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Thread: Historical Novels About Places

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Historical Novels About Places

    James Michener was a giant in the world of writing historical novels, about specific places. His grand stories usually covered centuries of time and were filled with interesting (and researched) tidbits. His style was unique and often imitated.

    Michener novels that I have read (some more than once) include Texas, Poland, Chesapeake and Alaska. All were very interesting and fun to read.

    A few years back I read a historical novel about Russia, using the same Michener style. I cannot remember the name because Ient it to a friend that since has moved away. It was very informative, also.

    Right now, I'm reading War & Peace. Other Michener books that I will some day get around to reading would include Centennial and Mexico.

    What historical books have you read, were they good, and would you recommend them to the "throbbing brian of Cyburbia"?

    Bear Outside St. Petersburg

  2. #2
    If you ever find a copy (and it can be difficult getting a copy outside of the Isle of Axholme), I recommend getting a copy of a book called "Manuscript in a Red Box". It's set in the 17th century when the third round of drainage was taking place across the East of England. It's essentially a romance between a member of the local gentry and the daughter of a Dutch doctor (brought over to tend the workers on the drainage project), but the historical detail is amazingly accurate. The tensions between the poor who were about to become disowned, nevermind disenfranchised, and the nobility and the 'foreigners' are well portrayed.
    It can be ordered here if you're interested.

    Incidentally, I grew up in Eastoft, which is a village that was originally half on the Isle (then in Lincolnshire, now North Lincolnshire) and half in the Marshlands (then in West Yorkshire, now split between North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series start in Scotland and then move to the Americas.

    TN, SC and I are all avid readers of this series.

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I read several of Michener's books and have liked them all. Personally, I have enjoyed Patrick O'brian's Aubrey/Maturin series (of 'Master & Commander' movie fame).
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  5. #5
    Cyburbian statler's avatar
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    I've read Back Bay by William Martin. I was fairly young when I read it but I remember being enthralled. If my reading list
    wasn't so long I'd re-read to see if it holds up to a more critical eye.

    Off-topic:
    If you decide it looks interesting and you want to check it out, make sure you use Cyburbia's Amazon link, not mine!
    "So, if a city has a personality, maybe it also has a soul. Maybe it dreams." -Gaiman
    ArchBoston

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I enjoy reading historical accounts, but they tend to be histories written in a conversational tone, rather than fictional stories set in a historical time. I enjoyed Stephan Ambrose's "Crazy Horse and Custer," and "Undaunted Courage" was almost as good. I have also read some very good accounts of the Santa Fe Train and the opening of the California Trail. History is good stuff.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    I have always thought that if I could write a good novel it would be in the Michener style and focus on The Great Lakes. There is an incredible amount of history surrounding these lakes, the territories and states that have and now surround them, the Canadian provinces that line the lakes, etc.

    This area was the old Northwest Territory. It's history and development changed the world.

    Anybody know of any historical novels about the Great Lakes area?

    Bear On The Mac Bridge

  8. #8
    Aztec by Gary Jennings

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Not quite historical but very heavy on the place are Nevada Barr's mystery series. 8-|

  10. #10
          roger's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North
    A few years back I read a historical novel about Russia, using the same Michener style. I cannot remember the name because Ient it to a friend that since has moved away. It was very informative, also.
    Was it by Edward Rutherford? He writes novels like you describe, that cover centuries of an area's history. I recently read Sarum, which is about England, specifically the Salisbury Plain. I know he wrote one about Russia but I don't recall the title. He also did one about Ireland.

  11. #11
          Downtown's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series start in Scotland and then move to the Americas.

    TN, SC and I are all avid readers of this series.
    Ooh - you stole mine.

    Now admit it - you are frequent visitors to this site

  12. #12
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I love historic novels... most of the ones I have read are set in England... Dickens, the Austins, the Brontes, etc.

    I recently read a novel set in the 1800s in China, Chile and California... called "Daughter of Fortune", by Isabel Allende. The historic parts of it were pretty interesting but I found the novel overall kind of bland.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    ...[snip]... "Undaunted Courage" ...[snip]...
    I highly recommend this one.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  14. #14
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    I love historic novels... most of the ones I have read are set in England....
    Me too. I went through a phase as a teenager where I consumed lots of Catherine Cookson novels... then I started to notice they were all very similar, even formulaic.

    I love Bryce Courtenay's series set in early colonial Australia: The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, and Solomon's Song. One of my favourite books is The Power of One, also by the same author, and set in South Africa.

    Also loved Wild Swans, The Kitchen God's Wife, and The Joy Luck Club, all set in China.

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