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When are You Now? (2017)

This is a continuation of the topic When are You Now? (2016).

Historical Fiction

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Jan 2, 2017, 4:55pm Top

This is the first time I've ever carried forward. Hope I did this correctly, and Happy New Year!

As mentioned at the tail end of 2016, we're in 1921 England with Circles of Time, 2nd in a series by Phillip Rock.

Alternating that with The Monuments Men--not HF, but a good read nonetheless. We're all over Europe chasing down pilfered paintings and stolen sculptures.

Jan 3, 2017, 9:05am Top

Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati

4 stars

A very engaging adventure set in the late 1700s. The main character is a strong-willed young lady, newly arrived from England in a small frontier town in the Adirondack mountains of New York State. Elizabeth intends to live quiet spinster life as a schoolteacher, but soon is caught up in intrigue and adventure. The characters are well-developed, and their storylines are quite skillfully woven together. There is even a tiny homage to Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" characters. I read this 800+ page book in two days out of inability to put it down.

It looks like there is a sequel, which I might track down someday, but this first book does a fine job of fulfilling the storyline and has a satisfying ending.

Jan 3, 2017, 9:35am Top

>2 Darth-Heather: It's been a long time, but I have read both Into the Wilderness and its sequel. If memory serves, sequel was very readable, but #1 was the better of the two.

Jan 3, 2017, 1:10pm Top

I've departed ancient Rome with imperial agent Marcus Didius Falco and his pregnant wife/girlfriend and their contrary dog to investigate a murder and head bashing probably perpetrated by the members of the Spanish olive oil cartel in A Dying Light in Corduba. Whew!

Jan 5, 2017, 9:00pm Top

I'm flitting around the middle of the 19th century in Georgia in Grace: a novel.

Edited: Jan 6, 2017, 1:55am Top

I'm in Regency England with Kitty Charing in Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Jan 10, 2017, 7:14pm Top

>6 Zumbanista: oh fun! I will be interested to know if you recommend it when you are done. I recently read my first Heyer - Friday's Child - and found it enjoyable, so I'm curious to see which others of hers get good reviews.

Jan 10, 2017, 7:35pm Top

I'm in the early 1500's with Katherine of Aragon, reading Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir.

Jan 10, 2017, 8:38pm Top

Just left Mesopotamia and the archaeological site of Ur c. 1928-9 with The Woman on the Orient Express, who happens to be, of course, Agatha Christie.

Spending time in China at the beginning of the communist revolution and hiking around the New World in the 16th C. while reading House of Eight Orchids and The Moor's Account.

Jan 16, 2017, 11:26pm Top

I am reading in Paris, 1938, with side trips so far to Spain and Berlin, via excellent spy thriller, Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst.

Jan 18, 2017, 3:34am Top

>7 Darth-Heather: I gave Cotillion 4/5 stars and enjoyed it a lot. I think I read a few Heyer novels in my late teens but haven't retained the plots. You should try The Grand Sophy which I really enjoyed.

Jan 18, 2017, 2:14pm Top

>11 Zumbanista: excellent - thanks for the tip :) My wishlist is growing again.

Jan 19, 2017, 8:28am Top

1100s with The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick Enjoying it very much.

Jan 23, 2017, 6:22pm Top

I've just started reading in 1890s Finland via Under the North Star, the first book in Väinö Linna's classic trilogy of the same name.

Jan 29, 2017, 11:15am Top

I was reading an autobiography on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones titled Life it was interesting enough but not gripping my attention. So I decided to go to sea in 1774 on the HMS Destiny with Richard Bolitho in the book Stand into Danger the book says the author is Alexander Kent but it seems that is a nom de plume of Douglas Reeman.

The book is not a bad read but not up to the style and prose of CS Forrester's Hornblower series. I am not sure I will continue the series at this point.

Feb 3, 2017, 3:10am Top

I gave up on Stand into Danger ... the book went from ok...to iffy...to ridiculous...to ridiculous AND sappy in 150 pages. I will NOT continue the series

Feb 3, 2017, 2:48pm Top

In one book I'm in early 20th C China, just prior to the communist revolution.

In the other book, I'm in mid-century Europe, speeding toward my just inherited Italian villa by car.

Feb 11, 2017, 10:02pm Top

I'm in 1914 in A Petrol Scented Spring, which is exactly the suffragette book I needed.

Feb 17, 2017, 4:20pm Top

Having left pre-Communist China and the foreign enclaves in The Russian Concubine, I am now in pre-Great War France in Birdsong. I seem to be straddling changing times these days :)

Feb 17, 2017, 4:38pm Top

>19 threadnsong:
I read Birdsong and really liked it a lot.

Edited: Feb 17, 2017, 8:06pm Top

I am in the jungles of East Africa fighting Imperial Germany in 1914 in the Wilbur Smith novel Shout at the Devil

Feb 20, 2017, 5:09am Top

I'm reading to Finland again, this time beginning in 1913, via The Uprising, the second book in Väinö Linna's classic "Under the North Star" trilogy.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:29pm Top

>20 EadieB: Oh good. I'm enjoying it, although given that the soldiers are digging tunnels through the trenches does make me wonder about the use of the word "enjoy!" I am enthralled by the historical accuracy of it, and sickened by the horrors that the constant bombing brings to the landscape. Not everyone can write quite so engagingly about such tragic and terrible subjects.

Edited: Mar 18, 2017, 11:56am Top

In a French conference room, circa 1917, listening to General Pershing speak his mind about the incompetence of stateside supply officers in To the Last Man. Loving this one. Are there any particular Jeff Shaara books you'd recommend? (Have read a few of his--liked the Revolutionary War duo; Civil War stuff, not so much.)

Edited: Mar 17, 2017, 1:49am Top

>17 Limelite: What's the title of your China book? I read a very long, educational and grueling book Life and Death in Shanghai and wondered if that was it?

>19 threadnsong: >20 EadieB: >23 threadnsong: I surprised myself by absolutely lovely Birdsong. The writing and story just entranced me.

I'm just about to head into the 1880's Old West with Wyatt and Doc in Epitaph.

Edited: Mar 18, 2017, 4:20am Top

>24 gmathis: Your link to Jeff Shaara is linked to Michael Shaara I wonder if they are related with such an uncommon last name. I read The Killer Angels by Michael and liked it very much... I have read nothing by Jeff

Mar 18, 2017, 11:56am Top

>26 Lynxear: Whoops on the touchstone...I believe they are father and son. And now that I think about it, that may well be why I wasn't quite as enamored with the Civil War installments--had my authors mixed up.

Mar 26, 2017, 8:13pm Top

>25 Zumbanista:

First: Life and Death in Shanghai is one of my all time favorite memoirs. Incredibly brave chronicle of Nien Cheng's trials under the communists and the "special attention" she, her husband, and daughter received because of her husband's work for Western companies. Both tragic and triumphant.

The "China book" is an adventure story that rises above the genre due to the adherence and detail author James Thayer gives regarding historicity. The title is House of Eight Orchids. I've since learned Thayer is prolific. Thinking about reading Man of the Century by him.

Mar 27, 2017, 9:04am Top

>25 Zumbanista: >28 Limelite:

I also loved Life and Death in Shanghai. It gave me one perspective of life in China during Mao's cultural revolution.... that of a rich lady who was persecuted for working for a western company... and of course her wealth. Such a feisty lady , the story was told with humour, candour and tragedy.

I have read 2 other books on that period:

Wild Swans by Jung Chang which describes life during that period from the point of view of a family whose father are a hero of the revolution. Even being a hero did not save the family from betrayal.

Red Azalea by Anchee Min which describes life of a middle class woman whose family were teachers and as the oldest child she had to serve on a collective farm, eventually ending up in propaganda movies because of her looks.

All three books are very good reading.

Mar 27, 2017, 3:53pm Top

I am reading in Finland between the world wars, via Under the North Star 3: Reconciliation the final novel in Väinö Linna classic trilogy of Finnish historical fiction.

Mar 28, 2017, 2:21am Top

>29 Lynxear: Wild Swans is probably on my list of top history books of all time. Amazing writing, I remember I was traveling through England at the time and kept seeing myself watching the crowds of the cultural revolution. I was disappointed in her Mao, thought it rather bloated Need to check if she's written any thing else.

Mar 28, 2017, 11:58am Top

>29 Lynxear:
What I didn't say before is a great part of why I adore Life and Death in Shanghai is because i got to meet the diminutive Nien Cheng several years before her death and talk to her about the profound effect her writing had on me. She was most gracious, highly intelligent, and refined in speech, movement, and demeanor.
So opposite everything I am, but still I felt an affinity with her. One of those extraordinary people one would wish to have known intimately.

Thanks for the other two titles; I enjoy books set in China, especially by Chinese writers.

Da Chen's Brothers is a hell of a read. But my favorite of all is Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie.

Mar 28, 2017, 3:23pm Top

>31 cindydavid4: >32 Limelite:

I have a couple of other novels relating to Chinese history...

The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure by Adam Williams. It takes place at the beginning of the 20th century and is set in the Boxer Rebellion. Two thumbs up!

Shanghai by David Rotenberg This is sort of a history of the creation of Shanghai and how/why the British used opium to crack the Chinese market... Many feel that China introduced opium to the world... actually they were just addicts hooked on the drug by the British apparently.

LimeLite... you met Nien Cheng!!! Such an amazing woman. If I recall properly, I think she was still alive when I read her book and was living in Ottawa, Ontario. I just loved her courage and felt so sorry for her tragedy at the end of the story.

Cindydavid4... what did you not like about Jung Chang's Mao? I know he was not lily white and delusional and he had a penchant for young girls but I think the real evil one was his wife who poured poison in his ear. Also having been a movie actress herself at one time, it appears she was especially vindictive against her rivals in the theatre.

Edited: Mar 30, 2017, 6:59pm Top

>32 Limelite: >33 Lynxear: Thank you both for more titles to add to my TBR! I will check these out for sure.

Certainly Nien Cheng was feisty and courageous. What a terrible time to live through.

Also worth a read is another long book, Empress Dowager Cixi.

Apr 1, 2017, 2:10pm Top

After a long search, I have finally found a replacement for CS Forrester's Hornblower series.

I have discovered Dudley Pope and am currently reading the first book in his Ramage series titled Ramage. The book opens in 1796 on HMS Sibella a 28 gun frigate in a battle for its life with the Barras, a French 74 gun ship-of-the-line battle ship. They are between Corsica and Naples (I now know where Elba Island really is) on a secret mission to rescue some Italian aristocrats.

The Sibella is almost sunk, Ramage is coming out of a blackout due to a blow to the head, the captain and first/second lieutenants are dead after a grape volley cleared the deck. Ramage a 3rd lieutenant is now captain of the crew of which 1/3 have died, 1/3 are wounded and the rest are still alive. He must save his remaining men and try to complete the mission without the frigate.

A really good adventure... I cannot put it down.

Edited: Apr 1, 2017, 3:54pm Top

I'm currently read Living Reed by Pearl. S. Buck, about Korea circa late 1800's.

Edited: Apr 1, 2017, 8:35pm Top

>33 Lynxear: Its been a long while since I tried to read Mao, so don't remember exactly what turned me off. Had nothing to do with the main character.. Just felt it was so detailed and dense that it was hard to get through. That being said, sometimes for me its all in the timing, and if I try again its a perfect match (I tried Cloud Atlas three times before it stuck!) So Im willing to try it again and see (tho to be honest this website is giving me so many new (to me) titles that I am not sure Im ever going to keep my head about water

One of my all time favorite books about china is the Court of the Lion, that takes place in the royal court of the Tang dynasty, at the peak of its rule, to its rather 'watching a train wreck' destruction. One of the best historical fictions Ive ever read

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 3:40pm Top

>37 cindydavid4:

I love Asian historical fiction... One of my all time favourite books is a book on feudal Japan titled The Tokaido Road... if you haven't read this you should... I guarantee you will like it.

I will look for Court of the Lion... it looks great

Apr 3, 2017, 8:25am Top

>37 cindydavid4:, I second The Court of the Lion, not sure why that one never became more popular. Having read it, I wasn't as impressed with Under Heaven as most people.

Apr 3, 2017, 10:09am Top

I liked Under Heaven mainly because I had read Court of the Lion and saw where he was going. But yeah, not Kayes best - in fact I haven't liked any of his new ones since then. I think by keeping the world he built intact, he got stuck writing about the same stories with the same character types, just different names and scenery. Glad I can go back and reread his earlier work.

>39 Cecrow: I have wondered why myself. Discovered it on Elizabeth Chadwicks blog a while back when she posted her top ten list of HF and that one was near the top. Everyone I know who read it loved it, but it just hasn't gotten a lot of mileage. What amazed me about the book, aside from the writing, plot and characters, was the attention to historical detail, and how many of the unbelievable scenes in the book were actually based on real events, esp Lan Hushan and his rise through the royal circle and his later rebellion.

Apr 4, 2017, 2:16pm Top

Just finished Ramage by Dudley Pope.... a real page.... I finally found a replacement for the Hornblower series

Apr 16, 2017, 12:59pm Top

I've just left the Battle of the Somme in Birdsong and was amazed at the detail Elizabeth, the granddaughter finds when she turns off the road in Albert in her quest to find more details of her grandfather. She sees the arch, which is huge and can be seen from some distance, and all of the names carved into it, inside and out. It is when the man with the brush says that they were the unfound, just on that one battlefield, and Elizabeth says "Nobody told me" that I had my "that's it!" moment.

I visited the graveyard outside of Verdun in 1990, Faubourg Pave, and was overwhelmed with the number of double rows of "countless white crosses/that in mute witness stand" (to paraphrase the song by Eric Bogle of Australia). Ever since then I have realized how very, very little we in the US, and apparently Elizabeth in Birdsong, know about the tragedy of this War. A similar monument is in the seaside town of St. Malo: a long waist-high wall runs along the town center with the names of 250+ soldiers killed in WWII; behind it is a huge obelisk with what look to be a thousand names of the men killed in the Great War. We just don't get it: we went "over there" and came back heroes, but so much devastation was before then that our history ignores.

Oh yeah, and I'm still reading Memoirs of a Geisha. It's so gripping and I'll probably finish it this week. Which means I really, really need to move Birdsong off of my "just before bed time reading pile" (where it shouldn't have been in the first place cuz of the detailed descriptions of the Somme) and finish it this month, too. Then I will have 2 historical fiction novels from my TBR list challenge finished! The Worm Ouroborus should really be on my next bedtime reading list (for all the early fantasy enthusiasts out there).

Edited: Apr 18, 2017, 3:26am Top

Birdsong was incredible, and I agree, Europe really took the brunt of that war; But I think you'd be surprised how much Americans do know and realize it - I remember it being taught in school, and remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front, plus all of the anniversaty news coverage. But it can't have the same impact as those countries who lost whole villages of young boys, lost homes, livelihoods, landscapes, history

I know that Bogle song sung by someone esle tho; chilling, no matter who sings it. (he also wrote another favorite anti war song : Walzting Matilda)

Im now in the Caucasus, where Islamists are fighting the Russians. No this isn't the recent wars, This was in 1854. Times have changed but the wars, and carnage, never stopped. Oh the book is called the kindness of enemies, a well written book that gives an unsettling look at how it started, and how little has changed.

Apr 18, 2017, 1:55am Top

>43 cindydavid4:
No,no - Waltzing Matilda is the de facto national anthem! The Bogle song you're thinking of is "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda".

Edited: Apr 18, 2017, 3:27am Top

oh I know that - just being a lazy typer. I figured if you knew Bogel, you'd know the one I meant. But you are right, should have specified that title, sorry.

Apr 18, 2017, 10:15pm Top

>45 cindydavid4:
Well of course I am familiar with Bogle, but I was thinking of people who aren't, and aren't familiar with Waltzing Matilda either - which if anything is a song about class warfare, not the shooting kind! It finishes with the swagman shouting "You'll never catch me alive!" as he jumps into the billabong, drowning to escape arrest for sheep stealing.

A familiarity with the text of Waltzing Matilda is essential to appreciate the poignance of Bogle's song.

Apr 19, 2017, 3:30am Top

>46 dajashby: Already said I was sorry. But as an act of true repentance, here are the lyrics to And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda:


Apr 19, 2017, 10:05am Top

>42 threadnsong: Back to books - another powerful WWI book is Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. You may have heard or seen the movie about Trumbo, with Bryan Cranston. He was a famous playwright in the 40s and 50s (he wrote the screenplay for Roman Holiday) and was put on the Hollywood blacklist for his refusal to answer questions of the HUAC. Anyway, this book tells the story of one soldier so injured that he had no way to communicate with others. The story is told in his thoughts and memories - and its probably the best anti war book I've ever read (even better than All Quiet on the Western Front) Anyway you might want to check it out

Apr 19, 2017, 11:44pm Top

>47 cindydavid4:
Bless, and a virtual hug!

Apr 26, 2017, 4:31pm Top

>48 cindydavid4: Thank you for the recommendation. I had heard it was an anti-war book, and I'm certainly familiar with mention of "Roman Holiday." I did not know that he was also blacklisted during the 50's. Now that I know more about that book I'll be on the lookout for it.

Edited: Apr 26, 2017, 4:32pm Top

I have left the streets of Gion with Chiyo/Sayuri in Memoirs of a Geisha and I am now with Stephen as he tries to find what was once normal after the horrors of No Man's Land in Birdsong.

Apr 27, 2017, 12:33am Top

>50 threadnsong: you might want to see the movie Trumbo, with the actor from Breaking Bad as the lead. Really eye opening

Apr 27, 2017, 12:37am Top

I am walking in London, Paris, Tokyo, Venice and NYC with women travlers such as Jean Rhys, Virginia Wolf, Martha Gellhorn and George Sand, while reading Flaneuse.

Apr 27, 2017, 1:23am Top

>52 cindydavid4: I watched the Trumbo movie on Amazon Prime streaming a couple of weeks ago. Quite a good flick.

May 2, 2017, 5:28pm Top

>52 cindydavid4: >54 ScoLgo: Thank you both for the recommendation. Will add to my Netflix list!

May 5, 2017, 2:03am Top

It's 1874 and upper-class Margaret Prior, recovering from a breakdown after her father's death, becomes a lady Visitor at Millbank prison in London. Affinity by Sarah Waters is suspense filled gothic horror set in a well realised evocation of the dreadful world of a strictly-run Benthamite prison.

May 5, 2017, 4:22pm Top

1990s Japan as described in The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

May 17, 2017, 1:44am Top

I am in a lead up to WWI in Birdsong. It is supposed to be a great WWI story but so far it is a bit of a romance novel set in Amiens, France. I know modern Amiens, France quite well having visited there 4 times in 6 years for a month at a time.

It is interesting to read about the "water gardens" which are also known as "Les Hortillonnages d'Amiens". the Somme River breaks up into tiny islands with many channels... you could get lost in there actually. the islands even now are used as a market garden area for vegetables or Paris vacation homes now.

It is nice to read about places that I know.... But a romance novel I am not fussy on... but the war grows near.

May 22, 2017, 12:54am Top

Well it did not take long to read this novel... Birdsong is really 2 stories in one.... One about Stephen a young boy working in France, falling in love with all the troubles that entails (almost a historical romance), then going to war and describing the brutality both above the ground and below it... very detailed ( military historical).... the other is a story of a woman who wants to discover what her grandfather was like... she has boxes of memorabilia and journals written in code but little else and of course a romance on her own (back to historical romance again).

It seems to be a dichotomy that is hard to resolve at first but it works and in the end a lot of loose ends are tied up nicely.

Slow to start (not a great fan of historical romance) but once the war starts it is hard to put down... a very good read

May 22, 2017, 1:14am Top

Now I am in Texas in 1874, reading Texas Empire by Matt Braun... I like reading about the American west in the 1600-1900 era... Looking forward to the change

May 24, 2017, 1:12pm Top

Hmmm... I put down Texas Empire. I could only stomach so much reading about the "red heathen". It, IMHO, was nothing but a wooden story with wooden stereotype characters told in a wooden literary style... I cannot even add this to my library.

May 26, 2017, 1:44pm Top

I'm in the mid-1950s at the moment but moving rapidly through time in Miss Burma.

May 29, 2017, 10:11pm Top

Now I'm in 1873 in London in An Unseen Attraction.

Jun 4, 2017, 7:39pm Top

I'm mostly in Moscow, currently in the late 1970s (but I started in 1898 and am only two thirds of the way through the book), in On the Sickle's Edge.

Jun 4, 2017, 9:22pm Top

It is 1806, I am on the HMS frigate Calypso with 32 guns and Captain Ramage in the Mediterranean Sea between Corsica and Italy. So far he has been attacked by 2 French ships of the line with 74 guns each and tricked them into colliding with each other. Then he moves on to more adventure.

The book is Ramage and the Saracens by Dudley Pope. This is my second book in the Ramage series and out of sequence... a mistake as he does flash back several times but it does not take anything from this story. What I like in Pope's writing is that all is not told through the eyes of his main character, Captain Ramage... you also see the views below decks through the eyes of a gunnery crew. A different and interesting view point on many things.

A very good, very fast read

Jun 6, 2017, 5:30pm Top

Back in 1873 in London in An Unnatural Vice.

Jun 6, 2017, 7:44pm Top

Re-living the 20th century over and over again with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. So far, Harry has spent most of his first four or five lives in and around England, but there is also a fair amount of globe-trotting involved.

The central mystery seems to be why he keeps re-living his life while retaining memories and experience from previous lives. The narrative is intelligent, clever, and a bit snarky. I'm enjoying it!

Jun 6, 2017, 10:15pm Top

That looks fascinating! Almost sounds like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. will have to get that

Im in NYC 1970 , in The Gargoyle Hunters.

Jun 7, 2017, 2:13am Top

I finished Ramage and the Saracens in record time... an action novel from start to finish.

I am now just starting a rather depressing novel of WWII titled Stalingrad by Theodor Plievier.... I am with the field Punishment Battalion... this is made up of military rejects who are the lowest of the low... they bury the dead which is endless, build wooden roads through swamps anything dangerous is done by them short of fighting. They get the worst food which is pretty bad to begin with and the worst accommodations. I am seeing the war from the German side in thier biggest mistake of WWII ... trying to take Stalingrad.

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 11:57am Top

Well I could not finish Stalingrad after 100 pages. It was a very depressing book, literally hundreds of characters with about 4 or 5 mentioned more often that others but you never really felt any was a hero or otherwise. It was like you were suspended in air, above the scene and saw this happen, that happen and OMG look at that!!

One thinks the Russians were the only ones who suffered in Stalingrad... it appears it was no piece of cake for the Germans either.

Jun 10, 2017, 9:46pm Top

I spent today in India in the 1830s in The Devil is French.

Jun 12, 2017, 2:11am Top

I am currently in the 1840's reading Moon Medicine by Mike Blakely. A story about a young boy, an orphan genius living in France who commits a murder at the age of about 17 and leaves France stowed on a merchant ship. He has visions of trading with the fierce Comanche indian and is now in Texas after a series of adventures he is fulfilling his vision.

This is my third Michael Blakely book on the old American West. He is one of my favourite writers of this era... I will read all his novels as I find them.

Jun 12, 2017, 10:59am Top

>67 ScoLgo: Im about half way through and loving it! Now in Russia, around 1980 in an undisclosed location......

Edited: Jun 19, 2017, 5:48pm Top

Now I am on the Mediterranean Sea in the Napoleonic war in the book Ramage and the Drum Beat by Dudley Pope... next to CS Forrester.. he is my favourite naval writer

Jun 20, 2017, 1:51pm Top

I'm in London in the 1920s with The Other Daughter.

Edited: Jun 22, 2017, 11:07am Top

I finished Ramage and the Drum Beat a couple of days ago.... liked it a lot and have a couple more books bought that I will eventually read this summer. Right now I am back in Stalingrad in August 1942 reading War of the Rats... this is a novel about a real event involving a sniper from both sides... Russian and German.

This action has been written about several times... I remember seeing a movie about the event in Enemy at the Gates in 2001 and it was excellent. The movie is based on the real event... not this book.... I am 30 pages into the book and it looks like a great read.

Jun 22, 2017, 11:29am Top

>76 Lynxear:, that was a good movie, and I can well imagine there being more good ways to tell the story.

Jun 23, 2017, 4:24pm Top

>77 Cecrow: I agree, the movie was amazing... especially the opening scene when the recruits were first issued a rifle and bullets or just bullets.

This is my second book on the battle for Stalingrad. The first book was told from the German side, Stalingrad by Theodor Plievier and I had to put the book aside after 50 pages... such a depressing book to read... too many characters to remember ... winter setting and you just could not get into the head of a main character... I could not really identify a main character... so you felt it was like an out of body experience and the misery got to me.... the setting might be true and the atmosphere might be real but I disliked the book.

War of the Rats is much different. The book focuses on the sniping aspect of war. You have several main characters that are well drawn, you get in their heads. You see the situation from both the Russian AND the German side as each side trots out their expert snipers for a joust-like duel. So far the book focuses on the Russian side and the education of a small group of snipers under the guidance of the hero, Zaitsev, and his sniper companion, Mercker. They hold a sniper school (first of its kind apparently) and you have a collection of interesting characters there.

It differs from the movie in many places... you don't see that first scene of the movie... the Russian deserters are certainly shot but it was not like in the movie where soldiers had a choice of fight and die or retreat and die... in this book both sides are quite patriotic. Soldiers on the Russian side are hurting badly but you don't feel the misery... though it is not winter so you don't have those issue of the cold weather. The Germans are similar...so far I have not read much about the German sniper side but what I did read was just as interesting... I have a feeling I will like the German expert sniper as much as his Russian counter part.

I am almost 1/3 of the way through this book in 1.5 days.... Hard to put down but I force myself to do so, so I can get some work done :)

I highly recommend this book!!!!

Jun 25, 2017, 7:09pm Top

Read Birdsong years ago and really loved it.

Jun 25, 2017, 7:23pm Top

Just joined the group and this topic looks like fun. I finally read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and loved it. Then I jumped from WWII to WWI to read None of Us the Same by Jeffrey K. Walker. Loved that too. Now I need to finish my Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series book- always an easy enjoyable read (but not histfic, I know).

Edited: Jun 27, 2017, 4:06pm Top

>79 GardenWoman: I had mixed feelings at first I when I read Bird Song. I knew it was a WWl book but when I started it seemed like a historical romance set in that era. But I grew to really like the book as it progressed to the actual war itself and then you throw in the modern day investigation of the main character's life which I thought was a bit of overkill but found at the end was ok.

If you like books set in WWII then I might recommend War of the Rats, a book that I just finished. In real life, Stalingrad struggle there was a Russian peasant that grew to hero status for his ability as a sniper and he was so good the Germans sent out their best sniper to challenge him to a duel to the death across no-man's land. There is a bit of romance in the story as well as one of the Russian snipers is a woman in this novel.

You may have seen the 2001 movie Enemy at the Gate... this is also based on this duel but the movie and this novel differs on many points regarding the duel. So seeing that movie won't interfere with this novel. Apparently there are several novels of this struggle.

What I like about this book on the Stalingrad struggle is that the battle between German and Russian is not depressing until the last few pages when Germany loses and tries to retreat ....no spoiler here... :) I read another book on Stalingrad and it was so depressing I had to put it down after 50 pages.

By the way... you should put square brackets around your book titles like these and then check "touchstones" to the right and see that it references your book and author... sometimes it does not (eg. two novels have the same name but different authors) then click on (others) and select your novel from the list.

Welcome to LT and this chat group....

Jun 27, 2017, 7:15pm Top

I'm in 1939 New York, Poland, and Germany with Lilac Girls.

Jul 2, 2017, 1:58pm Top

>80 GardenWoman: and >81 Lynxear:

Novels set during WWI attract me, too. My absolute favorites are:

A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot
A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (not to be confused with the conservative commentator)

They are very unlike each other but masterful and beautiful anti-war novels in their own right.

Jul 2, 2017, 11:48pm Top

>83 Limelite: Thank you.... you have given me a couple of books to look for on my treks to used bookstores

Jul 3, 2017, 9:37pm Top

>84 Lynxear:
From a discussion of John Boyne on another topic thread, I remember another favorite title. It's a short novel by him set just after WWI, but powerful and humane. The Absolutist.

Jul 8, 2017, 6:04pm Top

I am huddling in a bar/brothel in Hamburg during allied fire bombing of the city in 1944 in the novel Comrades of War by Sven Hassel. My comrades are pretty rough having been wounded on the eastern front and sent back in cattle cars where at least 50% die on the trip back to Germany for convalescence. They are fed up with war and fed up with the German military. Right now their main existence depends on alcohol, women (often as not raped) and fighting anyone that they dislike or just for fun including some of their mates.

It is a pretty gritty book looking at the war in Germany where their society seems to fall into chaos. Life is meaningless, the threat of sending someone to the Eastern front is the threat of a death sentence... death by firing squad and beheading is common even on trumped up charges.

It is not an easy read. If you dislike coarse language, brutal violence and apocalyptic scenarios then this is not a book for you. I almost put it down after 50 pages but now the characters are growing on me and I want to see how this ends for them.

Jul 10, 2017, 2:15pm Top

Edited: Jul 14, 2017, 5:23am Top

I'm in Scotland in 1522, where Francis Crawford of Lymond is training an elite mercenary force. The disorderly knights by Dorothy Dunnett.

Jul 16, 2017, 6:06pm Top

>88 simplicimus:

Lucky you! Dunnett is the absolute queen of great historical fiction. The only books I've ever confessed to wanting to re-read are by her. Have you tackled the House of Niccolo series by her? If not, you have so much more to look forward to. Envious.

Jul 17, 2017, 12:47pm Top

1863 with I am Abraham, though not as much about the civil war, and more his personal life.

Edited: Jul 24, 2017, 11:36am Top

I am headed across the Atlantic on the HMS TRITON with Lieutenant Lord Ramage, in the Dudley Pope novel Ramage and the FreeBooters.

It is 1797. Britain's navy is in the throes of mutiny... illegal of course but the sailors demands are reasonable to many (better food, better pay and leave to visit loved ones). Lieutenant Ramage is given a commission on the HMS TRITON on the condition he can deal with the mutiny on this ship and carry dispatches to Caribbean. Through wisdom and trickery he has been able to leave England and quelled mutiny on his ship. On to the rest of the story!!!

If you like the Hornblower series by CS Forester... you will love the Ramage series by Pope. but as with Hornblower you must read this series in order as he flashes back quite a bit.

Jul 22, 2017, 4:02pm Top

I'm in Athens looking for Socrates and Alkibiades in Mary Renault's The last of the wine.

Edited: Jul 31, 2017, 5:19pm Top

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Jul 31, 2017, 2:59pm Top

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"Antes del Destello":


Although in Spanish. The english version will be available soon.

R. J. Mohr

Aug 5, 2017, 3:47pm Top

I recently finished the excellent Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves, which takes place in 1920s Alabama.

Aug 6, 2017, 11:56am Top

Aug 6, 2017, 2:26pm Top

I'm in Columbus, OH in 1856 at the moment in Madame Presidentess.

Aug 14, 2017, 7:21pm Top

I'm flitting back and forth between the 1890s, the 1950s, and 1990s in Rebellion.

Aug 27, 2017, 4:43pm Top

1952 American prisoner of war camp for Chinese and North Korean combatants of the Korean Conflict in War Trash by Ha Jin.

Aug 28, 2017, 12:25pm Top

Battle of Agincourt in Bernard Cornwall's Agincourt

Sep 1, 2017, 9:40pm Top

Today I finished reading See What I Have Done and started The Soldier's Scoundrel.

Sep 2, 2017, 3:56pm Top

Earlier today I left a small village in Paraguay in 1956, finishing up A PAX Adventure 1954 - 1956, by Philip A. Roth. The book covers Philip's time as a PAX worker doing construction and related work as an alternative to military service. He spent part of 1954 in Peru and the rest of his time in Paraguay. The community where he worked in Peru is the community where I spent most of my childhood, so I was delighted to find this book. It is a valuable resource on how the PAX program was used to enhance work being done by other groups.

Sep 14, 2017, 5:59pm Top

1830s Calcutta at the beginning of the Opium Wars in China, preparing to sail to the Mauritius aboard the sailing ship, Ibis, and perhaps points to the Far East in future books. The book is Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies, the first in his "Ibis Trilogy."

Sep 22, 2017, 2:47am Top

I am returning to Cornwall, England region at the end of the 1700's in Winston Graham's Poldark series. I am starting the 7th book in the series - "The Angry Tide".

I left this series for over a year since I have not been able to find this book in used book stores in my area until last week. In addition I found 3 more books in the series...fantastic! You have to read these books in this soap-opera type novel series.

Edited: Oct 12, 2017, 12:13pm Top

I'm sailing in the Caribbean with that dastardly Captain in Calico, Jack Rackham, circa 1820.

Oct 10, 2017, 5:24pm Top

I just finished The Angry Tide by Winston Graham. It is now 1800 for when the next novel. This series reads like a soap opera but man is it well done. The character development is great...no wonder this series was turned into a BBC series for television.

Oct 10, 2017, 5:45pm Top

>107 Guanhumara: Have you watched the current series or the 1970s version?

Oct 11, 2017, 4:04pm Top

I'm in the 1920s at the moment but heading for the 1940s soon in Manhattan Beach.

Oct 11, 2017, 4:08pm Top

Right now I'm hanging out in 5th century Wales with a kid named Merlin in a Crystal Cave.

Edited: Oct 17, 2017, 11:53pm Top

>106 Lynxear: I have not watched either version... I have just read the books... and they are good reading.

Oct 18, 2017, 8:32am Top

>111 Guanhumara: Pity - I was hoping that you could make a comparison. I watched the first season of the latest BBC version; I found the political stuff interesting, but the romantic 'middle-aged man falls for child he has raised', although true enough to the times, rather uncomfortable to watch. I was wondering how a book written in the 1940s handled this, and how central a theme it was.

Oct 25, 2017, 2:08pm Top

I'm going back and forth between the 1660s and the early 2000s with occasional stops in the 1950s in The Weight of Ink.

Oct 27, 2017, 1:29pm Top

1550 with Lady Jane Grey in The Last Tudor

Oct 27, 2017, 3:38pm Top

I'm in 1812 with Berndt von Vitzewitz following Napoleon's retreat from Moscow on his maps in Vor dem Sturm by Theodor Fontane.

Edited: Oct 27, 2017, 3:44pm Top

I'm in England in 1816 helping an ex-soldier who lost an eye at Waterloo.

Oct 28, 2017, 12:34pm Top

While on vacation recently, I read and enjoyed Fire in the Sky by J.A. Shears. This is an entertaining adventure tale about a rough and tough American trapper (but with a heart of gold, of course) and his Native American bride in the Alaskan Yukon when that territory was still owned by Russia, some time in the early 1800s, I'd guess. The protagonists are vengeful and fierce Native Americans. There is some very good nature writing along with a fun adventure story. This was excellent vacation reading.

Nov 2, 2017, 10:21pm Top

I'm mostly in 1929 in The Last Ballad.

Edited: Nov 26, 2017, 2:03pm Top

I finished up an extremely enjoyable anthology, The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin Harry Greenberg, the stories in which traversed the western U.S. from Gold Rush days though the early 1900s.

Nov 28, 2017, 1:32am Top

I'm now reading Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven, which is set in 1930s Appalachian North Carolina.

Nov 29, 2017, 1:03pm Top

I'm in Korea in 1932 in Pachinko.

Dec 5, 2017, 5:52am Top

>34 Zumbanista: >32 Limelite: I have recently read another historical fiction about China titled Shanghai Girls by Lisa Lee. It is a story about 2 sisters living in Shanghai and starts in 1937 before WWII. They are well off by Chinese standards, father owns a rickshaw business, they have servants..etc. They are "beautiful girls" and painted for advertising because of it.

Life changes with the invasion of Japan. Father is bankrupt, they have an unwanted arranged marriage each to a Chinese family living in the USA... they must somehow flee China ahead of the Japanese... they go to the USA... but that is not the end of their troubles as the USA does not want Chinese immigrants.

This story ends in 1957 but there is a sequel that I must hunt down. It is an interesting perspective on Chinese immigrants, the racism they face and how they work to overcome it.

Dec 5, 2017, 8:15pm Top

>122 Limelite: I remember that novel since you mention it. I checked, the sequel is Dreams of Joy. To be honest, I thought the first novel was okay, but I didn't feel inspired to read the sequel. Yet, I still remember that I found the sisters' lives intriguing when the story moved to the US.

Writing this, I'm reminded of another novel, similar to See's but much more poignant and with more to offer the reader than mostly plot. Julie Otsuka's Penn-Faulkner prize winning novel, The Buddha in the Attic tells the story of Japanese picture brides who come to San Francisco following an arduous boat journey and follows them through their first few days after arrival. Have you already read it?

Dec 10, 2017, 10:32am Top

>123 Lynxear: No, I have not read The Buddha in the Attic. It sounds like something I would like to read.

Yes the story of Shanghai Girls does pick up a notch when they reach the USA. It was interesting to read their difficulties getting through Immigration and I was a bit surprised with acceptance of them into their arranged marriages though life was anything but easy.

I think the sequel will be interesting since it will take place in China during the established Cultural Revolution of 1957. I have read at least 5 books of this period from the perspective of women of different social classes and none of them had an easy time of it... Men as well. There was so much distrust that it made me understand why there is an optimism in China now which I saw when I visited it 10 years ago looking to teach English there. I will try to hunt down Dreams of Joy in my used book stores.

Have you read The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hader. It is a pretty dark novel of a woman who is trying to locate a piece of film about the Nanking Massacre. The story takes place in Tokyo. She believes the film exists but is rebuffed by everyone she asks. But she digs deep and finds it. The ending is almost a horror story, very frightening.

Dec 10, 2017, 4:19pm Top

>124 Limelite: No, I haven't caught up to Hader's book yet, although I've heard of it. And now it will have to go on my wish list!

Your second para put me in mind of one of the best accounts of the Cultural Revolution I've ever read. While fiction is the predominant way I have gathered impressions of that period of Chinese history as recorded by Chinese writers, I think Nien Cheng's personal memoir is most effective. If you haven't, please get Life and Death in Shanghai. The best rendering of the frankly brutal truth of those years.

Reading contemporary Chinese authors is a special interest of mine.

Dec 11, 2017, 2:53am Top

> 125 Life and Death in Shanghai is an amazing book. I have a lot of respect for Nien Cheng... such a feisty woman. I am not sure if she is still alive..last I heard she was living somewhere in Ottawa, Ontario.

Have you read Shanghai by David, Rotenberg ? Reading it will give you an understanding as to how Britain hooked the Chinese on opium in order to get at Chinese tea and other trade items. Most people think the Chinese brought opium to the west but it was the west that brought it to China first.

Dec 11, 2017, 8:08pm Top

>126 Limelite: Haven't read Rotenberg's book, but I was aware of the history that led to the Opium Wars. It features in Sea of Poppies, historical fiction set in 1838 at the outbreak of that event. It's by Amitav Ghosh, my choice for best new-to-me author of 2017 (post #26). I wish listed Hader's book. Now you are trying to get me to list another. You're an enabler!

In its early days, I volunteered at the Miami Book Fair and was fortunate to meet and speak with Nien Chen when she was a guest author and read from "Life and Death." It's a books still on my shelf. Sadly, Chen died in 2009, age 94. She was probably in her mid-late- 70s when I met her, possessed bright intelligent eyes and a gentle yet elegant demeanor. She exuded presence and impressed me forever. One of the great privileges of my life.

Dec 13, 2017, 1:40am Top

Oh my gosh! >126 Limelite: >127 Zumbanista: what a wonderful treasure chest of books! Thanks for sharing and making my reading pile even larger!

Shanghai Girls is already on my list and I've read Life and Death in Shanghai and learned so much from it about the Cultural Revolution.

I also enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

Thanks again for the great suggestions!

Dec 13, 2017, 9:28am Top

In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

A vivid and fascinating view of 15th century Italy.

Dec 14, 2017, 6:31am Top

>128 Darth-Heather: Here is another Historical Chinese fiction title about a missionary family in China at the end of the 1800's during the Boxer Rebellion

The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure by Adam Williams

Quite a good read actually and another perspective on life in ancient china.

Dec 14, 2017, 1:24pm Top

I'm flitting back and fourth between WWII and the fall of the wall Here in Berlin.

Dec 15, 2017, 6:40am Top

I finished Song for a dark queen by Rosemary Sutcliff who brings Roman Britain to life like no other.

Dec 15, 2017, 2:59pm Top

>129 Lynxear: If you are enthused about historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy (and have read all of Dorothy Dunnett's magnificent series), may I offer another title?

The Secret Book of Grazia del Rossi by Jacqueline Park

And for a subdued thriller about da Vinci's most famous mural (not in the style of Dan Brown!) you might enjoy The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra.

Wonder what's so fascinating about the multitude of secrets during the Renaissance in Italy?!

Dec 15, 2017, 3:09pm Top

>133 Darth-Heather: thank you for these suggestions! I am very interested in them, and have not read anything by Dorothy Dunnett yet. I did read The Secret Supper, and also enjoyed Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy.

My wishlist just grew!

Dec 17, 2017, 12:58am Top

Thanks >130 Unreachableshelf: I just recommended my library obtain a digital copy. Sometimes the request works and sometimes not, but I do keep a record so I can always by it on Kindle if I want it. I find I read most of my books digitally now borrowed from my library vs buying them as I was before.

Edited: Dec 19, 2017, 3:32pm Top

Have begun two novels and they're both historical fiction.

I'm in late 18th C. Japan with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchel.

Otherwise, I'm deep in the virgin forests of colonial French Canada in Annie Proulx's latest, Barkskins.

Edited: Dec 26, 2017, 7:29pm Top

In a rather interesting departure, I'm in the 1930s in Soviet Russia, with a rather reluctant emigre. Learning all sorts of interesting things, such as the fact that Henry Ford personally directed that all Jewish employees at Ford be let go during the Great Depression.

The Last Paradise - Antonio Garrido

Edited: Dec 28, 2017, 7:22pm Top

I recently was in London, England while reading Victoria but am now in Cornwall carrying on with the Poldark series by Winston Graham.

Dec 28, 2017, 8:01pm Top

I'm suffering with Hester Prynne in late 1600's Boston in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

Dec 28, 2017, 8:16pm Top

I just finished up Jonathan Evison's West of Here, a very good book set in the Olympic Peninsula (Washington State). The narrative is split pretty much evenly between the 1890s and the modern day.

Dec 29, 2017, 3:18am Top

I'm near Hadrian's wall in Great Britain, looking for the eagle of the ninth legion with Rosemary Sutcliff's The eagle

Dec 29, 2017, 2:03pm Top

I'm in Cornwall, too, and sometimes London, in the last Poldark book by Winston Graham, Bella Poldark.

Mar 26, 2018, 2:49pm Top

Is there a 2018 edition of this thread that I missed?

At any rate, I am becalmed in the South Atlantic with The Sea Captain's Wife. It's been quite a while since I've described a book as unputdownable; your tastes may vary but I'm loving it.

Edited: Mar 28, 2018, 6:39pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Mar 28, 2018, 6:48pm Top

>143 Molly3028:

You posted in this year's thread ~ Historical fiction adventures in the year 2018! ~
in February!

Sorry I messed up my first reply attempt.

Apr 2, 2018, 4:14am Top

Just finished Honolulu by Alan Brennert. It is a book set in Korea about 1905. It is a story about Jin or"Regret" a young Korean girl. Fathers in Korea name their children and he wanted a son... hence her name, Regret. You learn of her life as young girl who has no future and wants to be educated but cannot as her father won't let her. She escapes this life as a teenager becoming a "Picture Bride" and going to be married to an unknown Korean man in Hawaii. I won't spoil the story but it is an interesting read about a Korean woman who fights against all odds to make a life in Hawaii.

I had a Korean girlfriend at one time and this novel helps me understand her culture roots and perhaps explains some of the difficulties I had trying to understand her.

Edited: Apr 2, 2018, 8:46am Top


Please enter your posts in the following thread ~
Historical fiction adventures in the year 2018!


Group: Historical Fiction

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