Birdsong, Erik Larson, favourite books, favourite historical fiction, Here Be Dragons, Hilary Mantel, In the Garden of Beasts, Michael Ondaatje, Sebastian Faulks, Sharon Kay Penman, The English Patient, Wolf Hall, Writeitdownith
Downith, a blogging friend and fellow Canadian, tagged me to write a post on The Alternative Booker Award sharing my five personal favourite books and asking five more bloggers to share theirs.
The notion of ‘favourite’ is difficult for me and I am prone to forget past novels as more recent reads push them aside like a surging crowd. And then, of course, there’s the tricky aspect of genre. A favourite non-fiction is difficult to compare with a favourite historical or mystery – I read them for different reasons and they prompt different pleasures. Stop dithering, Mary, and get on with your list.
Not surprisingly, my list concentrates on historical works.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje still lingers in my memory and I often dip into it for inspiration as I struggle to create a scene. Who can forget the author’s lyrical writing and the anguish of lost love amidst the certainty of death?
Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman transported me into the medieval times of the 13th Century, telling the story of King John, Llewelyn the Great of Wales and Joanna, “daughter to one, wife to the other”. It is no wonder that Penman was listed the number one favourite historical fiction author in my 2012 survey of readers.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was an exhilarating read. To me, Mantel probed the depths of Thomas Cromwell’s mind in a way that was compellingly insightful. She deserves all the accolades received for this work.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson is historical non-fiction at its best. Truth is preserved but the telling is like a marvellous story that facilitates both enjoyment – if such a word can be applied to a time when Hitler’s grip tightens into a stranglehold – and learning.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a celebrated story of WWI. My copy is heavily underlined not only with historical facts but also with examples of Faulks’ wonderful writing style. This novel is often cited as an important work for its descriptions of the Battle of the Somme and life in the trenches.
Selecting five books seems an impossible task in the realm of historical fiction and non-fiction, but I believe these will still be remembered years and years from now.
Tagging others for their picks – as a proud breaker of rules, I’ve decided not to restrict myself to five
Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial
Evangeline Holland of Edwardian Promenade
Sophie Schiller author of Transfer Day who writes a blog under her name
Dianna Rostad who posts on Facebook and tweets and pins
Theresa Hupp who blogs at Story & History
Judith Schara who actively comments on my blog and writes historical fiction
Jack Durish who blogs under his own name
Kirstie Olley who blogs at Storybook Perfect
Debbie Robson who blogs under her own name
Char Simser who used to blog at A Librarian’s Life and now tweets and is very active on Facebook
Anyone who wishes to participate and does not maintain their own blog, is welcome to guest post on mine.