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Showing posts from June, 2007

One of the Best Historical Novels: Katherine by Anya Seton

In spite of my fiance calling them 'hysterical novels' I love to read good historical novels. I read that Alison Weir, the historian, was actually inspired by this one when she was young which justified my liking for them!

Anya Seton used to be one of my favourite authors and I read all of her books a long time ago. Katherine is one of her best and I still enjoyed it very much when I re-read it recently. Set in medieval times, it is a moving love story based on the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. It is thoroughly researched and well-written and although I am not a medieval history expert I couldn't find any glaring historical mistakes. The descriptions of the settings and clothes are incredibly detailed and Anya Seton's writing really does take the reader into the world of medieval England. The fact that Chaucer is one of the main characters makes the book more interesting. There are also no jarring modern expressions. (I read a historical novel…

The Excellent Wife: Sonya: The Life of Countess Tolstoy

NB: I haven't been giving this blog much attention recently and must apologise. My mother's ill so it's difficult at the moment.


This is a warm and sympathetic biography of Tolstoy's wife and it is also wonderfully interesting. Those who love Russian history will especially enjoy it.
It is certainly an indictment of Tolstoy himself, however. I doubt that I would have read the great classics: War and Peace and Anna Karenina if I'd read this first!
He was an extremely unlikeable character, according to this book.

When the book begins Tolstoy is reasonably charming and Sonya falls in love with him when she is only 12. He courts her sister, Lisa, at first, but finds her cold and stiff, whereas the much younger Sonya is warm, emotional and passionate. Impressed by this beautiful young woman, Tolstoy changes his mind and proposes to Sonya. Needless to say, Lisa is pretty upset!

The marriage doesn't start off well b…