ozgur K. Sahin
I just joined this site and group.I like reading about the Tudors and also ancient greece in particular.I like a lot of historical fiction so I'm glad to be in this group.
Anything historical is good for me if it has a good storyline. That said, some that claim they are historical are really not. I don't like the "romance" so called historical. It's hard to tell at times.
Seems to me that there are novels that cross genres. I mean, is An Instance of the Fingerpost a historical novel or a whodunnit? It's clearer in some cases than others, particularly with "bodice ripper" romances, but in the end it doesn't matter how you characterise a book so long as it's a good read.
I like stories that gives me insights into times and places of barbary and infighting.
Jan Guillou tells uses strong charachters as participants or bystanders that illuminates the cultures participating in pivotal events. His Crusades trilogy are dominated by the politics and culture during Swedens formative years.
Morgan's Run tells a strong story from a very abusive nation around 18 hundred ad.
At the same time as I'm a historical fiction fan, I'm also a fan of the fantasy genre. I like returning to a familiar invented world when an author writes a new book that takes place there. Similarly I develop a fondness over time for settings in history for which I read something particularly good, and enjoy returning there subsequently (even with a different author.)
Early days, I was more varied in locations and time periods I visited since I viewed everything with equal curiosity. Over the decades I've developed favourites, and probably mostly due to the point above.
Lately I especially like historical fiction that takes place in British India (A Passage to India, The Jewel in the Crown, The Far Pavilions, Kim, etc.).
Japan is a location I'm fascinated with in general, thought besides Shogun and Gai-Jin I've not yet read much that takes place there. Musashi is on my to-be-read pile. I'm looking for more recommendations here, if someone can suggest any.
Elizabethan England I think I've had my fill of, after The Autobiography of Henry VIII and various others. I've had some good reads there, but I feel like I've been-there-done-that now.
I've an appreciation for authors like James Michener and Edward Rutherfurd who write books that cover the entire history of a particular location; among theirs I've visited many places once and then - having seen it through every tmie period - I don't especially feel like I need to return, lol.
I would like to read more about South America, and perhaps Egypt. I expect to read more about Ancient Rome. And I wish I could find anything else about the Aztecs that approached the quality of what Gary Jennings did, but I suppose once you've read the epitome the rest are just shadows.
>1 joririchardson:, for a book about common folk in the Middle Ages ... it's non-fiction but you might be intrigued by The Book of Margery Kempe.
Always love read books abt the past time what there can chilling our feeling up hope hear more of it
My favorite time period is ancient Rome: preferably post Julio-Claudian dynasty, but I won't turn my nose up at that dynasty completely if there's something of quality to read. I also like Byzantines and ancient world in general.
#35 - Lately I especially like historical fiction that takes place in British India (A Passage to India, The Jewel in the Crown, The Far Pavilions, Kim, etc.).
If you haven't already found him and if you can still find him, try John Masters British India from start to finish, following the Savage family through seven books and the two centuries of British engagement from Coromandel! to To the Coral Strand
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