08 March 2010

reading historical novels seems to run in the family

My current book is In the company of the courtesan by Sarah Dunant. It's set in Italy in the 16th century. The courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, were in Rome for the sack of 1527 and ran off to Venice and are working at restoring their dignity and fortune. Fiammetta had her hair cut off by the invaders and both she and Bucino are rather the worse for wear.

A few books ago it was Roma by Steven Saylor, not that I liked it very much. But it was historical fiction. Sometimes I'd rather read just plain old history, like the history of Habsburg Spain that I read after Bill and I got back from Spain and I had felt pretty ignorant of those guys in the Prado portraits that lived at the Escorial. And then one of those Habsburgers goes and sacks Rome.

This afternoon, I decided to try to make some order of the boxes and detritus in the front upper bedroom. There is a box of books that belonged to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. There's a Lew Wallace novel in two volumes -- The prince of India, or, Why Constantinople fell (1893) -- and also Darkness and dawn, or, Scenes in the days of Nero by Frederic W. Farrar (1891). Why, gosh, I'm tempted to try one or both of them ... not that there aren't also many other books on the waiting list.

1 comment:

bklynharuspex said...

My friend Greg was looking for Rome-set historical fiction recently. He's been through Robt. Graves and Marguerite Yourcenar and John Williams' AUGUSTUS (which he passed on to me) and neither of us could come up with more good stuff. So let me know how DARKNESS & DAWN turns out -- not that it's likely to be gettable anywhere. (You didn't like ROMA, so no recommendation there.)