LAMENTATION-A WRAP ON SHARDLAKE?

C.J. Sansom’s 2104 novel Lamentation brings to a close the his six book series of Henry  VIII. Sansom brings the series to a close in great fashion filled with suspense, double-dealing and all of the intrigue surrounding the King’s court.

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Henry’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, is the centerpiece of  this novel set in the divide between conservative and radical factions  at odds over England’s religious future.  Catherine pens a secret paper, clearly outlining her leanings and of course it disappears and the Shardlake search for the potentially deadly manuscript begins.  Catherine’s very survival is at the center of the story which begins with the burning at the stake of heretic Anne Askew and two others. Familiar territory for Henry VIII.

Lamentation  qualifies as a good read from every dimension. It appears to bring the Shardlake series to a close but I will leave those details to be discovered by the reader. If you have not read  the Shardlake Sansom novels I commend the entire series to you. If you are committed, start from the beginning and read them in  chronological order.   Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation, Heartstone, Lamentation.  The characters  and story line build through each book.  It may seem like a project but I suggest it will be well worth your while. Sansom is a celebrated historical novelist and you will become an enthusiastic student of Tudor England when you embark on the Shardlake journey.

Reviews of the other Sansom Shardlake novels may be searched here at gordonsgoodreads.com

THE FATEFUL LIGHTNING—JEFF SHAARA

Jeff Shaara’s last installment in his Civil War series is the story  of William Tecumseh Sherman, and the final eight months of the war. The Fateful Lightning picks up Sherman’s march immediately after the sacking of Atlanta and follows his army through Georgia and the Carolinas.

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There is little middle ground in the world of Civil War analysis regarding Sherman. The general is either hated as savage and brutal or respected as the finest battlefield commander of the war.  The Fateful Lightning, through Shaara’s use of the historical novel, brings a semblance  of balance to the Sherman legacy. Shaara’s  research is excellent.

Like all of Shaara’s  writing, using the vehicle of the novel, the key players are humanized. The genre also allows for the creation of fictional characters to flush out the story line. In this case a young slave, freed by Sherman’s march is among the thousands of  former slaves who follow Sherman’s army of liberation as it heads north, taking them away from their masters and plantations.  The story of freed slaves following the Union Army is also well told in another book, E.L. Doctorow’s The March.  Search gordonsgoodreads for an overview.

I also recommend the other three books in Shaara’s series.  A Blaze of Glory,  A Chain of Thunder, and The Smoke at Dawn. You will find my overviews of them here at gordonsgood reads. 

Shaara also wrote Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s The Killer Angels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE MADNESS OF HENRY VIII

In her new book, The Kings Curse, Philippa Gregory adds multiple chapters to the madness of the Tudor Court of King Henry VIII.  If you enjoyed her best-selling novel The Other Boleyn  Girl, you will be very much at home with The Kings Curse. The story comes through the voice of a new narrator, Margaret Pole of the Yorks, part of the Plantagenets, and considered a rival to the Tudor Throne.

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All of the great characters of the period are interwoven throughout the book.  The demise of Katherine of Aragon, the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey and of course Henry VIII himself. Throughout the novel the crafty and devious Margaret Pole masks her disdain for the Tudors in an effort of save the lives of her sons and Henry and Katherine’s only living child,  Mary, the legitimate heir.  It is indeed the King’s curse, that he has no  legitimate son to continue the Tudor Dynasty.

Gregory’s research and attention to detail is impeccable and her literary style is fast paced. There is never a long wait at the starting line.

Other novels of this era you may enjoy are Katherine by Anya Seton and the entire C.J. Sansom series set during this period.  You can search these titles and The Other Boleyn Girl here at gordonsgoodreads.com

 

The Smoke at Dawn/ General Bragg’s Waterloo At Chattanooga

President Lincoln’s brilliant decision to elevate Ulysses  S. Grant to General in Chief of the Union Army following Grant’s victory at Vicksburg on July 3, 1863 was further justified by the success of Grants first assignment following his promotion in the battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Jeff Shaara in his new historical novel The Smoke at Dawn , the third in his Civil War Trilogy, places Grant in the Cumberland following the Confederate defeat of General Rosecrans by Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga Creek. Grant immediately demoted Rosecrans and replaces him with General George Thomas and brings in Sherman’ s army for support. The Union army has been under siege in Chattanooga and Grant orders the siege broken at whatever the cost. Bragg, sinking in his own bombast and his repeated failure to lead , is on the verge of converting a great Confederate victory into a bitter defeat. As Sherman rides to the rescue  of General Thomas and the Union Army, he makes a rare mistake by misreading the geography, giving Bragg one last chance of grasping victory from the jaws of defeat.

There is plenty of drama as Shaara tells the story of this epic battle with the versatile vehicle of historical fiction that , following in his fathers footsteps , is his trademark. Shaara is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angles.

The two previous novels in the trilogy are A Blaze of Glory , the battle Shiloh and A Chain of Thunder, the Siege of Vicksburg.  Search gordonsgoodreads.com reads for other Jeff Shaara historical novels based upon the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II.

ORPHAN TRAIN-FORGOTTEN CHILDREN-NOW ALIVE!

Between 1854 and 1929 orphaned and homeless children cast out from the teeming tenements to the harsh streets of New York City were collected and boarded on special railroad trains headed  for the  farmlands of the American West. The hope of the organizers was finding families to offer these nine to 13 year olds a home and new beginning.

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NOTICE OF ARRIVING TRAIN !

HOMES WANTED FOR CHILDREN.  A COMPANY OF ORPHAN CHILDREN OF DIFFERENT AGES WILL ARRIVE AT OAKLAND, IOWA, FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1904. THE DISTRIBUTION WILL TAKE PLACE AT 10:30 AM AND 1:30 PM.

Over a period of sixty years a quarter million indigent immigrant children were sent West. From station to station in small towns west of Chicago they were  paraded by poorly equipped social workers before prospective foster parents, many of whose motives were less than noble.  Few if any background checks of the perspective families were completed. Children were selected at each stop and those that were not chosen moved on to the next whistle-stop somewhere down the line. There was little or no follow-up and many of these children became little more than un-paid household labor and farm help, often in dysfunctional families.  Many were not given the opportunity to attend school.

” THE CHILD YOU SELECT IS YOURS FOR FREE, ON A 90 DAY TRIAL, AT WHICH POINT IF YOU SO CHOOSE, YOU MAY SEND HIM  BACK.”

Christina Baker Kline in her riveting New York Times best selling  novel Orphan Train (2013)  weaves a story of  how the toxic ingredients of the Orphan Trains, conceived to rescue children from the depravity of New York’s streets, often cast them into  even worse circumstances. Orphan Train is the story of  one train rider, a  9 year-old girl, who finally in her 90s  comes to reveal her secret story to yet another rider from a turbulent world of another era.

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NOBODY WANTS ME. I HAVE TO GET BACK ON THE TRAIN.”  “ALL RIGHT CHILDREN THE JOURNEY CONTINUES, THE GOOD PEOPLE OF ALBANS, MINNESOTA ARE WAITING.”

The story is powerful and Orphan Train is a rewarding read, both historically and emotionally.  Christina Baker, in remarkable fashion, creates a protagonist who vividly portrays this little known chapter in American history.

Earlier this year I referred you to Jacob Riis’s  How The Other Half Lives  gordonsgoodreads.com.  Riss was among the first Muckrakers , uncovering social injustice in America. It is in his How The Other Half Lives that I first learned the history of the Orphan Trains.

Orphan Train is a novel so well researched that it could be categorized a historical novel. Kline was able to interview four actual train riders when they were in their late 90s.    Other works of fiction by Christina Baker Kline  are Sweet Water, Desire Lines, The way Life Should Be and Bird in Hand.

DARK FIRE—C.J.SANSOM-TUDOR ENGLAND

Dark Fire is the second  of the Matthew Shardlake Mystery Series written by the acclaimed historical fiction novelist C.J. Sansom.  If one is looking for a painless way to enjoy the history of Tudor England ( Henry VIII)  read all of this wonderful Sansom series which begins with Dissolution and currently ends with Heartstone.

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The search for the secret of Dark Fire, desperately sought by Thomas Cromwell on behalf of Henry VIII ,leads  lawyer Shardlake through the perils of  multiple murders and further intrigue.  Anne Boleyn has already been beheaded and  Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry , is about to be dethroned in favor of  Catherine Howard.  Amidst the turmoil of the king’s wives, Cromwell seeks to protect his own position by providing the monarchy with the formula for Dark-Fire, an ancient form of flame thrower, which in its day, in warfare,  was akin to a modern-day nuclear missile.  He turns to Shardlake to unravel the mystery and find this weapon for the king.

As is usual with Sansom, there is a parallel plot, this time involving  Shardlake trying to keep a young woman falsely accused of murder from death by torture, of course in the Tower of London.

Dark Fire is a highly recommended  gordonsgoodread!  If you are new to Sansom pick up his work and read them in the following order: Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation and Heartstone.  Overviews of these Sansom books can be searched at gordonsgoodreads.com.

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Finish these and you will be a well-informed conversationalist regarding Tudor England.The  Sansom novels present history and humanity folded together in perfect form.

PHILIPPA GREGORY-HISTORICAL FICTION AT ITS BEST

The Other Boleyn Girl, written by Philippa Gregory and published in 2001, is among the very best novels written about Tudor England and King Henry VIII.  If you have not read this great novel place it on your must read list.  This true story about Mary Boleyn, the younger sister of Henry the VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn, is remarkable in many ways.   The book enlightens the reader not only of the history of the period but it portrays an accurate glimpse into how women, even in their teens, were used as pawns for both power and pleasure.

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This is the story of Mary, the first daughter in the Boleyn family to be offered to a King in return for the hope wealth and power. So driven was this family that when Mary’s star began to fade in Henry’s ardor , sister Anne pushed her aside to eventually become Queen Anne.  Although you may know how that romance ended, believe me, the writing of Philippa Gregory will  capture and fascinate you through the final page. This story of two sisters and a King is also a study of the structure of society in 16th Century England. It is not suprising that Philippa Gregory is a recognized authority on women’s history.

Tudor England was  fascinating and this blog has focused on many enjoyable reads set in that period, including the  great British novelist C.J. Sansom and the Shardlake series. Another wonderful work of historical fiction written of an earlier period, Medieval England, is Anya Seton’s Katherine.

After reading the Other Boleyn Girl I ordered the  2008 movie through Netflix.  The movie does not come close to the book’s more intricate story line and I would strongly suggest that reading the book is a must before watching the film.  Once you have read the book it is worth watching.