Reading Round-Up, and What’s In Store for 2009

First, as it’s the end of the year, I feel morally obliged to list some reading highlights.

For fiction, I especially enjoyed Sharon Penman’s long-awaited Devil’s Brood, Jean Plaidy’s French Revolution trilogy, Michelle Moran’s The Heretic Queen, and Louis Bayard’s The Black Tower.

In nonfiction, my favorites were James Swanson’s Manhunt, about the search for John Wilkes Booth; Julia Fox’s Jane Boleyn (a book that has absolutely spoiled most historical fiction dealing with Jane-as-warped-wacko for me), Linda Porter’s The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary,” and Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England.

Both lists could probably be quite a bit longer, but I didn’t keep any sort of record of what I read this year, so I’m relying mainly on what jumps out at me from my shelves. I’ll probably think of other things once I sign off for the evening.

What am I reading these days? I just finished Alice Harcourt’s The Clandestine Queen, a 1979 historical novel that covers Elizabeth Woodville’s life from her time as a lady in waiting to Margaret of Anjou through the birth of her first royal son, Edward V. There are some anachronisms (use of “your majesty” and certain nicknames that sound more modern than medieval, for instance), but Harwood has clearly done her research as far as the historical events of the period are concerned. I found it a pleasant, if workmanlike, read, and I look forward to reading the other Harwood novel I have on hand, which deals with Perkin Warbeck and his bride.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I also have a copy of Georgette Heyer’s The Conqueror, which I take with me to the gym and read while on the treadmill. I confess to being confused from time to time as to who is William’s enemy and who is not, but as the characters themselves seem a bit confused on this point too, I can live with it.

On the nonfiction front, I recently finished David Starkey’s Henry VIII: Virtuous Prince. Issued in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne, this book covers Henry’s youth and the early days of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. It’s arranged chronologically and thematically, with chapters on Henry’s education and on his early relationship with Wolsey, for instance. I found it very readable, although it could have used a better editing, especially since it’s intended for a general audience and not for specialists. (For instance, Starkey discusses the rebellion of 1483 without ever naming Henry Buckingham as a participant, then, some pages later, mentions Henry Buckingham with the expectation that the reader will somehow know who he is.) Next on the nonfiction list, I believe, will be Alison Weir’s biography of Katherine Swynford.

And now, what does this blog have in store for 2009? I’ve got a few posts in mind already, including Eleanor de Clare’s father, Gilbert de Clare, Joan of Kent’s messy marital litigation, and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham’s mysterious, possibly insane mother. This should be the year too when I do a post on Anthony Woodville, having done his brothers and sisters already. As usual, we’ll have some fun here, starting on New Year’s Eve when sundry familiar figures make their New Year’s resolutions. Stay tuned!

5 thoughts on “Reading Round-Up, and What’s In Store for 2009”

  1. Lynn Irwin Stewart

    Thanks for some ideas to add to my already ridiculous TBR pile!!

    Am looking forward to reading your blog in the new year!!

  2. Antonia Woodville

    Antony is, for me, THE Woodville. The biography will appear, I am told, when the publishers have worked through all the other books of mine they have in hand. First book, March 2009, George duke of Clarence, look out for that for a different view of the Edward/Richard/Clarence triangle. Second book, Henry VIII and forget David Starkey, this one is the truth. Third book … no, better not hijack the blog!
    I need to finish Henry VIII’s book and start work on the 3rd, whilst working on the biography which is very important, it puts right a lot of mistakes many, many historians have made about him, ancient and modern, I have to say. More errors than I want to think about. It would seem few if any bother to use a timeline when writing, how else do they have him as Earl Rivers SIX YEARS before Edgecote?

  3. Michele at Reader's Respite

    Okay, Susan, I have to ask: how on earth do you manage to read on a treadmill?!? I have tried this and barring a large-print novel, I haven’t found the trick to making it work. Hmmmm.

  4. Alice Harwood wrote another book, “Lily and the Leopards” about Lady Jane Grey. It is probably the best novel I have read about her.

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