Maybe more like a 2.5. You may be wondering what this is doing on my history-craft-practice shelf, since it's fiction. The answer to that is that the...moreMaybe more like a 2.5. You may be wondering what this is doing on my history-craft-practice shelf, since it's fiction. The answer to that is that the eponymous character is a trained historian, and the uses of history are one of the themes and central conflicts of the novel.
This part of the story was probably the most interesting part. You can sort of tell that this was a first novel. Given that, many of the flaws are understandable. (I couldn't help thinking of this. Though to be more precise, he ran afoul of Orson Scott Card's maxim that if a perfectly good word already exists in English, there is no reason to make one up.)
The main flaw is that this seemed like a book about ideas and action, with characters thrown in just for kicks. Except for Indira (and even her, to some extent) the characters seemed very one- or two-dimensional.
If you like Frank Herbert and David Weber, you might like this. It also made me think of Darkover Landfall, and Joanna Russ's response to that, We Who Are About To. (It's basically a rebuttal of the "ship crash lands on planet, humans manage to survive and procreate and found new civilization" scenario. Because a lot of those scenarios, at least in the early days, tend to underestimate the number of people required.)
I read the e-book, which is currently located here.(less)
I was poking at my Amazon wishlist, and Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts came up as a "you might also be interested in this" recommendatio...moreI was poking at my Amazon wishlist, and Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts came up as a "you might also be interested in this" recommendation. I couldn't resist a title like that.
It was a surprisingly fast read. If you've ever thought about teaching history, and/or pondered what the best way to do it is, or wondered why or if it's important, then you might enjoy this book. It's a little heavy on the non-concrete philosophical musings - judging by how many times the author uses the word mentalités, I'm guessing he's been influenced by the Annales school - and more a collection of questions and a small amount of qualitative data than something that will answer your question, but still fairly useful, IMO. 3.5/5 stars, rounded down to 3 for Goodreads.(less)
I picked up this book at a book sale to fund a scholarship in memory of a professor who died recently. I can't remember if this is one I bought or if...moreI picked up this book at a book sale to fund a scholarship in memory of a professor who died recently. I can't remember if this is one I bought or if this is one that I vultured off the table after they cleared out and left the rest behind. Though if I didn't pay for it, I probably would have if I had seen it - they were only charging a dollar or two for most of the books. I like Barbara Tuchman's work.
Anyway, this collection of essays is incredibly varied. There's one where she urges anti-war (Vietnam) student protesters to protest by joining the Army and refusing to serve, and another one about a speech she gave to the War College (IIRC) on generalship. (Yeah, I know there's this little thing called the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would have something to say about the first one. It's one of those things you have to read with consideration for when it was written. Even if it is sort of ... silly.) Plus, there's lots of stuff in there about her life as a practicing historian, and her thoughts on what history is. Good reading if you are interested in history.(less)
It was a pleasant surprise to receive a hardcover copy of this book, rather than a paperback ARC as for Meltdown Iceland. As the years go by, I buy fe...moreIt was a pleasant surprise to receive a hardcover copy of this book, rather than a paperback ARC as for Meltdown Iceland. As the years go by, I buy fewer hardcover books. Even authors I like have a tendency to recycle themes (or worse, plots), acquire protection from editors, or explore other types of stories which are less interesting to me. (Sometimes, I even outgrow them.) This year, I bought exactly two hardcover books when they were new to the shelves. It just doesn't make sense to buy a hardcover when I could buy 3-4 paperbacks for the same price. So I'd forgotten how pleasant it was to be the first person to open a hardcover book. It's weird, the things that make our neurons fire.
As to the substance of the book itself: it's not bad. It casts light on a person and a time/place in European history that have tended to be understudied, at least in literature for the general reader. It's an interesting study of the typical challenges facing sovereigns in medieval Europe, particularly those faced by a female one.
There are a few points where the author speculated about something but then offered no evidence; however, this mostly occurred with things that were not important to what would be called the main thread of the story if this were fiction. There are also a few places that suggested that the manuscript could have benefited from more attention by a copy editor, or less stet. (Obvious typos, confusing sentences, etc.)
The author cited things that were exact quotes, but not much else. (I prefer Alison Weir-style extensive footnoting in my biographies and other historical works.) I really dislike when I can't tell where something came from without playing guess-and-check with secondary sources.
A final interesting thing: I've been doing a lot of reading lately about the attempts to preserve art and architecture during World War II. One of the things that was not preserved was the Angevin register (the output of the chancery from 1265-1435). Along with all of the other documents of the State Archive of Naples that were judged the most valuable, it was set afire by German troops in 1943. I'm not surprised I hadn't read about this - the books I've been reading tend to focus on visual arts and successes. Nonetheless: depressing. I almost gave this four stars for the difficulty in creating a biography without this source.(less)
Strongly recommended to anyone who plans to study the Middle Ages in depth, whether as a university student or as a hobby. An excellent overview of ma...moreStrongly recommended to anyone who plans to study the Middle Ages in depth, whether as a university student or as a hobby. An excellent overview of major sources and historiographical approaches through the thirteenth century. The only real drawback is that it lists sources but doesn't provide footnotes or endnotes explaining which information came from where.(less)
Gave this a re-read after reading the quasi-sequel. For some reason the author is prone to overly embroidered language in the first few chapters, but...moreGave this a re-read after reading the quasi-sequel. For some reason the author is prone to overly embroidered language in the first few chapters, but he gets over it. While the story is (in places) cool, exciting, poignant, and tragic, the most interesting part is (for me) about ordinary people interacting with and thinking about history.(less)