Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Weekly Wishlist - January 8, 2013



An Alternative History of Britain:  The Anglo Saxon Age by Timothy Venning.  Non-fiction.  UK release January 17, 2013.

Taking a similar approach to his successful If Rome Hadn't Fallen, Timothy Venning explores the various decision points in a fascinating period of British history and the alternative paths that it might have taken. Dr Timothy Venning starts within an outline of the process by which much of Britain came to be settled by Germanic tribes after the end of Roman rule, so far as it can be determined from the sparse and fragmentary sources. He then moves on to discuss a series of scenarios which might have altered the course of subsequent history dramatically. For example, was a reconquest by the native British ever a possibility (under 'Arthur' or someone else)? Which of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms might have united England sooner and would this have kept the Danes out? And, of course, what if Harold Godwinson had won at Hastings? While necessarily speculative, all the scenarios are discussed within the framework of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped British history and help to shed light upon them. In so doing they help the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been.



The Kings and Queens of Anglo Saxon England by Timothy Venning.  Non-fiction.  UK reissue January 28, 2013.

The Anglo-Saxon era is one of the most important in English history, covering the period from the end of Roman authority in the British Isles to the Norman Conquest of 1066 in which the very idea of England was born. In The Kings& Queens of Anglo-Saxon England, Venning examines the rulers of Anglo-Saxon England, beginning with the legendary leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion as Hengest and Horsa or Cerdic and Cynric and moving on through such figures as Aethelbert of Kent, the first king to be converted to Christianity and his daughter Aethelburh, whose marriage began the conversion of Northumbria, to Alfred of Wessex and his dynasty, the Viking invasions, and the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, Harold Godwineson.





Henry VIII and the Court by Thomas Betteridge; Susannah Lipscomb.  Non-fiction.  UK release February 28, 2013.

After 500 years Henry VIII still retains a public fascination unmatched by any monarch before or since. Whilst his popular image is firmly associated with his appetites - sexual and gastronomic - scholars have long recognized that his reign also ushered in profound changes to English society and culture, the legacy of which endure to this day. To help take stock of such a multifaceted and contested history, this volume presents a collection of 17 essays that showcase the very latest thinking and research on Henry and his court.

Divided into seven parts, the book highlights how the political, religious and cultural aspects of Henry's reign came together to create a one of the most significant and transformative periods of English history. The volume is genuinely interdisciplinary, drawing on literature, art history, architecture and drama to enrich our knowledge. The first part is a powerful and personal account by Professor George W. Bernard of his experience of writing about Henry and his reign. The next parts - Material Culture and Images - reflect a historical concern with non-documentary evidence, exploring how objects, collections, paintings and buildings can provide unrivalled insight into the world of the Tudor court. The parts on Court Culture and Performance explore the literary and theatrical world and the performative aspects of court life, looking at how the Tudor court attempted to present itself to the world, as well as how it was represented by others. The part on Reactions focuses upon the political and religious currents stirred up by Henry's policies, and how they in turn came to influence his actions.

Through this wide-ranging, yet thematically coherent approach, a fascinating window is opened into the world of Henry VIII and his court. In particular, building on research undertaken over the last ten years, a number of contributors focus on topics that have been neglected by traditional historical writing, for example gender, graffiti and clothing. With contributions from many of the leading scholars of Tudor England, the collection offers not only a snapshot of the latest historical thinking, but also provides a starting point for future research into the world of this colourful, but often misrepresented monarch.


An Alternative History of Britain:  The Wars of the Roses by Timothy Venning.  Non-fiction.  UK release March 28, 2013.

Timothy Venning's exploration of the alternative paths that British history might easily have taken moves on to the Wars of the Roses. What if Richard of York had not given battle in vain? How would a victory for Warwick the Kingmaker at the Battle of Barnet changed the course of the struggle for power? What if the Princes had escaped from the tower or the Stanleys had not betrayed their king at Bosworth? These are just a few of the fascinating questions posed by this book. As always, while necessarily speculative, Dr Venning discusses all the scenarios within the benefit of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped British history. In so doing, he helps the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been in this tumultuous period.


An Alternative History of Britain:  The Hundred Years War by Timothy Venning.  Non-fiction.  UK release March 30, 2013.

Continuing his exploration of the alternative paths that British history might so easily have taken, Timothy Venning turns his attention to the Hundred Years War between England and France. Could the English have won in the long term, or, conversely, have been decisively defeated sooner? Among the many scenarios discussed are what would have happened if the Black Prince had not died prematurely of the Black Death, leaving the 10-year-old Richard to inherit Edward IIIs crown. What would have been the consequences if France's Scottish allies had been victorious at Neville's Cross in 1346, while most English forces were occupied in France? What if Henry V had recovered from the dysentery that killed him at 35, giving time for his son Henry VI to inherit the combined crowns of France and England as a mature (and half-French) man rather than an infant controlled by others? And what if Joan of Arc had not emerged to galvanize French resistance at Orleans? 

While necessarily speculative, all the scenarios are discussed within the framework of a deep understanding of the major driving forces, tensions and trends that shaped British history and help to shed light upon them. In so doing they help the reader to understand why things panned out as they did, as well as what might have been in this fascinating period that still arouses such strong passions on both sides of the Channel.


Worlds of Arthur by Guy Halsall.  Non-fiction.  US release April 1, 2013.

King Arthur is probably the most famous and certainly the most legendary medieval king. From the early ninth century through the middle ages, to the Arthurian romances of Victorian times, the tales of this legendary figure have blossomed and multiplied. And in more recent times, there has been a continuous stream of books claiming to unlock the secret or the truth behind the "once and future king."

The truth, as Guy Halsall reveals in this fascinating investigation, is both radically different--and also a good deal more intriguing. Broadly speaking, there are two Arthurs. On the one hand is the traditional "historical" Arthur, waging a doomed struggle to save Roman civilization against the relentless Anglo-Saxon tide during the darkest years of the Dark Ages. On the other is the Arthur of myth and legend, accompanied by a host of equally legendary people, places, and stories: Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad and Gawain, Merlin, Excalibur, the Lady in the Lake, the Sword in the Stone, Camelot, and the Round Table. 

The big problem with all this, notes Halsall, is that "King Arthur" might well never have existed. And if he did exist, it is next to impossible to say anything at all about him. As this challenging new look at the Arthur legend makes clear, all books claiming to reveal "the truth" behind King Arthur can safely be ignored. Not only the fanciful pseudo-historical accounts--Merlin the Magician, the Lady in the Lake--but even the "historical" Arthur is largely a figment of the imagination. The evidence that we have, whether written or archeological, is simply incapable of telling us anything detailed about the Britain in which he is supposed to have lived, fought, and died.


The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon.  US release June 4, 2013.

From the award-winning author of The Golden Mean, a captivating, wholly transporting new novel that follows Aristotle's strong-willed daughter as she shapes her own destiny: an unexpected love story, a tender portrait of a girl and her father, and an astonishing journey through the underbelly of a supposedly enlightened society.

Aristotle has never been able to resist a keen mind, and Pythias is certainly her father's daughter: besting his brightest students, refusing to content herself with a life circumscribed by the kitchen, the loom, and, eventually, a husband. Into her teenage years, she is protected by the reputation of her adored father, but with the death of Alexander the Great, her fortunes suddenly change. Aristotle's family is forced to flee Athens for a small town where the great philosopher soon dies, and orphaned Pythias quickly discovers that the world is not a place of logic after all, but one of superstition. As threats close in on her-a rebellious household, capricious gods and goddesses-she will need every ounce of wit she possesses, and the courage to seek refuge where she least expects it.


The Children of Henry VIII by John Guy.  Non-fiction.  US release July 1, 2013.

Nothing consumed Henry VIII, England's wealthiest and most powerful king, more than his desire to produce a legitimate male heir and perpetuate the Tudor dynasty. To that end he married six wives, became the subject of the most notorious divorce case of the sixteenth century, and broke with the pope, all in an age of international competition and warfare, social unrest, and growing religious intolerance and discord.

Henry fathered four children who survived childhood, each by a different mother. In The Children of Henry VIII, renowned Tudor historian John Guy tells their stories, returning to the archives and drawing on a vast array of contemporary records, personal letters, ambassadors' reports, and other eyewitness accounts, including the four children's own handwritten letters. Guy's compelling narrative illuminates their personalities, depicting siblings often scarred by jealously, mutual distrust, bitter rivalry, even hatred. Possessed of quick wits and strong wills, their characters were defined partly by the educations they received, and partly by events over which they had no control. Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, although recognized as the king's son, could never forget his illegitimacy. Edward would succeed his father, but died while still in his teens, desperately plotting to exclude his half-sisters from the throne, and utterly failing to do so. Mary's world was shattered by her mother Catherine of Aragon's divorce and her own unhappy marriage. Elizabeth was the most successful, but also the luckiest. Even so, she lived with the knowledge that her father had ordered her mother Anne Boleyn's execution, was often in fear of her own life, and could never marry the one man she truly loved.

John Guy takes us behind the fa├žade of politics and pageantry at the Tudor court, vividly capturing the greatest and most momentous family drama in all of English history.


Queen Anne:  The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset.  Non-fiction.  US release July 2, 2013.

She ascended the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1702, at age thirty-seven, and five years later united two of her realms, England and Scotland, as a sovereign state, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. By the end of her comparatively short twelve-year reign, Britain had emerged as a great power-the succession of outstanding victories won by her general, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough-had humbled France, and laid the foundations for Britain's future naval and colonial supremacy.

While the Queen's military was performing dazzling exploits on the continent, her own attention-indeed her realm-rested on a more intimate conflict: the female friendship, on which her happiness had for decades depended and which became for her a source of utter torment.

At the core of Anne Somerset's fascinating new biography, just published to acclaim in England ("Formidable"-Sunday Times; "Wonderfully pacy and absorbing"-Daily Mail), is a portrait of this fraught, complex bond between two very different women: Queen Anne, reserved, stolid, shrewd; and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, wife of the Queen's great general-beautiful, willful, outspoken, whose acerbic wit was equally matched by her fearsome temper.

The book tells the extraordinary drama of how Sarah goaded and provoked the Queen beyond endurance, and, after the withdrawal of Anne's favor, how her replacement, Sarah's cousin, the feline Abigail Masham, another lady-in-waiting, became the ubiquitous royal confidante and, Sarah publicly claimed to great scandal, the object of the Queen's sexual infatuation. 


The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon.  US release August 6, 2013.

From the author of Godmother and Mermaid, The Fairest of Them All explores what happens when fairy tale heroines grow up and don’t live happily ever after.

Living in an enchanted forest, Rapunzel spends her days tending a mystical garden with her adoptive mother, Mathena. A witch, Mathena was banished from court because of her magic powers, though the women from the kingdom still seek her advice and herbal remedies. She waits, biding her time to exact revenge against those who betrayed her.

One day Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and long golden locks captivate a young prince hunting in the forest nearby. Overcome, he climbs her hair up to her chamber and they fall into each other’s arms. But their afternoon of passion is fleeting, and the prince must return to his kingdom, as he is betrothed to another.

Now king, he marries his intended to bring peace to his kingdom. They have a stunning daughter named Snow White. Yet the king is haunted by his memories of Rapunzel, and after the mysterious death of his wife, realizes he is free to marry the woman he never stopped longing for. In hopes of also replacing the mother of his beloved daughter, the king makes Rapunzel his queen.

But when Mathena’s wedding gift of an ancient mirror begins speaking to her, Rapunzel falls under its evil spell, and the king begins to realize that Rapunzel is not the beautiful, kind woman he dreamed of.


Henry VIII by H.M. Castor.  Young Adult.  US release August 20, 2013 (was released in the UK  in 2011).

Destined for greatness...tormented by demons. The epic story of Henry VIII’s transformation from a handsome, gifted youth to a murderous, cruel king. 

Hal is a young man of extraordinary talents, astonishing warrior skills, sharp intelligence, and a fierce sense of honor and virtue. He believes he is destined for greatness. His father wishes he would disappear. Haunted by the ghosts of his family’s violent past, Hal embarks on a journey that leads him to absolute power—and brings him face to face with his demons.





Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson. US release September 24, 2013.

This new novel in the Secrets of the Tudor Court series, features a tailor’s daughter who suspects she is an illegitimate offspring of King Henry VIII.

Audrey Malte, born about 1528 and raised at court by the king’s tailor, John Malte, was led to believe she is Malte’s illegitimate daughter when, in fact, her father is King Henry VIII.  When she reaches marriageable age, she beings to realize, from the way certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her and she sets out to discover the truth.  Her quest involves the best and worst of the courtiers, among them a man with whom she falls in love.

Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into negotiations for her betrothal to someone else, and Audrey guesses the truth about her legacy when the king settles property on her, jointly with Malte.  Marriage is definitely in Audrey’s future, but will it be to the man she wants to wed?

A wonderfully absorbing novel that is full of enough historical detail to satisfy even the most hard-core Tudor fan.  Emerson beautifully depicts the difficulty of living in a treacherous period in which one had to do what the king’s pleasure demanded, in spite of the risk of losing one’s head.


Beauty’s Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy by Carolyn Meyer.  Young Adult.  US and UK release October 8, 2013.

Spartan Princess Hermione's mother Helen is known as the most beautiful woman in the ancient world. When Helen runs off to Troy with handsome young Prince Paris, Hermione's father, King Menelaus, finds erupts in fury. He amasses a thousand ships and sails for Troy, determined to reclaim Helen. This is the beginning of the Trojan War. For the next ten years, young Hermione lives outside the walls of Troy and is a witness to the battles that result in the death of heroes on both sides. Can she ever forgive her mother for creating such chaos? And will Hermione find her own love and her own place in the world?




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