Tag: British history

First Lines Friday – 16/09/2022

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post!

I’m really excited to share today’s book, as it is written by an author I am already familiar with. However, it is a bit different from another series of his that I have been reading. I also read something similar earlier this year (set in the same time period and featuring the same famous character of the period). I for one I’m really excited to see how I enjoy this book.

Without further preamble, shall we dive into today’s First Lines Friday intro: –

 

I died just after the clock in the passageway struck nine.

There are those who claim that her Majesty, Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and of Ireland, will not allow clocks to strike the hour in her palaces. Time is not allowed to pass for her. She has defeated time. But that clock struck. I remember it.

I counted the bells. Nine. Then my killer struck.

And I died.

 

 

 

Fools and Mortals – Bernard Cornwell

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 416

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 19 Oct 2017

 

 

Goodreads – Fools and Mortals

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

 

My Thoughts…

Earlier this year I read Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham. This book, as you can probably guess by the title, is influenced by William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare is a key character in Twelve Nights, and he is also prominent in Fools and Mortals.

The main character is Richard, William’s brother. Richard is an actor and therefore we find ourselves in a very similar setting to Twelve Nights. I really enjoyed that particular book, so I’m interested to see how Bernard Cornwell Write this kind of narrative in comparison.

It is very different from the series of his I am also reading at the moment – the Saxon stories (aka The Last Kingdom). That is a set of books I am really enjoying, and the character development is strong in those. I’m hoping for much the same in Fools and Mortals. As a standalone book, this will be a great way to try out a narrative in a different time period from Bernard Cornwell. If I go on to enjoy it as much as I expect I will, then it is only natural that I will go on to read the rest of his books… different time periods or not.

From the introduction, we have no idea who the character is. It is a very interesting introduction because straight away, a significant event happens to draw the reader in.

This introduction really captured my attention, and I hope it has captured yours too! Have you read Fools and Mortals? Would you like to based on today’s First Lines Friday post? As always, I would love it if you could let me know in the comments!

 

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First Lines Friday – 24/09/2021

Welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post!

I’ve gotten back into the habit of sharing one of these posts every couple of weeks, but what makes today’s post a slight exception is that I have set myself a challenge. In today’s post, my challenge is to feature the opening paragraph of a non-fiction novel. I don’t feature non-fiction very often, however that is something I am looking to change very soon. With that in mind I decided to start here and feature a non-fiction novel as part of this series.

 

Sometimes, even when you are a case-hardened professional, you see history differently. I had one such moment when I first visited the Great Hall of the National Archives in Washington. I was faintly shocked by the way in which the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were displayed, like Arks of the Covenant, on a dimly lit altar and between American flags and impossibly upright American marines.

But what really struck me was the presence of a copy of Magna Carta. It was, as it were, in a side chapel. Nevertheless, here it was, this archetypically English document, in the American archival holy of holies.

It was placed there out of the conviction that it was the ancestor, however remote, of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And its presence set me thinking. Was this assumption correct? Does it help explain current concerns – like Britain’s, or England’s, reluctance to be absorbed in the European Union? Does it mean that there is an Anglo-Saxon way and European way, as the French undoubtedly think? Does the difference derive from the contrast between Roman law and English Common Law? Is it, finally, England versus Rome?

 

Crown and Country – A History of England Through the Monarchy – David Starkey

Goodreads – Crown and Country

An exploration of the British monarchy from the retreat of the Romans up until the modern day. This compendium volume of two earlier books is fully revised and updated.

The monarchy is one of Britain’s longest surviving institutions – as well as one of its most tumultuous and revered. In this masterful book, David Starkey looks at the monarchy as a whole, charting its history from Roman times, to the Wars of the Roses, the chaos of the Civil War, the fall of Charles I and Cromwell’s emergence as Lord Protector – all the way up until the Victorian era when Britain’s monarchs came face-to-face with modernity.

This collection of biographies of Britain’s kings and queens provides an in-depth examination of what the British monarchy has meant, what it means now and what it will continue to mean.

 

My Thoughts…

I will be the first person to hold my hands up and say that my knowledge of the British monarchy is terrible. I could name a few, but could I tell you which order they came in or what order they reigned in? Not really. Aside from the infamous Henry the eighth, I couldn’t even give you an estimate timeline.

British history was rather lacking at school. Yes, we learned vaguely about certain topics, but my later years in the subject, which were studied more seriously, was focused on the world wars, the Cold War and the economic boom and bust of the 1920s and 30s. When I added this book to my TBR it was to rectify this lack of knowledge on my part.

Not only does this fulfil the desire to learn more in general about British history and monarchy, but I also like that this book features biographies from reigning Monarchs. If there was a better book to gain insight of how Britain used to be, then I haven’t met it yet. I’m really excited to pick this one up and give myself the opportunity to learn more about more local history!

I hope you have enjoyed today’s First Lines Friday post! Did you learn about British monarchy at school? How does your knowledge compare?

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Shelf Control #17 – 03/04/2020

Hi everyone and welcome back to another Shelf Control post! Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Shelf Control posts allow me to look in more depth at the books I have added to my TBR. It’s a great chance to talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I have actually deleted a few books doing this sweep. I don’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them. I’ve also gone on to read a couple of the earliest books on the list, so this mini-series is proving useful!

In today’s post, I am featuring a historical fiction novel with what appears to be a strong female lead character in a male-dominated world. When I first started reading historical fiction, I was sticking to our more modern history. However, I find myself reading novels set in increasingly “older” time periods. It’s completely different from the courts and political history I am used to!

Shall we check out today’s featured book?

 

Hild – Nicola Griffith

Goodreads – Hild

Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.

Purchase Links – Amazon UK     Amazon US     Waterstones

 

My Thoughts…

Hild will be the first book that I read in this particular time period. The only historical fiction novels I have read that are based in England and pre-date this are Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour novels. These are based around 71AD onwards. On the other side of the timeline, I have been reading Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series, better known as The Last Kingdom. These are set quite a bit later in the 9th and 10th century.

I always like to try something new. Reading the same or similar things can get boring over time. This is especially true for historical fiction. By nature, they are based on fixed events that happened already. It must be difficult to write about certain subjects already covered as there is a lot less flexibility in putting your own stamp on it. That said, I have read several stories set in the Tudor period and not gotten bored yet. I don’t read them all the time though – so that’s probably why!

I am hoping and imagining that Hild will be more like The Last Kingdom in vibe… minus the invading Vikings of course! From the sounds of the synopsis, the conflict around religion is there and there is an element of supernatural and superstition too. These are things that I really love about Bernard Cornwell’s series, so I am optimistic that Hild will be a hit for me too!

Have you read Hild, or any other books by Nicola Griffith? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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