Historical Musings #27: A new list…

I have almost reached the end of my Classics Club list – a list of 100 books I put together in 2012 and have been slowly working through for the last five years. I was officially supposed to finish in March this year but didn’t quite manage it – although I’m not too worried about that, as I think taking my time to enjoy the rest of the books on my list is more important than rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline. Over the five years, I have discovered lots of great authors and have tried different types of books that never really appealed to me before, such as classic science fiction and plays. However, you won’t be surprised to hear that I also read a lot of classic historical fiction!

The books I have read for the Classics Club which can also be considered historical fiction include:

Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (and its sequels)
Mary Anne, Frenchman’s Creek and The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
Romola by George Eliot
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Scaramouche, Bellarion, The Sea-Hawk and Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Ivanhoe and The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott
Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

And a few others, including my current read, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. When I finish The Leopard, the only books remaining on my Classics Club list will be my long-anticipated re-reads of two of my favourite books, Rebecca and The Count of Monte Cristo. I have already started thinking ahead to creating a second list to begin later in the year – and I would like your help!

Can you recommend some classic historical fiction for my next list?

I know I asked a similar question a while ago, but that related to classics by women only. I received some interesting suggestions at the time, particularly these four:

The World is Not Enough by Zoe Oldenbourg
The Fortunes of Garin by Mary Johnston
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter

I have also been considering these:

Claudius the God by Robert Graves
The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
The Fifth Queen trilogy by Ford Madox Ford
Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger
Something else by Rafael Sabatini
Something else by Sir Walter Scott


Do you have any more suggestions for me?

To decide whether a book is ‘historical fiction’, I use as a guideline the Walter Scott Prize definition: the majority of the storyline must have taken place at least 60 years before the book was written. Defining a ‘classic’ is more difficult, so I’ll leave that up to you to decide!

17 thoughts on “Historical Musings #27: A new list…

  1. R. Bailey says:

    What about Desiree, by Annemarie Selinko? I don’t recall you mentioning that one. It was one of my very favorites for a number of years (granted, I was younger, but I still think it’s a good book.)

  2. Judy Krueger says:

    Such an interesting post to me! I don’t know if they are classics but anything I have read by Shellabarger has been great. Does Dracula by Bram Stoker count? It turned out to be a great read for me. Then there are the Russians who practically invented historical fiction. I have always been intimidated by War and Peace, and perhaps you have already read Anna Karenina, but there are more.

  3. whatmeread says:

    I like that definition of historical fiction. The one I have been using is that the novel must take place before the author’s lifetime, well, I can’t remember the word used or where I got this definition, but what it meant was before the part of the author’s lifetime that he or she would have thoughtful memories of. So, if the author was a small child at the time, this would count as historical. You can see how this would be more difficult to use as a definition. Anyway, of the books suggested to you already, I most enjoyed The Scottish Chiefs and La Reine Margot. Another in the adventure story range that you might try is The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. It was the first book I read for Classics Club, and I loved it. It is about Vikings, and it has a cheerful but violent sense of humor. I’m interested in that trilogy by Ford Madox Ford. I hadn’t heard of it before. By the way, I also have only two things to read before finishing my list, although it was only a list of 50 books. I made my list already, and I can’t wait to start it.

    • Helen says:

      There is no right or wrong way to define historical fiction, I suppose, but that definition works for me. I’m glad to hear you liked The Scottish Chiefs and La Reine Margot. I had forgotten about The Long Ships! I’ve wanted to read it for a long time, so I’ll definitely try to find a place for it on my list. 🙂

      • whatmeread says:

        Yes, like I said, it seems like it would be easier to determine. This way, I always have to look up the author’s age if it’s an older book and sometimes they don’t say what it is. It seems odd to me, nowadays, to be reading historical fiction that is about the 60’s, which is well within my own memory, though.

  4. Karen K. says:

    I liked Sapphira and the Slave Girl, a historical by Willa Cather set in the Antebellum South. Also Gone with the Wind! And I haven’t read them, but there’s also A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve only read two books by Willa Cather so far, so I have plenty left to choose from. I’ll have to consider Sapphira and the Slave Girl as well as Shadows on the Rock! I’m not sure whether The Last of the Mohicans appeals to me, but A Connecticut Yankee is definitely a possibility. Thanks!

  5. piningforthewest says:

    I enjoyed Walter Scott’s The Pirate. Have you already read Mary Stewart’s Merlin books? I enjoyed War and Peace and A Connecticut Yankee.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve read and loved Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, but I still have her other two Arthurian books to read. I would definitely like to include another Walter Scott book on my list, but haven’t been able to decide which one. Thanks for suggesting The Pirate!

  6. FictionFan says:

    My mind’s a total blank, I fear, especially since you read far more historical fiction than me, so it’s unlikely I could suggest anything you haven’t already read. I was going to suggest The Go-Between, but I’m not sure it meets your 60-year rule. However, I’m delighted you’re proposing to do the Classics Club again, and look forward to seeing what turns up on your new list! 😀

    • Helen says:

      The Classics Club has played such a big part in my reading over the last few years, I couldn’t imagine not wanting to make a new list! The 60 year rule is just a guideline, really – I’m happy to consider The Go-Between. Thanks!

  7. Jane @ Beyond Eden Rock says:

    You have some intriguing possibilities there. I loved ‘In a Dark Wood Wandering’ and I have ‘The Betrothed’ can tell you that I enjoyed the couple of chapters I’ve read so far.

    Other books that come to mind – though I have yet to read them myself are ‘Gladys of Harlech’ by L M Spooner ‘The Man on a Donkey’ by H F M Prescott – both recently reissued – the first set during the Wars of the Rose and the second set during the reformation.

    And I’m sure you would enjoy ‘The Usurper’ by Judith Gaultier, which I read a while ago.

    I’m not sure I’ll do a second list – or even finish my first – but I’m looking forward to seeing yours.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you for those suggestions, Jane. They all sound interesting – I’m particularly intrigued by The Man on a Donkey. And I’m pleased to hear you loved In a Dark Wood Wandering. I think that one will definitely be on my list. 🙂

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