Thanks for Nothin’, Newsweek. And 5 Favorite Historical Fictions.

Newsweek recently featured Booker winner Hilary Mantel’s five favorite historical novels. Sadly–or happily, depending on how you look at it–I hadn’t heard of all but one of them. More books to add to the “maybe read” list!

But the magazine sort of pissed me off by saying that Mantel “elevates the field [of historical fiction] with her new book ‘Bring Up the Bodies.'”

OK, first it’s annoying to introduce a writer’s favorite books by implying she’s better than them. (Obviously, it’s Newsweek not Mantel I’m griping about.)

Second, Mantel lists “Things Fall Apart” as one of her picks. So obviously, the field needs no elevation.

Third, I can name offhand two Nobel laureates who’ve written historical fiction. So I’ll repeat: Obviously, the field needs no elevation.

Whatever. Here’s a list of some of the novels I love that happen to be historical:

  1. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  2. “The General in His Labyrinth” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  3. “Away” by Amy Bloom
  4. “The Known World” by Edward P. Jones
  5. “In the Skin of a Lion” by Michael Ondaatje
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2 thoughts on “Thanks for Nothin’, Newsweek. And 5 Favorite Historical Fictions.

  1. Sarah

    1. Atonement, Ian McEwan
    2. In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
    3. Letters from Yellowstone, Diane Smith
    4. The Living, Annie Dillard
    5. The Great Fire, Shirley Hazzard (this is the book that sort of solves my “Gosh, I wish there were another book like The English Patient” problem. And I can’t believe you chose In the Skin of a Lion over The English Patient, by the way!)

    Reply
  2. equotah Post author

    I loved The Great Fire, but I have to admit that I read it for a class and I, umm, skipped over a big chunk of it. I need to “re”-read it … I picked In the Skin of a Lion because somehow of the two Ondaatje books, it felt more right for a list of historical novels. But I would contend that all his novels, and even his memoir, are historical novels in the sense that they’re all about history and memory.

    And I’m sorry, I’ve tried to read In the Time of the Butterflies twice, and I just can’t. I can’t figure out why.

    Reply

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