Saturday, September 19, 2009

BBAW contest winner, and what got me started with historical reading

I've really enjoyed reading all the contest entries this past week. Without further ado, it's time to draw the winner's name. This morning picked the winner as contest entrant #2, which is Mantelli! Congratulations, Mantelli, and I hope you enjoy the book. I'll be in touch shortly.

This wasn't meant to be a formal survey, but I found it fascinating to read about the novels that got everyone started reading historical fiction. The top titles/authors mentioned were Gone with the Wind, anything by Jean Plaidy, and The Other Boleyn Girl. Other books and authors cited more than once: Outlander (aka Cross Stitch), Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, Sharon Penman, Susan Carroll's The Dark Queen, Johnny Tremain, Dumas, Elizabeth Byrd's Immortal Queen (sounds like a good candidate for reissue!), The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth Chadwick, Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre.

There were many, many other books recommended, so please stop by the comment trail on the previous post to read them all. I've certainly added more than a few to my mental TBR list.

I suppose I should answer the question myself, although I don't really remember specific historical novels standing out in my childhood reading. I used to read voraciously and indiscriminately -- classics, contemporary fiction, teenage romances, historical novels, fantasy, SF, mysteries, whatever. I read all the Little House books as well as Witch of Blackbird Pond and Johnny Tremain, the latter two for middle school. I expect most kids growing up in New England read them. The first adult historical novel I remember reading was Anya Seton's Katherine, which I wrote about for a 9th grade research paper. But I think the author who really got me started on reading HF was Jean Plaidy, in her alter ego as Victoria Holt. I read through all of the Holts and all her Philippa Carrs and kept seeing these Jean Plaidy books listed in the ending pages. "Jean Plaidy" didn't sound like a very glamorous name, and I was more into gothic romance at the time, so I figured the books were boring. What can I say.

When I was working a temp secretarial job between grad schools, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time. The boss didn't mind if I read at my desk as long as all his memos got typed up and the phones were answered, and there really wasn't much else to do... I had a PC to work on, but this was before the Web (this probably dates me). So I went through all of the Plaidys in chronological order, reading one a day, until I'd made it through all of the Normans, Plantagenets, Stuarts, Georgians, and Victorians and then all the Queens of England novels that were out at the time. After that, I picked up Valerie Anand's Bridges Over Time books, Margaret Campbell Barnes, what I hadn't yet read of Norah Lofts, and whatever other historical novels I could find on the shelves of the East Lansing Public Library.

I have a feeling I've written most of this on the blog before, but there you have it. And the rest, as they say, is history. :)


  1. Well sob for me, I wanted to win this one.. but congrats to Mantelli! A True treat!
    I enjoyed reading your HF adventure, that was funny about ignoring Jean Plaidy for while! I am definitely jealous though that you really had all that time to focus on reading. I would love to do that. Perhaps next year when I am done with all the must-review pile I could focus more on Plaidy. Did you realllllly really read alllll she ever wrote as Plaidy?

  2. Yeah, I miss being able to just sit and read all the time too! I'm lucky if I can read one book a week... forget one per day.

    I read all the Plaidys that the library had, basically the one extended series about the entire British royal family, plus the first-person Queens of England ones. There are others I never got to because the library didn't have them, and they may not have been published in this country then. I see I forgot to mention the Tudor series in there (how did that happen?!). I've read about everything on this Jean Plaidy page except ones from the last few series at the end, thanks to the library.

  3. Win or lose, this has been fun. Thanks, Sarah.

  4. This was so cool! And reminded me about the Little House books, which I was obsessed with when I was very little. Thank you for helping me recover those great memories!

  5. (I guess I'm "Other Sarah") - gosh, your childhood reading sounds a LOT like mine. I was reading KATHERINE and Jean Plaidy, with some Norah Lofts (NETHERGATE was my first) and Margaret Campbell Barnes. I've now purchased (from Powells Books etc) the first several volumes of Cynthia Harrod-Eagle's Morland Dynasty, which I hope to read at some point. Reading THE WHITE QUEEN sent me back to that era. I've always loved reading biographies, and when I was in elementary school there weren't too many female subjects besides queens/princesses, Florence Nightingale, and Joan of Arc. So my fascination with royalty - especially b/c of the historical context - has always been there.

  6. There are a lot of historical fiction readers named Sarah! Welcome to the club :) I also read a lot of royal biographies in elementary school. There was a whole series of them... one I remember especially well was about Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. I haven't really read the Morland Dynasty series, so that's another one I need to get to at some point.

    Thanks, Ann! And for Julie, I used to love the Little House books... my copies were heavily worn from reading them over and over.

  7. The books that really got me reading historical fiction were of course P&P, which is one of my favorite books ever. Also Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (which also helped fuel my love of books on the Asian culture and cultures everywhere). Then I began saw The Other Boleyn Girl movie and could not wait to read the book (which I still haven't done, though) and I have been a fan ever since!

  8. I absolutely loved Moloka'i... read it earlier this year and wondered what had taken me so long to get to it.

  9. Just a note that I'll be drawing another name on Friday, October 2, as it's been nearly two weeks and I've yet to hear from the contest winner. Good luck to all -- again!