Review Round-Up

I just discovered the book review summaries that the Historical Novel Society distributes each week (excerpt below, with titles of interest to W&M readers). It's a great way to keep your "to be read list" up-to-date. You'll also find information about how to subscribe to this fantastic group at the end of the post. And don't forget to look at their fiction listings, too! Happy Reading!

Image: Pieter de Hooch, "Woman Reading a Letter" (1664).

ISSUE 22/2008: November 1 2008

Editors: Kelly Cannon Hess, Karen Wintle and Gordon O'Sullivan


13th Century
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the 14th Century by Ian Mortimer, The Guardian, 25 October 2008, Kathryn Hughes

14th Century
The Fears of Henry IV by Ian Mortimer, The Guardian, 21 June 2008,
Vera Rule. I picked this up just after my umpteenth RSC history play cycle,which made me wonder for the first time: what if Shakespeare had endorsed Henry of Lancaster, John of Gaunt's son, as being virtuous and wise for overthrowing the arbitrary and absolutist tyranny of Richard II? Ian Mortimer asks exactly the same question in this exciting biography.,,2286732,00.html

The Man Who Believed He Was King of France by Tommaso di Carpegna
Falconieri,The Telegraph, 16 October 2008, Noel Malcolm. Monday, 19 September, 1356 saw one of the most dramatic turning-points in the Hundred Years' War. At the Battle of Poitiers, an English cavalry squadron (led by the Black Prince) penetrated so far into the ranks of the retreating French that it came up against the unit commanded personally by King Jean II of France. Heroically, the French king waded into the fray with his battle-axe; but he was forced to surrender, and would spend the next four years as a captive in English hands. This was not a good time for the French royal family. The ancient line of descent to the crown had come to an end with the death of the infant Jean I. Another branch of the French family, the kings of Navarre, also had claims to the crown; their head, the concisely named Charles the Bad, was himself a prisoner in French hands. And then, just a few weeks after the Battle of Poitiers, there came from the distant city of Siena the sound of a small political bombshell. It was announced that the true king of France, Jean I, had not in fact died in infancy all those years ago.

16th Century
Henry: Virtuous Prince by David Starkey, The Observer, 26 October
2008,Michael Hirst. In a curiously revealing introduction to this book, the first of two on Henry VIII, David Starkey tells us: 'Henry and I go back a long way.' This note of familiarity is, of course, proprietorial, and Starkey writes throughout with the assurance of someone who knows the king better than anyone else - and certainly better than other historians.
See also:
The Guardian, 18 October 2008, Hilary Mantel
The Independent, 19 October 2008, Ronald Hutton
The Telegraph, 22 October 2008, Jerry Brotton

17th Century
Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory by Lisa Jardine,Washington Post, 19 October 2008, Kathryn Shevelow. Lisa Jardine, a professor at the University of London and prolific author, has now written the revelatory backstory of the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688-89.

Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare by
Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Times, 26 October 2008, John Carey

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, Christian Science Monitor, 22
October 2008k Heller McAlpin. Sarah Vowell offers her witty take on the Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.
See also: San Francisco Chronicle, 19 October 2008, Kevin Smokler

Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend by Mark Bostridge, The
Observer, 19 October 2008, Lucy Lethbridge

The Historical Novel Society was formed in 1997 and is devoted to historical fiction of all forms. Members receive our quarterly Historical Novels Review and twice yearly magazine. You can become a member or sign up for one of our discussion groups via the HNS Website at Http:// Subscription to the HNS Newsletter is free. To subscribe, send a blank email to:

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  1. I have Sarah Vowell's latest ready to listen to and I am also looking forward to reading "Going Dutch."

  2. Waaaaay too many books, faaaar too little time.


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