Weekly geeks 2009-11: Historical fiction

This weeks weekly geek:
Is there a particular era that you love reading about? Tell us about it–give us a book list, if you’d like. Include pictures or some fun facts from that time period, maybe link to a website that focuses on that time. Educate us.
Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn’t have to be a Weekly Geek participant).
A member of your book group, Ashley, mentions that she almost never reads Historical Fiction because it can be so boring. It’s your turn to pick the book for next month and you feel it’s your duty to prove her wrong. What book do you pick?
If you’re in agreement with Ashley on this one (or even if you’re not): Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to browse through this week’s WG posts, and by the end of the week, pick a book from one of the posts to read. Report on which book you picked, linking to the Weekly Geeks post where you found it.

Cicero attacking Catilina

Great topic. When I read historical fiction and/or historical detective novels it is mostly set in ancient Rome. I absolutely love reading about this time. I don’t want to say that my love of Ancient Rome started with Asterix, but it was my first contact with the Romans. I think that the books that really started me to get into all things Roman were "I, Claudius" and "Claudius, the God" by Robert Graves. I read them when I was still young and absolutely loved them. I remember that we used to watch the TV series with Derek Jacobi as Claudius and the excellent John Hurt as Caligula. All the actors were brilliant, and I don’t give a toss about the fact that the show doesn’t meet nowadays’ standards of filmmaking. I still love to watch it. But back to books (not all of them are fiction).

So, "I Claudius" started it all, but there are a lot of other great books out there. Just to name a few:

Imperium by Robert Harris, a fictional biography of Cicero

Rubicon by Tom Holland, the last years of the Roman Republic

Cicero by Anthony Everett

Augustus by Anthony Everett

Another book I highly recommend is Caligula by Aloys Winterling. Is is not published yet in English, but it will be out in May according to amazon. It is a biography that shows Caligula from a different perspective and claims that his reputation as a dangerous nutcase tyrant might not be justified after all.

For a nice bit of gossip you could turn to Suetonius "The twelve Caesars". The private secretary of Hadrian, he got all his material from the imperial archives and eye witnesses (and probably hearsay).

If you are into historical detective novels, there are a few series out there that are wonderful reads. People always criticize that the heroes are way too modern and can’t possibly be children of their time, but if you don’t mind this, you’re in for entertaining hours. The ones I’m mentioning below usually take a historical incident and put a spin on it. So they might not be realistic, but they usually encourage me to find out more about that time period and that is a good thing.

The SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts is delightful, however not much as far as the detecting is concerned. Set in the time between end of the republic and during Caesar’s reign.

The Marcus Corvinus Mysteries series by David Wishart. Set during the reign of Tiberius. One of my favourite detectives. He wisecracks his way through his adventures, it’s not funny anymore (well, it is). And he loves his wine.

I can’t resist to add another film recommendation. Rome is purely fictional again, but of course with lots of historical figures thrown in. A wonderful entertaining show that I can watch again and again. And just a little side note: David Bamber, who played the deliciously slimy Mr. Collins in the BBC mini series Pride and Prejudice, plays here the somewhat opportunistic Cicero in an equally captivating fashion. Absolutely loved him.

6 Comments Write a comment

  1. Wonderful post, Rikki! Haven’t read any one of these but a few are going into the TBR. I also remembered I need to read Robert Graves one of these days, soon.

    Reply

  2. Thanks for the recommendations! By the way, read the first Sookie novel this weekend…so much fun!!! I’m going to have to break down and buy the entire set, I’m afraid. How to explain this to my husband since I just ordered from Amazon last week…

    Reply

  3. Thanks for visiting, everybody.

    Claire, I only read Graves’ Claudius books, but they are really really good and entertaining as well as informative. BTW, Graves also was one of the translater of Suetonius’s book.

    Melissa, glad you had fun. The books are getting better and better. If you like Eric, wait until book 4, that one is a real treat.

    Reply

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