Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Historical Periods

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is a rewind–we’re supposed to pick a past topic that we wanted to do but couldn’t (or from a time when we weren’t yet blogging). A while back there was a topic about historical periods you like to read about. I’ve picked five of my favorite eras and a couple books set in each one (or written in them), one I have read and one I haven’t. These are in no particular, and certainly not chronological, order.

All book links will take you to Goodreads.

WWII

I think I’ve made my interest in this period pretty clear with blog posts like this one about my recommended books set in this time. I’m not as interested in the movement of armies as in the lives of civilians and of course the atrocities of the Holocaust. As despairing as this period can be, the amazing hope and courage displayed by extraordinary individuals can be uplifting not in spite of but because of the circumstances.

read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr–I think I’ve said previously that this book lives up to all the hype surrounding it. It’s totally immersive and the characters are so engaging.

want to read: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky–This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. It was written on the eve of French occupation by a Jewish woman who later died in Auschwitz.

The Victorian Era

If I had been required to specialize in a particular era in college, it would have been this one. I find the Victorians, who were at an unprecedented moment in history in terms of the awakening of science, industry, and social movements to be completely fascinating. I love the books and plays written in and about this era.

read: To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started by Gail MacColl and Alice Wallace–All about the American heiresses who crossed an ocean for titles and prestige (and the mothers who pushed them to go), this nonfiction book was really fun.

want to read: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The French Revolution

Combined with the period leading up to it, the French Revolution captivates me. Another unprecedented time in history, it’s a story about excess, philosophy, and the power of the mob. It’s also a time that produced some really interesting personalities from Marie Antoinette to Ben Franklin across the ocean.

read: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber–If you’re interested in fashion, you’ll love this book, otherwise there are many other great nonfiction books about this time period.

want to read: Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser–This book has been on my TBR for years, but one day I will finally read it.

The Regency Period

Maybe it’s all due to Jane Austen, but I love this period right after the French revolution when people wore high-waisted gowns and cared about who was dancing with whom.

read (and currently rereading): Emma by Jane Austen–I don’t think this book needs much introduction, but it’s my favorite Austen novel, so it needed to be here.

want to read: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes–I’m not sure if this book should be here or in the Victorian era, since it’s technically set in both, but it starts in the regency so we’re gonna go with it. It’s also here because Julian Fellowes wrote Downton Abbey (which is a show I love but I have not seen the final season so don’t say anything–I just don’t want it to end yet), and because I never have new books on here and this one was recently published.

The Renaissance

Here I’m specifically referring to the Italian Renaissance, which occurred earlier than the English one (though that one is also in my top ten). I love the romance, mystery, and magic of this time period.

read: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie–This book gets a lot of flack, either for not being similar enough to Rushdie’s other works or for having rather flat depictions of women, but both times I read it I was swept up by the power of storytelling.

want to read: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen–Renaissance? Check. Art? Check. Female protagonist? Check.

 

Do you have a book you enjoyed (or want to read) from one of these time periods? Did I miss your favorite historical era? Let me know in the comments.

 

2015 Women Writers Reading Challenge Book #13: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

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This book might be familiar to you if you saw this post I did on my literary blind date for Valentine’s Day. I was very excited that my surprise book was written by not only one woman but two, and the book itself definitely did not disappoint.

The story is told through many perspectives, which could be confusing since the story is told solely through letters, but thankfully there’s a little line before the start of every letter that says who the letter is to and from, so it’s easy to acclimate yourself. The story itself is fairly simple, it’s the endearing characters in the book that make it interesting. This is a book about the healing after World War II that takes place in Guernsey, a community in the English Isles, which was occupied by German soldiers. It’s a sweet story, full of love, understanding of history, and a respect for community. If you enjoy reading stories about World War II or are a sucker for that special kind of town that sucks you in and makes you want to stay there, this is definitely a book for you.

2015 Women Writers Reading Challenge–Book #5: Last Train to Paris by Michele Zackheim

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**As a disclaimer, I just want to say I don’t own or retain any rights to this picture. All rights belong to Michele Zackheim and the artists.

I think it’s very interesting when authors write about their own families, as I’ve mentioned before (when discussing Andrea di Robilant. Michele Zackheim was researching this history, thinking she was going to write non-fiction about her distant cousins, but she was swept into the story and characters and wrote something completely different.

As you may or may not know, I have a huge interest in books written around and about the Holocaust. I think World War II was a defining moment in our history, and I like to see both non-ficition and fictional treatments of events. I’m not as interested in the military aspects of the war itself as I am in the lives of the persecuted people, both Jews and non-Jews.

This story had a slightly different angle. The narrator Rose Manon is Jewish, but wasn’t raised that way and doesn’t consider herself to be Jewish. She is a journalist, concerned with getting her stories out there and remaining objective. However, she’s swept into events that she cannot even begin to contemplate, ones that have a role in determining the rest of her life.

I really enjoyed this book. The narrator is complicated and at times unreliable. She does many things that seem inexplicable to me, but are totally in character. Her problems and issues run deep and she acknowledges this. The story is told by an older voice who interjects into the story quite often. Sometimes I thought this slowed the pace of the story and took the reader out of the narrative, but it has its own function. The novel is told as a series of memories, and you get that wandering tone from the narrator. It’s not strictly chronological, but that just adds to the retrospective feeling.

The plot is intriguing, the subject matter is complex, and the characters stick with you. I don’t think you can ask much more from any novel.

Have book suggestions for me? Thoughts on this book? Leave them in the comments.