Saturday, September 19, 2015
September 19-20, 2015: Crowd-sourced Historical Fictions
[As part of this summer’s beach reading, I had the chance to revisit and engage more deeply with Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day (2008), one of the most compelling and effective recent historical novels. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the historical fiction recommendations and responses of fellow AmericanStudiers—share yours in comments, please!]
First, an addendum to the series: after I had written it I learned of a wonderful new collection of American historical fictions, Dr. John Keene’s book Counternarratives (2015). Check it out!
Also, my FSU American Studies colleague Kate Jewell’s first post for the Teaching American History blog makes a great argument for using novels and other literary works in the history classroom (and wants your input!).
On Facebook, Kisha Tracy notes that “Rafael Sabatini and Baroness Orczy have always been my historical fiction guilty pleasures.” She adds, “Samuel Shellabarger and Kenneth Roberts too.”
Jennifer Berg admits that, “I also feel cheesy about this, but I really like Michener [Ben’s note: Me too!],” and adds that she “just read The Source this summer and loved it.” She is “now reading the Asia saga by James Clavell.” And she adds, “I also read some Isabel Allende (Inés of My Soul and Island Beneath the Sea) this summer.”
Donna Moody continues the guilty pleasure thread, agreeing with the Michener recommendation and adding, “I guess this 'outs' my standards for what I term my 'mindless' reading but I really love Steve Berry's books...John refers to them as 'pot-boilers' which I guess they are but he does some pretty extensive historical research into each topic and setting.”
Heather Cox Richardson continues the Michener love, asking, “Is this where I confess I was mesmerized by Centennial when I was a teenager?”
Larry Rosenwald writes, “Not sure exactly what counts here, but some of the pleasures I associate with historical fiction (I tend to read earlier historical fiction, Scott and Cooper and John Buchan and such) are also to be had from, say, Benito Cereno and Israel Potter (which I love, actually), and from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court—and isn't most of Hawthorne arguably historical fiction?” [To which I said: Yup yup and yup!]
Summer Lopez writes, “Really love Hilary Mantel. The Wolf Hall stuff, but also A Place of Greater Safety, about the French Revolution, is amazing.”
Heather Urbanski shares, “I loved Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (and the sequel, Morning is a Long Time Coming) when I was in junior high and high school. I still have my beat up copies in my bedroom shelf.”
Andrew Da Silva writes, “Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman is an oldie but goodie.”
Jeff Renye replies, “Vasily Grossman is always a real uplifter,” and adds Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels.
Robert Tally notes, “I’m just starting Measuring the World, a recent German novel about Alexander van Humboldt, and it’s terrific so far.”
On Twitter, Theresa Kaminski highlights Katharine Weber’s novel Triangle (2006), “as much about the fire as about doing history.”
Schuyler Chapman shares Washington Irving’s “Philip of Pokanoket: An Indian Memoir” (1819), “which seems to really struggle with history-fiction distinction.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Other historical fictions you’d highlight?