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Topic: Historical Fiction - What are Some of Your Faves?

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Subject: Historical Fiction - What are Some of Your Faves?
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 11:59 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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I'm relatively new to historical fiction.  I've been reading some of the Tudor Dynasty books like a couple of Philppa Gregory books and am set to read I, Ellizabeth here soon. 

I would love some suggestions on the all-time great books of this genre.  Please don't limit it to English historical fiction (although I'll take more recommendations of those too). I'm ready to branch out!  Anything Egyptian, Indian, Greek, Roman, etc.  Don't limit yourself.  Give me a list of the all-time bests! 


ETA:  Just noticed the "Top 10" and "Must Reads" threads here.  I'll check those out.  If anyone has anything they'd like to add here, though, please do! 


Last Edited on: 6/6/08 1:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 1:43 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,581
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Tops on my list has to be anything by Dorothy Dunnett.  I don't think any other writer of historical fiction is in her league.  I like her House of Niccolo series best, but I know others like her Lymond Chronicles better.  All of them are wonderful.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 2:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
Posts: 782
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Well, I like to consider myself the resident Roman expert, so here are a few suggestions:

I, Claudius & Claudius, The God by Robert Graves

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

The Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Masters of Rome Series by Colleen McCullough (starts with The First Man in Rome)

Tiberius by Allan Massie

The Golden Ass by Apulieus Translated by Robert Graves (technically set in Greece, but still wonderful)

The Roman by Mika Waltari

Imperium by Robert Harris

Justinian by H.N. Turtletaub


As for Egyptian HF, Pauline Gedge is THE best, in my opinion:

Child of the Morning

House of Dreams (AKA Lady of the Reeds)

House of Illusions


The Twelfth Transforming

The Horus Road, The Hippopotamus Marsh, and the Oasis (a trilogy)


There is also a woman named Joan Grant who wrote several HF books set in Egypt.


Greek HF (copied from an earlier thread):

Daphnis and Chloe- Longus (an Ancient Greek classic, loved it)

Soldier of the Mist- Gene Wolfe (followed by Soldier of Arete, or get the onmibus, Latro of the Mist)

The Laughter of Aphrodite- Peter Green

Empire of Ashes- Nicholas Nicastro

Alexander Series- Valerio Manfredi 

The Beacon at Alexandria- Gillian Bradshaw

Horses of Heaven- Gillian Bradshaw (historical fantasy)

Odysseus: A Life- Charles Rowan Beye

Dazzling Brightness- Roberta Gellis (part of a series of 4 or 5 books based on Greek Mythology)

The Alexandrian- Martha Rofheart

Herald- N.F. Houck

Spartan Slave, Spartan Queen- Helena P. Schrader

Are They Singing in Sparta- Helena P. Schrader

Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother- Wife of Oedipus- Victoria Grossack

Bloodline of Kings: A Novel of Philip of Macedon- Thomas Sundell

Helen of Troy- Margaret George

Till We Have Faces- C.S. Lewis (based on a story told in The Golden Ass)

The Song of Troy- Colleen McCullough




Last Edited on: 6/6/08 2:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 2:18 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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That's a great list, Jennifer!

If you want something a little bit different, and you don't mind graphic descriptions of violence, I recommend Aztec by Gary Jennings.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
Posts: 809
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I recommend The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George to all newbies because it's the book that got me hooked on historical fiction. IMHO, George comes closer than any other writer to creating a true-to-life portrait of this complex man and king.

For Egypt, try her The Memoirs of Cleopatra. It's wonderful.

Subject: American HF
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 4:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Shelley G. :  May I recommend John Dos Passos' trilogy, U.S.A. ?  The volumes are (I) The 42nd Parallel; (II) 1919; and (III) The Big Money.  Along with the novel the author includes biographical sketches and some "newsreels" that help fix the popular culture of the time in the reader's mind.  I thought that approach added a good deal to the work.   Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldiers is a good  novel about  women and their  participation in World War II.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 4:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/2/2005
Posts: 714
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My favorite HF writer is Sharon Kay Penman. The Sunne in Splendour is one of my favorite books of all time. Her welsh trilogy is good too. It starts with Here Be Dragons.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 6:45 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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Thanks, everyone!  And WOW, Jennifer, what an impressive list!  My TBR pile is going to get taller than it already is!  Based on some other threads, I ordered Memoirs of a Geisha (which seems to be a favorite), the Birth of Venus and Mary, Also Called Magdalene (which is the only Margaret George available right now - I put the others on my wish list).  I'll definitely be checking some of these others out too! 

One book I've had on my TBR pile for awhile now is Beneath A Marble Sky.  I am particuarly fascinated with India.  I have a couple of others to based in India.  Anyone have any favorites for these?

More ideas always welcomed! 

Last Edited on: 6/6/08 6:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 7:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,581
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Yes, thanks for the great list Jennifer!  You've given me some new treasures to hunt for.  Have you read Pompeii by Robert Harris?  I have that one coming, so I hope it is good.

Date Posted: 6/6/2008 9:35 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
Posts: 782
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Shelley, Beneath a Marble Sky was probably the best book I read all last year. I L-O-V-E-D it!

As for HF set in India, I haven't read much, although I have a few on my TBR. Here are a few suggestions:

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

India Fortunes: A Novel of Rajasthan and Northern India Through Past Centuries :: Gary Worthington

India Treasures : An Epic Novel of Rajasthan and Northern India through the Ages :: Gary Worthington

The Feast of Roses :: Indu Sundaresan

The Temple Dancer: A Novel of India by John Speed

Tiger Claws by John Speed (sequel to The Temple Dancer)

Taj by Timeri Murari (similar in subject matter to Beneath a Marble Sky)

Creation by Gore Vidal (really set in many places, but includes India)


Oh, and if you are interested in Ancient Mesopotamia I just finished reading a few really excellent books a few weeks ago:

The Assyrian by Nicholas Guild

The Blood Star by Nicholas Guild (sequel to The Assyrian)

Never Grow Old: The Novel of Gilgamesh by Brian Trent


I can give suggestions for HF set in China and Japan too, if you are interested in those. LOL I may have gone overboard, but hopefully this helps!


Last Edited on: 6/6/08 9:37 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/6/2008 9:43 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,757
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Thanks again, Jennifer! I think I have all the Indian HF on my wish list already!  Sure hope I get some soon!  And I'm glad you enjoyed Beneath A Marble Sky.  I bought that one from Amazon because it looked so good.  I can't wait to dig into it! 

Date Posted: 7/7/2008 12:51 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
Posts: 4,325
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I've enjoyed Jean Plaidy's books, and believe me, there are plenty of titles to choose from.  There's a thread in this section about her.

Right now I'm reading Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier (a book I had to buy in the airport because I lost the one I was reading, but I digress)

Tracy Chevalier

A nice quick read lately was Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya was terrific, it had The Good Earth (by Pearl S. Buck) quality to it but much shorter.

Last Edited on: 7/7/08 12:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/9/2008 12:51 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
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Another good HF author is Anya Seton. 'The Winthrop Woman' is one of my favorites.  I had 'Katherine' onm my WL but it was too long, so I ordered it from Overstock.  I also like Philippa Gregory.  I am facinated by the Tudors.  I think I must in have lived in that era in another life.