Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: So, how does one get started?

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Subject: So, how does one get started?
Date Posted: 1/10/2008 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
Posts: 2,408
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When I was much, MUCH younger I used to read a lot of historical fiction but I never really paid much attention to authors or even time periods, etc. I read what I liked. When I got into mysteries, I liked the idea of series books where I could really get to know characters over the course of several books. Now it seems that particular authors do this sort of thing with historical figures, is that correct? How does one go about "getting into" HF? Do you pick a time period? A royal house? A particular figure? What do you suggest?
Date Posted: 1/10/2008 10:58 AM ET
Member Since: 6/2/2005
Posts: 714
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When I started reading HF, I read everything I could about Native Americans. I was very interested in the subject. I then read The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman and was totally hooked on English history. Now I'll read anything by certain HF authors regardless of the time periods because I like their writing. Maybe you could pick a time period and go from there. Have fun!

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 12:14 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Tangie offers great advice. You have to start somewhere. So pick an area of interest and have fun. Eventually, you'll begin to recognize authors and look for books specific to your interests.

If you want some author/title suggestions, let us know what interests you or what books you read in the past and enjoyed.

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 12:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
Posts: 782
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Well, when I started reading again in High School I read The Lord of the Rings because I saw the first movie and loved it so much I wanted to know how it ended. So after that I became hooked on fantasy and that was all I read for about three years.

 

Then one day I went to a bookstore to wander around (before I found PBS) and went on a search for the biggest book I could find. That just so happened to be The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. I came home and ordered a copy from Amazon that night and HF is all I have read since.

 

So I agree with everyone else. You have to start somewhere. Just pick something that catches your eye and go with it. There are several threads in this forum about our favorite authors and our top reads from last year. Check those out and see if anything there interests you! Good luck!

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 1:29 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
Posts: 2,408
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I remember reading a lot of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Jean Plaidy but it was sooooo long ago. Ages ago. Seriously. :) What would you recommend in the Elizabethan period?
Date Posted: 1/10/2008 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I generally return to pre-Cromwell English history (usually either Angevian or Tudor) but I'll branch into most European history. I like the recommendations I get here, as well as just wandering the bookstore.

I also really recommend all of Sharon Kay Penman's books.

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2007
Posts: 106
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I agree with Mimi--although I had been reading historical fiction prior to reading Sharon Kay Penman, after reading some of her books I was THOROUGHLY hooked!!

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 4:46 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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LeeAnne:  As a kid I relied on the branch library for reading material, and at one point I ran across something by Harold Lamb (I think it was his life of Omar Khayyam), so I was led into other books he wrote about historical figures.  Same thing with Thomas Costain, whom I first discovered with his Captain from Castile, about the Spanish conquistadores in the 'New World', and thence on to his other great historical novels.  I discovered Zoe Oldenbourg because of my penchant for visiting second-hand bookshops.  She is unmatched when it comes to the Crusades.  You will soon enough find some favorite authors in this genre, too.

When my husband retired, he announced he was going to read Tolstoy's War and Peace.  And damned if he didn't do it! 

I haven't read it, but I did read Dos Passos'  U.S.A. , a trilogy set just before, during, and after World War I, made up of The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money.   It's fiction, but it includes biographies of "real" persons of that era, and "newsreels" about the social and cultural events that went on then.  Whatever period you read about, eventually the familiarity you gain will begin to knit together with all the other periods you read about.

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 4:57 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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There's a neat kind of search trick you can do to find books. You say you like Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Jean Plaidy. Try Googling:

"if you like [author's name]"

This often find library page recommendations.

Meanwhile, you might like Dorothy Dunnett, especially the Lymond series, which begins with The Game of Kings. I think her style is similar to Plaidy's. But she has a better handle on history.

Mary Stewart wrote the trilogy on the Arthurian legend, I believe. Have you tried Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon? If it's too much on the fantasy side, you might like the Boudica quartet by Manda Scott. I'm reading this now, although I suggest starting with the second book, which is significantly better than the first. It's title Dreaming the Bull.

You might also enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick - light romance, lots of accurate history. I really enjoyed Daughters of the Grail about the Albigensian Crusade in 13th Century France.

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 6:11 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2007
Posts: 2,408
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Thanks for all the suggestions! Please keep them coming! Genie, I am a sucker for Arthurian legend and read The Mists of Avalon many years ago after reading the Stewart books. I always recommend T. H. White's The Once and Future King to lovers of Arthur and Merlin. :)

Last Edited on: 1/10/08 6:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/10/2008 6:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I am reading a young adult series that involves Arthurian legends that was recommended by a friend.  The first one is The Squire's Tale.

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 7:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2007
Posts: 2,260
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i start with a time period i like and branch from there. I am still working away for my "normal" reading and learning about others i like too :)

Date Posted: 1/10/2008 8:30 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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There's a poster on the AZN historical fiction forum, whose online name is Selene. You might want to review her lists. She's a librarian, and her lists (in the forums, not listmania) are awesome. I've learned about dozens of good reads from her.

Date Posted: 1/11/2008 5:42 PM ET
Member Since: 8/28/2006
Posts: 15
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Ive been reading historical fiction as long as I can remember.  I particularly like English royal history but am beginning to branch out to all royalty and European history.  Ive even dabbled in early American history as well and it was very good.  Ive been lurking on the forum for a while, mostly checking out other people's libraries and wish lists trying to find more books that sound interesting to me.  Good luck!

Date Posted: 1/11/2008 9:46 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 95
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I took a suggestion on here to read Jean Plaidy and I am hooked.  I love historical fiction in general, but she is my favorite.  I find that her books are more "history" than "fiction" in form.  I like Phillippa Gregory too, but her books are more "fiction" than "history".

Date Posted: 1/11/2008 10:44 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 1,932
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i get hooked on a time period or event and just obsess. I went to see Evita with my 8th grade spanish class and when I learned Eva Peron was a real person, I had to find out everything about her. I then became interested in other strong women in history. As time progressed I suddenly discovered historical fiction and sought out books about the women I had already come to know in the non-fiction world. It's just spiraled out of control ever since I discovered the Internet. Now I can search to my hearts content and order the books on PBS!

Have fun LeeAnne. As you can see you'll find great recommedations in this forum. My WL will attest to that!

Date Posted: 1/14/2008 4:49 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
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LeeAnne--

I agree with the others who suggest starting with an area of interest.  Sometimes this interest can come from countries or regions you're interested in based on your background or travels.  I.e. my husband, who has wanted to believe he was Scottish since watching Braveheart, is always asking me for Scottish historical fiction.  I've lived in New Zealand, so I like to look for books with Maoris, etc. 

Old or new, east or west, starting with history you like is best ... is that Dr. Seuss? :-)

Cheers,

Catt