Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Historical Novel’ Category

Where do you pile your books? My hubby and I have piles on our bedside tables mostly, then some in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room…and they all live in the basement library/movie/party room (technically the ‘family room’).

The other day I was tidying the bedroom, and emptied the already-read and not-going-to-get-read-soon books off the two bedside tables:

Putting books away...

Then, I pulled books from the living room and kitchen to complete the tidy:

More books being put away..

This post for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

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NO, this is not a blog post about Twilight. Oh, spare me that agony. I did read the first book, lent to me by a co-worker, on a bus trip. It was a relatively fun, mindless 2 hours to the end of the book…but it was like eating cotton candy, absolutely no sustenance.

And it is not a post about Anne Rice, although I enjoyed her vampire books. I especially enjoyed the history of each vampire. Fun, sexy books.

Who I would like to talk about is the author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. A good friend of mine intercepted me after the above-mentioned bus trip, told me, if you want vampire fiction, here is where to go.  That was 2 months ago. She has since lent me 5 of Yarbro’s books, all of which I’ve devoured…but I’m only getting around to writing about them now. My apologies.

The website states the over-arching focus of the books much more succinctly than I ever could:

The books of the Saint-Germain Cycle combine historic fiction, romance, and horror and feature the heroic vampire first introduced in Hôtel Transylvania as Le Comte de Saint-Germain. In this initial novel, the character — cultured, well-traveled, articulate, elegant, and mysterious — appears in the court of France’s King Louis XV.

A ‘heroic vampire’ makes for a very readable series (of which I’ve only read 1/4…there are 20+ books so far!). Then, the conflict is in the human world around Saint- Germain as he maintains his life.

As Chelsea Quinn Yarbro explains:

The second level of questions arose from the relationship of vampires to humans — must the relationship be exploitative? And must humans abhor vampires? The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was worth trying to use a vampire as a metaphor for humanism: a person living an unnaturally long life might become alienated from humanity, as a means of avoiding the pain of spending most of your time saying permanent good-byes. Or it was just possible the vampire would, through his very alienation, seek to be part of human experience, which offered a great many more dramatic possibilities.

So, the books follow the efforts of the vampire Saint-Germain to live in each age. Of course, because of his accumulated wealth and knowledge, he finds himself embroiled in public life and that brings its own difficulties. The stories recount his activities in this public sphere, with any sucking of blood kept to the sidelines.

The most fascinating aspect of these books is that the horror and danger in a Saint-Germain novel come from the humans, not the vampire.

Any other Yarbro fans out there?

Perfume

Posted on: June 19, 2007

I wonder if it’s significant that two of the more memorable books I’ve read have to do with perfume…

Jitterbug Perfume is my favourite Tom Robbins book [not linking to any TR sites…there just seems to be Wikipedia and fan sites — nothing definitive]. If you’ve never read any Robbins, then you don’t know that he’s got a bit of thang for many a topic, and will take on a major theme or two in each book, going on these wonderful rants that end up being rather heady, like a warm brandy. In Jitterbug Perfume, the main theme is, of course, the power of our sense of smell….and sex, but then it’s always sex….oh, and beets.

Anyway, the sense of smell.

On the same theme is the brilliant novel by German author Patrick Suskind, Perfume.  It’s an adjective-rich descriptive soup of a novel…where you can almost perceive the stench of Paris in the Middle Ages rising up from the pages. Imagine reading it in the original German!!

We watched the movie version of Perfume: The Story of a Murder last night — well done! It was so nicely done that it was almost scratch’n’sniff (a la Odorama of John Waters)! Fetid Paris streets, foul tanneries, odiferous breath…ick. And the most difficult detail of the novel was subtly portrayed: that the main character, John Baptiste Grenouille, with his superhuman nose, had absolutely no aroma of his own. It’s an odd detail, covered in much more detail in the book, but conveyed in some very interesting ways.

I wonder if it would have been harder to discern if I hadn’t been looking for it?

Two very good books. One rather disturbing movie.

Inspired by a comment left yesterday by Sulz, over at Bloggerdybooks — to go with the dark chocolate hopefully someone gave you on Valentine’s Day.

Also continuing in the list-genre to annoy engtech for his lovely little contest.

Only 1 rule: No fair citing books that are supposed to be erotic.

  • The first really substantial sex scene I ever encountered in a book was a Harold Robbins, when I was about 13. (Oh, he died in 1997!) Anyway, I think it was “The Pirate”…wow. Poppers and threesomes. Yippee!
  • I then moved on to bodice-rippers, or as the neighbour I babysat for called them (the 30-something woman who lent my impressionable teen self the books) , HHRs (Horny Historical Romances). Whowee!
  • Roots had some eye-opening moments, to my 11-year-old eyes.
  • Of course, Wifey, by Judy Bloom.
  • I must admit, Anne Rice’s vampire books have their incredibly sensual moments.

Okay, this was harder than I thought. I found I had to dredge my teen (and pre-teen) memory for titles. I think now, as an adult, I’m turned off books whose sex scenes don’t fit into the narrative flow, and I don’t really remember scenes in books where they do.

Hmm.

Okay folks — what about you? You don’t have to think of 5 if you can’t…(except Sulz!)

In yesterday’s mail, I received a copy of Penguin’s new book Beneath a Marble Sky: A Love Story by John Shors.

“Why you?” I hear you ask. Why am I entitled to free books in the post? ‘Tis not special priviledge, I am merely a member of BzzAgent.com and was involved in what they call a ‘bzzblast’ this summer for Penguin books — I, and countless others, read excerpts of a few upcoming books, and commented on them. Now, some of those books were silly, not my style at all, and imminently forgettable. Isn’t that how it always is with books?

But, one book appealed to me, or at least its first chapter. Set in 17th Century Hindustan:

…where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love. [from the back cover description]

Lovely prose, without being over-written (in that ‘trying hard to get a Booker Prize nomination so use lots of adjectives’ way). I’m looking forward to reading this one.

So, thank you very much for the book, BzzAgent Jono. Did I get the one I liked by choice or accident? Either way, a lovely surprise!

You’ve heard about it, you’ve maybe seen the BBC mini-series, you may have even thought it was classical literature…but the Robert Graves novel published in 1934 is really just a wonderfully fun book to read.

I picked it up to join in on the BookTalk.org discussion, inhaled it, and went out and bought the sequel Claudius the God. My copy of I, Claudius has to be stolen from my husband’s nightstand now if I want to get involved in the discussion.

Anyway, if you want poison gossip and wine, intrigue and deceit, brazen backstabbing and lies, read this book. Is it historically accurate? In the main, probably. But what is so fascinating about this book is the motivations ascribed to each of these classical figures.


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!