Category Archives: Historical fiction

Recent Reading, Briefly: Mantel, Goldstein, Darwin

I’m in the midst of marking exams, so there’s not a lot of mental energy left for serious reading–or writing. But I have read a few things in the not-s0-recent past that haven’t been properly written up, so here are some brief notes, at least: Hilary Mantel, Eight Months on Gazzah Street. This is another […]

Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety

George Eliot considered the writing of historical fiction “a task which can only be justified by the rarest concurrence of acquirement with genius,” requiring “a form of imaginative power [which] must always be among the very rarest, because it demands as much accurate and minute knowledge as creative vigour.” Novels of “the modern antique school […]

Weekend Miscellany & Recent Reading

Weekend Miscellany: some things that have caught my eye in recent Internet ramblings: Joseph Epstein reviews Gertrude Himmelfarb’s new book, The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot (via). I agree with Open Letters‘s Sam Sacks that Epstein’s generalizations about the Victorians are tired (“The Victorians had a comprehensive and confident view of human nature”… ), though […]

Catching Up

Somehow I always forget how busy May is! There’s a lull after winter term grading is finished and then administrative tasks need doing–year-end committee reports and so on–and then the current crop of MA students heads into their thesis-writing phase, meaning draft chapters start coming in for comments. Last week we also had two Ph.D. […]

Ricardian Fiction: A (Reading) Trip Down Memory Lane

I’ve been reading Steve Donoghue’s series on Tudor fiction at Open Letters with pleasure and nostalgia. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction in recent years, but there was a time when I read and reread everything by Jean Plaidy, especially the Tudor and Mary, Queen of Scots ones, as well as everything by […]

Weekend Miscellany

At the Guardian, Jane Smiley writes about Trollope’s The Kellys and the O’Kelly’s: The Kellys and the O’Kellys was not a commercial success. It was published – perhaps unluckily – in the same year as Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Dickens’s Dombey and Son and Gaskell’s Mary Barton, all addressing the issue of what was wrong with […]

Rehabilitating Rhett Butler?

The New York Times Sunday Book Review includes this review by Stephen L. Carter of Rhett Butler’s People, a recent novel by Donald McCaig. I’m not sure the review inspires me to read McCaig’s novel, but it does increase my desire to re-read Gone with the Wind, a book I read more than two dozen […]

Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love

For about the first half of this novel, I was tremendously impressed and moved by it. Whatever it takes to communicate what feels like an authentic, rather than contrived, sense of history (see previous posts on historical fiction), Soueif has; she makes both Lady Anna’s past experience and the experience and perspective of Isabel and […]

Emma Donoghue, Slammerkin

Why are writers of historical fiction so drawn to prostitutes? Or is it some strange selection process of my own? Because I can think of four at least in my own recent reading: Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet, The Linnet Bird, and now Slammerkin. I knew from […]

Sarah Waters, The Night Watch

I’ve been eagerly waiting for the paperback edition of this novel, as I am a big fan of Fingersmith (such a smart novel, artistically and intellectually) and was thoroughly entertained by Tipping the Velvet. The Night Watch too was easily readable, deceptively so, I’ve ended up thinking, as I moved through it smoothly only to […]

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