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Who is your favorite Historical Fiction author?

Historical Fiction

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1mem711
Jan 7, 2014, 11:45am Top

Who is your favorite Historical Fiction author?

2aulsmith
Jan 7, 2014, 12:12pm Top

Here's a list that was set up a while ago.

3HarryMacDonald
Jan 7, 2014, 1:24pm Top

I am sadly inept in linking-up to the listing process. but would like to offer three novels by Victor Serge. All were originally written in French, but exist in fine translations into English, Spanish, and sundry other tongues. Try to find The Case of Comrade Tulayev, The Year One of the Russian Revolution, and Birth of our power.
Another fave is Fr Rolfe, occasionally known as ''Baron Corvo". Try his "Don Tarquinio", and Don Renato. Rolfe's novel Hadrian the Seventh was written as a commentary on many matters current at that time (early 1900s), but reads now, four generations, as an excellent historical piece.
For Italian history, I cannot say enough about Il gattopardo(The Leopard), by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.
Finally (for now), for American history, I really like Conrad Richter, but also August Derleth's Shadow in the glass.
Sorry to natter on so long, but this is what happens when you're snow-bound in the mountains!
Happy hunting! -- Goddard ("Harry")

4HarryMacDonald
Jan 7, 2014, 1:44pm Top

Slight addendum. I have looked-over the list to which aulsmith refers us. What, if anything, does it say about modern reading habits that almost all the titles there date from the past two or three decades? Without double-checking, I think only Costain and Renault are/were significantly older, say, than I am. We do ourselves a great disservice by ignoring the efforts of past generations. They may not have had the Internet, or publishers' advances, to speed them along, but by God, many of them had actually DONE something in their lives (other than scribble), and many of them could write like angels. {End of Rant}. Stay warm, sisters and brothers. PS: would really like some solid recommendations of historical fiction dealing with the non-Western world. -- G/"H"

5DeanaDav
Jan 7, 2014, 2:29pm Top

Sharon Kay Penman!

6HarryMacDonald
Jan 7, 2014, 3:38pm Top

Went outside for a while, found it warmer (compared to the wind-swept meadow) and thought about this topic some more. Two thoughts came up. And now that I'm back inside . . . First, it's not enough for a novelist -- I name no names -- simply to put perennial human conflicts into another time, and to clothe his or her characters accordingly. That's not historical fiction: that's what kids call "playing dress-up". Historical fiction needs to show us -- though not necessarily to the exclusion of recurrent or perennial themes -- people or situations which are characteristic of or even unique to another time. If it's really good, the author lives up to GM Trevelyan's standard for history: not merely to know everything which people knew back then, but to know (and present) things which they couldn't possibly have known, but which were nonetheless essential to the working of their lives.
Second. We all have our harmless prejudices, but most are more honest about it than others. I am naturally suspicious of so-called historical fiction which focusses on the flamboyant or the melodramatic, e.g. which nasty duke raped which poor serving-wench, or how the Battle of Thus-and-So was really won by the gallant Count Rodrigo, or how Abraham Lincoln's (alleged) homosexuality played into his conduct of the War Between the States. I am much more impressed by historical fiction which portrays earlier attitudes and values without undue dependence on the conventions of top-down history. Three Nineteenth-Century writers spring to mind at once: George Eliot, in Romola, J-K Huysmans in La-bas (Down there), and Stendhal, in several works, but most notably The Charterhouse of Parma.

7GerrysBookshelf
Jan 7, 2014, 5:30pm Top

It's hard to narrow it down to just one favorite. These five are at the top of my list: James Michener, Alexander Dumas, pere, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Leo Tolstoy and Kenneth Roberts.

#3 I like Conrad Richter too!

8dajashby
Jan 7, 2014, 7:52pm Top

#6
I didn't know that about Lincoln! Give me the name of the novel, I don't care if it's melodramatic!

I do agree with you about bodice rippers, but I can't really share your penchant for nineteenth century authors, including that inveterate "scribbler' George Eliot. I will be perfectly honest about my own personal prejudice against "worthy" novelists who bury a perfectly good story in a lot of egregious moralising and philosophising. You plough your way through this stuff thinking it must be good for me, like porridge, there has to be some reason it's still in print. Did anybody mention Tolstoy? Perish the thought!

My own all time favourite has to be Dorothy Dunnett, who as you may be aware was also a distinguished portrait painter. Francis Crawford of Lymond is, on the author's own admission, a deliberately created fantasy, but most of the other characters and surrounding historical events are grounded in meticulous scholarly research.

As for writing like an angel, who can compare with Hilary Mantel?

I think that Poor Man's Tapestry by Oliver Onions probably satisfies all your requirements. Written in (I think) 1945, no grand events or personages and a powerful sense of daily life in another time.

9TheFlamingoReads
Jan 8, 2014, 3:25am Top

I am huge fan of the historical fiction of David Liss, Deanna Raybourn, Sally Gunning, and S. J. Parris, just to name a few. Historical fiction and non-fiction are two of my favorite genres. There has been much discussion about what exactly makes a book "historical" (written during that time or just of that time) but, as far as I'm concerned, it just has to be true to that time period and not contemporary-type folks (and all that that entails) in a historical setting.

10aalatham
Jan 8, 2014, 11:35am Top

I agree wholeheartedly! Seems to me that the objective should be to recreate the imaginative structures that allowed historical characters to make sense of -- and thus act in -- their world. Should also be interesting/entertaining. But the best really allow us to understand what made people of a different time/place 'tick'.

11A.Scott.
Jan 10, 2014, 12:23am Top

Philippa Gregory - lived in grey London when I discovered Philippa Gregory and it literally changed London from grey to seppia for me. Every grey building, rain cloud and hard-trodden pavement came to life with history so colourful I fell in love with the city, then the country and then the Kingdom.

12varielle
Feb 12, 2015, 8:33pm Top

I just came from a reading by Katherine Howe. If she writes as well as she speaks she may be my new favorite. I got her to sign my first edition of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

13somermoore
Feb 14, 2015, 8:50pm Top

Elswyth Thane. Her Williamsburg series, while hampered a bit by social attitudes, gave an excellent background of the years leading up to and during the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and up to the beginning of World War II. I would have been interested to see how she she would have dealt with the Korean and Vietnam wars.

14rocketjk
Edited: Feb 15, 2015, 7:29pm Top

#4> Not that I have read too much older historical fiction, but I do agree with your overall point. My used bookstore has a lot of these old-timers on the shelf. I keep them around more because it amuses me to have them there than that I think I'll ever sell them, although occasionally I do. My wife recently decided to read Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts. I think Roberts would be an author that suited your category of older, and worthy, historical novelists. I have read on book by Costain, The Moneyman, and I enjoyed it a lot.

15Sheiladalton
Feb 24, 2015, 4:05pm Top

I think Sarah Waters is my favorite, though I much prefer her Victorians to any others. And I like Lisa See, but, again, not all of them.

16corgiiman
Feb 27, 2015, 7:04pm Top

I have to say John Jakes because his Kent Family Chronicles got me more interested in the Civil War. Same with Conn Iggulden aand his series on Genghis Khan..

17tess_schoolmarm
Mar 6, 2015, 4:25am Top

So many....Lisa See, Pearl S. Buck, and Margaret George.....Colleen McCollough

Group: Historical Fiction

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