Historical Musings #53: A quiz for September

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction.

This month I thought I would do something slightly different and put together a little quiz for you. I’ve listed below the opening lines from fifteen historical fiction novels, ranging from classics to recent bestsellers to some of my personal favourites. If you think you can identify any of them, leave a comment with your guesses and I’ll post the answers next week.

Have fun!


1. I was down in Surrey, on business for Lord Cromwell’s office, when the summons came.

2. It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.

3. His children are falling from the sky.

4. Ashton Hilary Akbar Pelham-Martyn was born in a camp near the crest of a pass in the Himalayas, and subsequently christened in a patent canvas bucket.

5. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

6. When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores.

7. On the step of her new husband’s home, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud.

8. Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods.

9. On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of Romance of the Rose was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it.

10. The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake.

11. My father is Sir Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, an English nobleman, a landholder, and a supporter of the true Kings of England, the Lancastrian line.

12. When the year one thousand came, Thorkel Amundason was five years old, and hardly noticed how frightened everyone was.

13. In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.

14. In the tender green time of April, Katherine set forth at last upon her journey with the two nuns and the royal messenger.

15. At half past six on the twenty-first of June 1922, when Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was escorted through the gates of the Kremlin onto Red Square, it was glorious and cool.


How many of these do you know?

26 thoughts on “Historical Musings #53: A quiz for September

  1. jessicabookworm says:

    Ooo this is fiendishly good fun! I thought at first I wouldn’t be able to get any but I am definite that no. 7 is The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and I think no. 11 could possibly be The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. πŸ˜€

  2. Jennifer says:

    1 is Dissolution by C J Sansom
    2 is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    3 is Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
    4 is The Far Pavilions by M M Kaye
    6 is Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
    12 is King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
    I think 8 is Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman and
    14 is Katherine by Anya Seton
    What a great test! A couple of others look familiar but I’m less certain.

  3. Pam Thomas says:

    I knew 1, 3, 4, 7,11, 12, 14.

    My favourite first line of a historical novel (indeed of any novel) runs something like this:

    It was the last day of October, and in the crypt of the Abbey of Hallowdene, the monks were boiling their bishop.

    I wonder if anyone else knows what it comes from?

  4. Lark says:

    I only know that #15 comes from A Gentleman in Moscow. But I’m really intrigued but what books #2, 5, 8, and 10 are from. Oh, and #14, too. Such a fun post! πŸ˜€

  5. Lory says:

    I’ve read some of these (if the other guessers are right), though I only recognized Scaramouche, and was pretty sure about Katherine.
    I also know #13 is Ivanhoe.

    Great lines! Makes me want to read more of them.

  6. Judy Krueger says:

    I only know one: #15 A Gentleman in Moscow. But if the others’ answers are correct, I have read #3 and #4. What a great idea, Helen!

  7. FictionFan says:

    Hahaha – this is fiendishly difficult! I can only have a guess at one, and a confident go at another…

    1 – It sounds like Sansom – Tombland?
    15 – That’s definitely A Gentleman in Moscow… isn’t it?

    I seriously want to read no. 4 – what a great first line! What is it?

    • Helen says:

      Yes, no. 1 is Sansom…but not Tombland! You may have got no. 15 right, though. πŸ™‚

      As a few people have already correctly guessed no. 4, I can tell you it’s The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye – one of my favourite books.

  8. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    I’m probably not adding anything new here, but I’m sure 1 is Dissolution, 2 Outlander, 3 Bring Up the Bodies, 6 Frenchman’s Creek and 14 Catherine. I haven’t read the Far Pavillions, but that is a brilliant first line, so I have added it to my TBR.

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.