Two Basically Unrelated Histories

In the ongoing vein of categorizing my reviews by type, I give you: histories.  Well, one is historical fiction, but it is very researchy, so I am counting it as a history in a novel costume rather than the other way ’round.  If you’re a reader of historical fiction, you’ll know what I mean by that difference.  Other than the nod to history, however, these two books are unrelated.  Sorry about that.

sunne in splendorAt 932 pages, Sharon Kay Penman’s historical novel The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III, spanning the Wars of the Roses through the Battle of Bosworth Field is nothing if not comprehensive. As I have mentioned before about Penman’s novels, they suffer for being three times too long and from the author’s annoying penchant for using the phrase “for certes” overmuch (presumably to add a note of medieval-ness to otherwise modern diction?). Penman certainly does her research–if anything the book veers too far toward a novelized history rather than conforming to historical fiction conventions. As a die-hard Anglophile I did enjoy this book, but would still recommend Alison Weir’s books on the timeframe more (see The Princes in the TowerA Dangerous InheritanceElizabeth of York) even though Weir and Penman disagree somewhat in their interpretations of the historical record.

Mornings on HorsebackMornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt tells the story of TR’s childhood up through his second marriage, with an emphasis on his family and upbringing that I found really fascinating.  When we study famous people in school, I try to find biographies that cover the person’s childhood, because it’s engaging for the kids.  Many of the incidents we read about for school were also covered in McCullough’s history, although in more detail as you’d expect.  I listened to the book in audio format, which was fine apart from some points where the narrator attempted accents and couldn’t quite pull them off.  Overall, I find histories the easiest books to listen to on audio.  With fiction I want to actually see and enjoy the words, and with self-help books I want to take notes, but with history it works to hear the book read instead.

Have you read any good histories (or historical fiction) lately?


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