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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

An Eclectic Book List

I don't usually either read or recommend historical fiction. However, over recent years as the quality of this type of fiction has massively improved, I have begun to dip my toes into the water.

The Innkeeper of Inverness by SG MacLean (Alistair MacLean's niece). The novel is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden and the continuing division in Highland Scotland between Jacobites and supporters of the Hanoverian Government. The story revolves around the plans for The Elibank Plot of 1751/2.

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris, the doyen of historical fiction writers. This book features the Parliamentarians, Colonel Whalley and his son in law Colonel Goffe. They fled to New England but were followed by agents of the new Royalist Government of Charles II. It is firmly based on the known facts.

Both the above novels carry excellent bibliographies.

God's Vindictive Wrath by Charles Cordell. This is the first in a promised series following The Civil War of the 1640s. This first book covers the Battle of Edgehill and the King's failed attempt to recapture London. The descriptions of the battle are the best and most accurate you can read anywhere. However, the descriptions may prove too much for those with a lesser interest in the warfare of the 17th century. Yet in my opinion this is the first novel of substance about The Civil War - with the exception, of course, of my childhood favourite, The Children of The New Forest.

Now some history recommendations:

Berlin by Sinclair McKay. This is the story of the city and its people during the 20th century, when Berlin featured so prominently in world events.

A Murderous Midsummer by Mark Stoyle. This is a truly fascinating account of the so-called 'Prayer Book Rebellion' of 1549, in the far western conservative counties of Devon and Cornwall. This is a little known episode in the history of The Reformation in England and is a valuable addition to our understanding of the period.

Fake History by Otto English. A series of reflections on widely held beliefs that English seeks to debunk. You are unlikely to agree with everything the author says but will nevertheless be captivated to read on. The book has a wonderful opening sentence: 'Through nothing more than sheer longevity my grandparents became time travellers from another age'. Don't know about some of you but I am beginning to feel like that myself!

Finally, a very very niche book

Icelandic Trade with Gyrfalcons by Sigurdur Aegisson. Gyrfalcons are the largest of the falcons and were traded to the aristocracy of Europe by the Icelanders, especially during the medieval period. Much of the trade was done through The Hanseatic League, from whom the Icelanders bought food. I just love the fact that someone has given their time and research to produce a work on such an esoteric subject. Long may academia flourish.

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