Tag Archives: historical fiction

Water for Elephants

By Sara Gruen

Why I Chose This Book
Real life book club was last night, and this was our selection. I’d voted for Little Bee by Chris Cleave because of it had culture clashes in it, and a beach (I’d just unexpectedly bought cheap tickets to Hawaii and had tunnel vision). And even though The Help (Kathryn Stockett) had been so highly recommended to me by other people, something about the publisher’s book description irritated the crap out of me that day so I made it my third choice. The only thing I had against Elephants going into the book was the glut of fashion magazine covers featuring the leads that I’ve been walking past for months, and I already had a copy in the house. I was happy to read it.

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Jubilee

By Margaret Walker

Why I Chose This Book
Jubilee was our book club selection for the month. Whitney had gone with a theme of “banned books” and it was my second choice (Farewell to Arms was my first choice, Jubilee my second, and Catcher in the Rye third), but I was not at all disappointed when it won the group’s vote. Honestly, I’d forgotten that I hadn’t voted for it. Frankly, I can’t really remember why I voted for the Hemingway in the first place. He’s, well, not my favorite.

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World Without End

By Ken Follett

Well, Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite books and I was looking forward to completely enjoying this without reservation. But way back when it first came out, I stumbled onto an online discussion that cited a passage with anachronistic vocabulary, which bothered me. It was very anachronistic. So it was a single passage, but it added some reservation to my anticipated complete enjoyment. And then I got to page 15, and there’s this conversation that no two people would ever have under any circumstances that served only for the author to show off some detail about the time period. That doesn’t bode well, at least not on top of sloppy word choice. Finally, there’s a character in this book that might as well be a character from Pillars, which makes me worry that other character types will be recycled. PLUS there’s a major plot point hinged on the kind of intrigue that drove the motivations of some characters in Pillars–derivative! derivative! So I have four things in my conscience mind to have to suppress as I am reading. Fortunately, I have been able to do so, at least through the first part of the book.

I am sad that people who are sort of shabby and bumbling are the descendants of people who were just fantastic in Pillars, but I accept that family fortunes rise and fall. I think it will color my feelings about those Pillars characters next time I read the book, but not necessarily my feelings about the book.

UPDATE APRIL 5:
Uh-oh. I had really hoped the Great Mumbo Jumbo Kerfuffle of Aught-Seven was an anomaly, but I just encountered the word “sexy” in a character’s thoughts and I’m not even at page 100 yet. Is two a pattern?

UPDATE April 12:
The book tanks. It becomes extraordinarily boring around the plague and then it just doesn’t pick up again. The second half of the book is like a checklist of all the social changes that the plague triggers. The characters turn into mirror images of the characters in Pillars, and some of them in that book were a little silly. The final scene between Gwenda and Annet is just goofy; there is a rebellious teenage girl running around with a bad crowd; I skimmed the last 200 pages while fooling around in a chat room.

I will forget I have read this book. I was sad for a while to see what became of Jack and Aliena’s descendants, but it doesn’t matter. The book is inconsequential.

Also lesbian nun sex.

And for you skeevy pervs who found this entry via a lascivious search term:

The Ruby in Her Navel

By Barry Unsworth

This book was long on historical detail and very short on plot. The first part was intriguing, but the promised exciting story about just who “Her” was and just how she got that ruby was sort of a no-brainer. I liked the main character well enough, and I have to admit I fell for the intrigue as much as he did, and I was as shocked by that intrigue’s result as I was supposed to be, but the revelation of the mystery was kind of duh. It was part Cinderella story, part The Graduate. Gee, a poor girl with no background makes good in the big city. Gee, an establishment boy with a bright future gives it all up for the romance of the bohemian lifestyle!

I think the author really wanted to write a spy novel but knew too much about the 13th century to place it in an appropriate context or to leave the knowledge-pounding out of it.