LINGUIST List 7.1204

Sat Aug 31 1996

Sum: Pleasure reading

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1., Pleasure reading

Message 1: Pleasure reading

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996 14:36:29 PDT
From: <>
Subject: Pleasure reading
Dear all,

Enclosed is a rather jumbled summary of responses to my query about
pleasure reading set in earlier periods of the history of English.
Names of contributors are followed by their recommendations, edited to
save some space ... names with nothing following repeated others'
recommendations ... I'm sorry to say that I lost an earlier version of
this file, so some people's names and recommendations might not be
listed here. I apologize to those who made the effort only to have me
bungle it; my sincere thanks to everyone who wrote! (BTW, if anyone
can fill in a few of the blanks below, please do write me. Thanks!)

Johanna Rubba Here we go:

Jillions of people informed me about 'Grendel' by John Gardner -- the
Beowulf story told 'from the monster's point of view'.

Dorit Ravid: Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope
Nancy Barendse: Lindsey Davis, murder mysteries in Imperial Rome,
incl. Britain. 'Silver Pigs' is one title; there are more.

Geoff Nathan: Harry Harrison, The Hammer & the Cross, England ca. 800
(Viking invasions, fantasy) and Anthony Burgess: a book about
Christopher Marlowe?

Suzanne Kemmer: Bill Bryson's"Mother Tongue", which is a hilariously
written but informative look at the devt. of the language.
Structurally its main emphasis is on the lexical side; the socio-
historical matrix of the story is well developed. It's more a popular-
intellectual than a scholarly book, but its great fun. If you ever
need a good bellylaugh, Bryson's other books are also worth looking
at: "The lost continent", a travel book about America (he's an
American who lived in Britain 20 years so he sees it with a fresh eye)
and his new one "Notes from a Small Island", the mirror-image
American's-eye view of Britain). AND Have a look at the Brother
Cadfael mystery stories by Ellis Peters. Cadfael is a sleuthing monk
who lives in Shrewsbury, England, in the 1180's or so. The novels are
well-written and well-plotted, with lots of period detail and
historical fact (e.g. the civil wars after the death of William the
Conqueror's sons sometimes figure into the plots; there's lots of
Anglo-Saxon vs. Norman vs. Welsh tension as well). Two particularly
good ones are _Monk's Hood_ and _The Virgin in the Ice_.

Rebecca M Board
Gillian Sankoff: T.H. White's Sword in the Stone is my all-time
favorite for Arthurian times -I would say this is literature! Tom
Givon: Methinks Chaucer is still pleasure reading. So is Mallory (Mort
d'Arthur). These are nice original classics. Of course, there's the
re-working of Mallory in The Once and Future King (T.C. White?).

Carolyn Kirkpatrick: This is definitely *not* great literature, but
detailed and well researched: Anya Seton, -Katherine-. 1954.
Katherine Swynford was Chaucer's sister-in-law and mistress of John of
Gaunt . . . from whose children, later legitimized, the royal line of
England descended. Lots here on Chaucer and Middle English literature
and social history.

Nancy Lucas: Possession by A.S. Byatt does a great job with Victorian

Wanda VanGoor: Don't stop with Rosemary Sutcliffe's pre-British
stuff--she has a couple of books set in later times too. She's the
most revered (and popular) historical fiction children's writer in
England. My students find her a bit tough--but the better students
love her stuff! And try JACKEROO (sp?) by Cynthia Voigt. It's
written for teenagers, but it will hold a college student's
interest. In fact, the whole field of children's and young adult lit
is worth exploring for this--THE WHIPPING BOY, A GATHERING OF DAYS,
SARAH PLAIN AND TALL--and dozens more.

ELAINE FOURNIER: A great fictional trip through the U.K. at the time
of the Restoration is "Through a Glass Darkly" by Kathleen Koerle
(sp?) and the sequel whose name I can't remember which just came out.

S. Randall Rightmire: The novel you mentioned is _Grendel_ by John
Gardner. I recommend it highly!

Mary Stewart's three novels about Merlin: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow
Hills, and The Last Enchantment

Carl Mills: Erica Jong's novel that has Shakespeare as a character.
An obscure author named Scott Heller published two (as far as I can
tell) mysteries set in early 18th-century London concerning the
founding of the London Watch, the ancestor organization of the
Metropolitan Police. Their titles were *Man's Storm* and *Man's
Illegal Life*. Unfortunately, both Scott Heller and the books seem to
have dropped out of sight. I can't find hide nor hair of them lately.
H.F.M. Prescott's (1956) *Son of Dust* is set in the Normandy of
William the Bastard just before the invasion. And Alfred L. Duggan
has a nice little (1962) romance, *Lord Geoffrey's Fancy*, about a
couple of Englishmen in France during the Crusades. Anthony Burgess,
Joyce's most intellible disciple, has *Nothing Like the Sun*, a novel
about a certain period in Shakespeare's life. Jong, Erica. *Fanny*,
a very funny, sexy send-up of John Cleland's classic *Memoirs of a
Woman of Pleasure*, aka *Fanny Hill*.

Peggy Speas: John Gardener has also written a nonfiction book about
Chaucer (and lots of fiction).

wMarie Egan: Mary Stewart's recent hardcover, something about a Pilgrim
in the title. Collen McCullough has a series on Rome and she has done
an incredible amount of research. The stories read well with very
interesting characters but are not light one-night reading like Mary
Stewart novels. I believe the first one was called The First Man in
Rome (started with Marius and Sulla). There are also Fortune's
Favorites, The Grass Crown, and Caesar's Women. Rosemary Sutcliff
writes good historical novels - some aimed more at bright children
than at adults. My favorite was always the Eagle of the Ninth. She
also had one on Arthur - Sword at Sunset I think. Harry Turtledove
writes interesting alternate world histories. He has a series of short
stories about a world in which Constantinople never fell (a certain
someone became a Christian mysic instead of traveling to Mecca). He
has a series about a Roman legion transported to a Byzantium type word
- only magic works. He also is writing a series where world war II is
interrupted by aliens attacking (very believable aliens, who have
1990s tech). Guns of the South - Civil War.

John Konopak: A couple of great adventure novels written during the
1920s are "Tros of Samothrace" and "the Purple Pirate," which are
stories of a mythical warrior at large upon the world during the reigh
of Julius Ceasar and have to bear on the history of the Britons and
other cultures, Egypt comes to mind, as well as Rome, of that period.
Not great literature, but entertaining. In that group, also, you'd
find the adventures of Raphael Sabatini, too.

Aubrey-Maturin novels of Partick OBrien, now 17 in number, having to
do with life and times of sailors in Lord Nelson's Navy as it
struggled against the rest of the world in the interstices between the
18th and 19 centuries. I have also been beguiled by a book called
"Ishmael" by Daniel Quin, which takes the form of a
cosmological/epistemological Socratic dialogue between an "old hippy"
and a sentient, reflective, and telepathic silver-back gorilla. It's a
lil preachy, but worth the endeavor to re- read the judeo-christian
myth all over anew again. Don't forget Mary Renault's series,
either. They're rich in period detail from the ancient mediterranean.
... historical mystery novels of Elizabeth Peters set among the moils
of museum acquisition and (alternatively) fin de siecle Egyptology.
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose," but also "Foucault's Pendulum;"

Barbara Need: Roger the Chapman by Kate Sedley (?)
Stefan Martin and Jeannine Broadwell

 Marina McDougall: I can recommend 2 historical novels by Ken Follet
(of Eye of the Needle fame) who is a history buff, and his historical
novels are accurate in historical detail but have very strong
 "Pillars of the Earth" is about England in the 1100s and
describes the living conditions and politics around King Stephen,
Henry II, Thomas Becket... The storyline is about a stonemason who
builds churches and actually traces the development of the Gothic
architectural style from the Romanesque. I read it with Jensen's
History of Art as a companion book, to follow the architectural

 "A Place Called Freedom" I just finished 3 AM yesterday. It
starts in Scotland of the 1780s and moves to London, then to Virginia.
It describes the different varieties of slavery, bondage and
exploitation of the times in different parts of the world in coal
mines, shipping docks and plantations and sketches out the class-based
power system of England in colonial times. I imagine Californian
readers would get a kick out of the fact that the protagonist, after
experiencing all 3 kinds of bondage, finds freedom in the uncharted
American west...

 Then there's "Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey about Richard
III, a classic. There's "The Last of the Wine" by Mary Renault, who
has written many historical novels about the classic Greek period and
about homosexuality as it was practised then; her books are now used
in classical Greek university courses for background.

 Wilbur Smith wrote a whole series about South African history
from the Boer wars to apartheid (including Nelson Mandela) through the
adventures of one aristocratic family.

 Anthony Grey's "Saigon" describes the historical events leading
up to and ending with the Vietnam war. Excellent book.

 "Wild Swans" follows a Chinese family from the last dynasty
through Maoism to Tiannamen square, and "The Kitchen God's Wife" by
Amy Tan is a detailed chronicle of women's lot in imperial China.

Laura Gonnerman
Ruth Martin

 Peter Daniels: T. H. White's trilogy about King Arthur, beginning
with *The Sword in the Stone*

Tolkien's *Lord of the Rings* and many other fictions: of course
they're not set explicitly in England, but he was a major Anglist, and
all his work is founded on the love of creating languages.

Cynthia Wiseman: You might be interested in Mists of Avalon..
Authurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes; Le Morte D'Arthur;
Sword in the Circle

 Jim Entwisle:
 Thackeray's "Vanity Fair"
 Mark Twain's "A Yankee in King Arthur's Court"
 T H White's "The Once and Future King"
 (can't remember author's name) "Robin Hood"
 Mallory's "Morte d'Arthur"
 "Canterbury Tales."
 "The Eagle of the Ninth" set in the late-Roman occumpation period of
Britian but I don't know the Author's name. Setting is actually
pre-Old English. "Royal Flash" or any of the Flashman series (Flashman
travels around the world, so many places appear, mostly European but
also Persian).
 R L Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped"
 Baroness Orczy's "The Scarlet Pimpernal"
 Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice"

Juhani Klemola: Mitchell, Bruce. 1995. An Invitation to Old English
and Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Blackwell.

On pp. 359-360 there's a two page bibliography called "The Garden of
Old English Literature", which lists fiction under such headings as
Beowulf, The End of Roman Britain, The Celtic Resistance, The
Anglo-Saxons, etc.

Mika Hoffman: Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead ....... the
historical romances of Georgette Heyer Most are set in the Regency
period, but she has a few (My Lord John,The Spanish Bride) set
earlier. Of her Regency novels, I'd recommend A Civil Contract and
Lady of Quality, though there are lots of others that might also suit
your purposes.

Francisco J. Cort: Marion Bradley "The mists of Avalon", rewrites the
story from the point of view of the female characters (Morgaine and
Genevere, among others); it also reinterprets the concepts of evil and
good characters as a confrontation between druidic lore and christian
religion, which is being introduced in England at that time. Quite
interesting and enjoyable.

 JOAN C BIELLA: *Doomsday Book* by Connie Willis. Strictly speaking
this book is science fiction, since it involves time travel from a
period in our future to England in 1348. The traveler is equipped
with an "implant" supposed to make it easier for her to understand
Middle English, which she has been studying from books as well, but it
malfunctions early on and her perceptions of the talk around her are
described interestingly and (I think) convincingly. The book is
well-plotted and the 1348 setting is well-described. More later on
the works of Rosemary Sutcliffe.

Sonja Launspach: another mystery novel set at the time the Roman
church gained prominance over the Celtic, set in NOrthumbria, early
700's ? Sister Fiona was the name of the main character it's a recent
bk '96, '95. I can't remebemr the author but he did a good job of
givieng the history and the different attitude toward women in Celtic
society. It's hisfirst novel. Another I can't remember the author or
title are a set of books, two or three about the royal house of
Deira-- c.580s. Sorry some of these suggestions are so vague :)

Michael P. Orth: Mary Renault's books are all good; ... a new one,
Valerie Anand's *The Faithful Lovers*, which does a good family saga
job on Rev-Res England. ... alternative histories, such as Joel
Greenberg's *The Way it Was.*

Lee Hartman

Mela Sarkar: T.H. White The Book of Merlyn. Some of the stories in
Kipling's two books for children, Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and
Fairies, are set in premodern Britain. L.M. Boston's series of books
for children, all with Green Knowe in the title, have a few with time
travel to earlier periods...the first one in the series, The Children
of Green Knowe, has some nice Early Modern bits, and the last, The
Stones of Green Knowe, lots of Norman England. And, speaking of Norman
England, have you read Walter Scott's Ivanhoe? A classic. More for
children: A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley (close-up of life in
Elizabeth I's time). A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh (the
Plague of the mid-17th-cent.).

 David Scarratt: There were a large number of books of this sort
published in the sixties and seventies by Penguin (Puffin?) and
similar paperback publishers, often intended for a younger
audience. One of these is a book by Henry Treece called _Man with a
Sword_ about an Anglo-Saxon warrior/nobleman's life around the time of
the Conquest.

Thomas Patchell

 M J Hardman: Connie Will -- Doomsday Book-- the plague era of England
- good pleasure reading.

Dan Finer
Susan G North

Alena Sanusi
 Elizabeth Buxton: Sarum, by Rutherfurd [yes, it is spelled like
that]-- early English historical movel, written in 1980's I think.
the Peter Wimsey detective novels, by Dorothy Sayers--written in the
1930s, lots of popular detail about upper-middle-class English life.
Gaudy Night is specifically about an Oxbridge women's college, and
should be very realistic--Sayers herself was Oxford. Written during
the times depicted. the Barsetshire novels of Angela Thirkell--I
enjoy these myself. She has taken off from Trollop's novels, but hers
are set in the 1930's and 1940's--good at details of life in rural
England during WW2. Written during the times depicted.

Eve Sweetser: Rosemary Sutcliff also wrote wonderful, out-of-print
Elizabethan &Civil War novels - since they were KIDS' books, unlike
the earlier-period ones, they have not been reprinted, though! For
Elizabethan stuff - adults only, very complex and wonderful and poetic
- try Garrett's Death of the Fox (and the other 2, one of which is
Entered from the Sun) And Sharon Kay Penman has a series of recent
novels, "pop" reading but with a lot of background research on the
events and characters... A trilogy on the last generations of Welsh
princes, stretching from the English period of King John to that of
Edward 1.
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