The best books for an historical fiction addict like myself

Who am I?

I love history as did my mother and her family. I am English by birth and, so, it is English history I am most interested in. To know who you are and where you are from is, to me, very important. At school history was the subject I excelled at. In my mature years I worked as a Business Unit Manager at a University and took history papers for amusement, but I never continued with a degree as BA papers were too basic and an MA and PhD too expensive. I did, however, write academic peer-reviewed papers that were published.


I wrote...

Woden's Wolf

By Geoff Boxell,

Book cover of Woden's Wolf

What is my book about?

Covering the turbulent years from 1066 to 1100, the story of Godfrew of Garrett, a young man who served King Harold Godwinson as a warrior in the English militia, as he struggles to come to grips with the English defeat at Hastings and the resultant Norman Conquest.

After Hastings he loses both family and land and has to try and start again and takes part in the many rebellions against William the Conqueror. The young man disappears into the Thameside mist to reappear again as an old man in the reign of the English-born Henry I. Cast out of his time he has problems adjusting to the new order that exists and in avoiding the demons from the past.

The books I picked & why

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Harold the King

By Helen Hollick,

Book cover of Harold the King

Why this book?

Harold is one of my heroes. I have many books about him, texts and novels, but this novel I feel captures him best. King Harold was a very complex man and a very competent man. Most remember him for losing at the Battle of Hastings and do not know just what a good organiser and general he actually was and how his previous actions prove this. Harold was a political man who knew when to push and when to stand back, when to compromise and when not to.

I can point you to textbooks and academic papers on Harold, as a man, an Earl, and as King, but Helen Hollick’s book is very well researched, and I am someone who has also done his homework on this period, and indeed produced an educational DD-ROM on the period. But why not let Hollick take all that research and information and weave it into a compelling narrative.

Harold the King

By Helen Hollick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harold the King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An epic retelling of the tide of events that led to the Norman conquest of England. This saga weaves together the history of a powerful family of noblemen with that of the aggressive bastard of Normandy, culminating in the fierce and tragic battle which changed the course of England's history.


The Winter Mantle

By Elizabeth Chadwick,

Book cover of The Winter Mantle

Why this book?

Elizabeth Chadwick is one of those authors who is capable of taking the reader behind the obvious of the characters she writes about. The Winter Mantel is about the tragic English hero, and some say saint, Earl Waltheof, who was the only English Earl to continue to rule during the Norman takeover of England, and his complicated, and tragic, relationship with his new Norman masters and, indeed, his Norman wife, Judith.

Waltheof chaffed under the Norman yoke and revolted many times to help English claimants to the throne, but did it just once too often. Chadwick excellently exposes the political and family dynamics driving and even holding back this gifted but flawed hero.

This, again, is from a period I am very familiar with.

The Winter Mantle

By Elizabeth Chadwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Winter Mantle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fresh from his defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William of Normandy has returned home in triumph, accompanied by the English nobles he cannot trust to leave behind. For Waltheof of Huntingdon, however, rebellion is not at the forefront of his thoughts. From the moment he catches sight of Judith, daughter of the King's formidable sister, he knows he has found his future wife.
When Waltheof saves Judith's life, it is clear that the attraction is mutual. But marriage has little to do with love in mediaeval Europe. William refuses to let the couple wed and Waltheof…


The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

Why this book?

Being British I dislike reading books where we come off second best. The American Revolution (more accurately, The Anglo-American Civil War) is a classic example. Much of my, and I suspect most people’s view of the war, comes from American films and TV programmes. So, why did I read The Fort? Well I love Bernard Cornwell’s style of writing: he manages to bring a lot of background information and knowledge without you noticing what he has done.

The Fort is about American incompetence during said war and shows just how much of their written history is, in fact, inaccurate legend. 

Reading it led me to buy and read textbooks about the war and learn just what it was all about and just how wrong American propaganda on the topic is.

The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Penobscot Expedition is an extraordinary story, one that has fascinated the author for years, and will now fascinate his readers. Summer 1779, a British force of fewer than one thousand Scottish infantry were sent to build a garrison in the State of Maine. The war of Independence was in its third year and no other British troops stood between Canada and New York. The State of Massachusetts was determined to expel the British, but when they sent a fleet of forty vessels to 'captivate, kill and destroy' they underestimated their enemies, calm in battle and ready for victory. Told…


Votan

By John James,

Book cover of Votan

Why this book?

Just who was the Germanic God who carried many variations of the name, Wodin, Odin, Oðin, Votan, Wodan, Photan? What is the actual story behind the Germanic/Norse mythology he features in? This novel is an extremely amusing explanation that in fact he was a rather dodgy trader who, partly because of his earlier occupation as a doctor, ends up as a god in all of Germania, as do his also dodgy mates and promiscuous wife. 

A previous knowledge of the mythology helps, but is not essential. I found it very funny and it was one of the inspirations for my own tales.

Votan

By John James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Votan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the second century AD, a Greek nobleman is travelling and living abroad in Germany while carrying on an affair with a military man's wife. When discovered, he takes an emergency business trip to save his life and packs amongst his belongings certain items that lead the people he encounters to think him a Norse God, a fortuitous point of view which he does little to dispel. Forced to keep up the pretence of being a god while staying one step ahead of his lover's jealous husband, Photinus must juggle the severity of his situation with the enjoyment of being…


Meadowland

By Thomas Holt,

Book cover of Meadowland

Why this book?

A Greek bureaucrat is accompanied by two old members of the Varangian Guard escorting money from one part of the Byzantium Empire to another. Each night he has to put up with one or the other Norsemen telling him about the discovery of America: one thinks the other is his best mate when in fact the man hates him and spends most of the adventure trying to get away from him. Accompanying them is a young put-on squadie who, in later years, became known as Harald Hardrada, Christendom’s greatest warrior who spread war and fear throughout the north sea lands.

I found it all so funny and it encouraged me to stick quite a bit of humour in my all own writings, not that I needed much encouragement.

Meadowland

By Thomas Holt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meadowland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1037, a senior civil servant of the Byzantine empire faces a tedious journey to Greece, escorting the Army payroll. His only companions are a detachment of the Empire's elite Guard, recruited from Viking Scandinavia. When the wagon sheds a wheel, he passes the time talking with two veterans, who have a remarkable story to tell; the Viking discovery of America.As he records the story, years later, he also considers its effect on the fourth member of the party; a young Norwegian guardsman who went on to become King Harald Hardradi, who died invading England in 1066 ...


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