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historical novels recently read

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historical novels recently read

Postby daivid » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:52 pm

Hannibal, Enemy of Rome, Ben Kane.

It starts just before the 2nd Punic War and ends with the Battle of Trebia. It is the first volume of a trilogy.
The main characters are three teenagers, Hanno (from Carthage) and Quintus and Aurelia (Roman citizens without the franchise from Capua).
The novel describes how the three become friends and how that friendship is tested in the face of war between their two cities.
There is a tension in such novels between creating characters that are believably of the time and yet are the kind of people that a modern reader can root for. I think Kane just about manages it.
He has populated his world with mainly unrealistically nice and honorable folks and some extremely nasty psychopaths with nothing in between.

He did give my ability to suspend disbelief a severe kick by choosing to describe the Carthage that existed at the time of the third Punic war rather the time of the novel. He really could have left that description out - as soon as I recognized one detail that was out of place I started doubting everything from then on. However, in the main the novel seems to be well researched with intelligent filling in of the gaps when the story drifts in to areas that we don't know about.
On one area I would have quite liked him to diverge from the sources. He assumes all reports of Carthaginian atrocities reported by Livy and Polybios to the absolute truth and merely attempts to give such events a pro Carthaginian spin to stop the Carthaginians appearing as monsters. At least some of those incidents must surely been Roman propaganda.




 The plural in the subject is an invitation to others to add what they have read.
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Re: historical novels recently read

Postby daivid » Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:18 pm

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

This is a coming of age story based on Aristotle's daughter Pythias. It is very well researched and the use of the present tense gives it an immediacy that very effectively creates the illusion of reality.


However, the illusion of reality depends on the author being invisible. That is to say, however carefully crafted a noel is the authorial hand needs to be camouflaged. While reading the novel Lyon's use of the present tense did that but once I finished reading I found myself remembering the novel as a whole. Annabel Lyon has far too clearly crafted the novel so as to include all her research with Pythias exploring every possible role open to women (not that many). Hence Pythias quickly ceased to be a believable character. So this is not a novel that I will long remember.

Edit:

While reading the only bit that jarred was Aristotle being shocked at the joy displayed by Athenians on death of "their king" ie Alexander. Even Alexander wasn't so stupid to claim to be a King of Athens.
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Re: historical novels recently read

Postby Scribo » Fri Oct 24, 2014 11:04 pm

I'm really enjoying these btw, so do please keep letting us know if you read more. I know I recommended both Tom Holt's "The Walled Orchard" and another called "The Assyrian" by someone to you last time, I still haven't finished either of them myself yet lol.

In order to contribute let me add (warning, stream of consciousness, will edit later):

"The Praise Singer" - Mary Renault.


I seem to be almost unique in generally disliking Renault's novels. They're pretty enough but I find her version of ancient Greece is so awfully plastic I'm astonished anyone ever treats them with anything but disdain. This is on another level though, it's wonderful. It's a fictional autobiography of Simonides - one of my favourite poets - and I must have read it three times or so by now.

She really gives Simonides a distinctive voice. I really, really, wish she wouldn't try to give so many of her characters nicknames though. Simonides is Sim or "Black Sim" (because like many of her period Greek = North European looking and any Mediterranean is clearly the result of racial impurity), Herakleides Herc and so on. I've always found this jarring since it violates Greek rules of hypocoristics and also sounds awful in English.

It really somehow captures the sentiment of one world, the archaic world centred around Asia minor, ending and a new (Athenian) beginning. I love that it abounds with poets! We meet Hipponax (a disappointing caricature tbh) and Anacreon (who really comes to life), Pindar remains unmentioned but Bacchylides is a background character. The poetic training Simonides receives is done quite plausibly too.

It's just a real good read.
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Re: historical novels recently read

Postby AllenTrendin » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:53 am

historical novels recently read

The Republic
Gates Of Fire


The Republic:
The Republic is a socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice , the order and character of the just city-stste and the just man for this reason, ancient readers used the name On Justice as an alternative title.


Gates of Fire:
At Thermopylae, the allied Greek nations deployed a small force of between four thousand Greek heavy infantry against the invading Persian army of two million strong. Leading the Greeks was a small force of three hundred Spartans, chosen because they were all "series"-men who had to have sons whho could preserve their blood line, should they fall in battle.
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