Firstly, welcome to all those who've joined the group recently. Very much looking forward to seeing you at one of our meetups soon.
As you know, we are meeting on 20 January to discuss 'As Meat Loves Salt'. Hope to see you there. I will email again nearer the time. http://www.meetup.com/London-Historical-Fiction-Book-Group/calendar/15529878/
Meanwhile, I'd like to get another date in the diary, which will be in early March. Thanks to those who sent me suggestions.
I've just created two polls: one to choose the date and one to choose the next book.
Please go to the Polls section to vote. http://www.meetup.com/London-Historical-Fiction-Book-Group/polls/
Below are details of each of the shortlisted books. Please vote for as many books as you like.
The most popular one will be our March read.
I will close the poll as soon as sufficient people have voted, hopefully by the end of the first week of January so everyone has close to a couple of months to get and read the book.
Thanks and Happy New Year!
The shortlisted books are as follows (date shown is of first publication). I've supplied a link to the current edition on Amazon but you of course may be able to find older and/or cheaper editions at Amazon or elsewhere. (I also find Play.com, Awesome Books or Green Metropolis good for used copies, and Aphrohead and The Book Depository for new books.)
The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2001)
Pages: 304 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Siege-Helen-Dunmore/dp/0141000732
Leningrad, September 1941. German tanks surround the city, imprisoning those who live there. The besieged people of Leningrad face shells, starvation, and the Russian winter. Interweaving two love affairs in two generations, THE SIEGE draws us deep into the Levin's family struggle to stay alive during this terrible winter. It is a story about war and the wounds it inflicts on people's lives. It is also a lyrical and deeply moving celebration of love, life and survival.
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (2003)
Pages: 432 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Birth-Venus-Love-Death-Florence/dp/1844080358
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family's Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter's abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra's parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola's reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra's married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.
The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault (1956)
Pages: 368 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Wine-Mary-Renault/dp/0099463555
Alexias, a young Athenian of good family, grows up just as the Peloponnesian War is drawing to a close. The adult world he enters is one in which the power and influence of his class have been undermined by the forces of war, and more and more Alexias finds himself drawn to the controversial teachings of Sokrates. Among the great thinker's followers Alexias meets Lysis, and the two youths become inseparable, wrestling together in the palaestra, journeying to the Olympic Games and fighting in the wars against Sparta. On the great historical canvas of famine, siege, and civil conflict, their relationship captures vividly the intricacies of classical Greek culture.
Lust for Life: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone (1934)
Pages: 430 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lust-Life-Irving-Stone/dp/0099416425
No artist has been more ruthlessly driven by his creative urge, nor more isolated by it from most ordinary sources of human happiness, than Vincent Van Gogh. A painter of genius, his life was an incessant struggle against poverty, discouragement, madness and despair. Lust for Life skilfully captures the exciting atmosphere of the Paris of the Post-Impressionists and reconstructs with great insight the development of Van Gogh's art. The painter is brought to life not only as an artist but as a personality and this account of his violent, vivid and tormented life is a novel of rare compassion and vitality.
The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (2006)
Pages: 352 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Janissary-Tree-Yashim-Eunuch-Mystery/dp/0571229247
A concubine is strangled in the Sultan's palace harem, and a young cadet is found butchered in the streets of Istanbul. Delving deep into the city's crooked alleyways, and deeper still into its tumultuous past, the eunuch Yashim discovers that some people will go to any lengths to preserve the traditions of the Ottoman Empire. Brilliantly evoking Istanbul in the 1830s, The Janissary Tree is a bloody, witty and fast-paced literary thriller with a spectacular cast. It is the first in a series featuring the most enchanting detective since Precious Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Atilla by William Napier (2005)
Aka The Scourge of God, the first in the Attila trilogy
Pages: 480 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Attila-Trilogy-1-William-Napier/dp/0752877879
406 AD, and the Roman Empire totters on the edge of the abyss. Already divided into two, the Imperium is looking dangerously vulnerable to her European rivals. The huge barbarian tribes of the Vandals and Visigoths sense that their time is upon them. But, unbeknownst to all these great players, a new power is rising in the East. A strange nation of primitive horse-warriors has been striking terror on border peoples for fifty years. But few realise what is about to happen. For these so called 'Huns' now have a new leader. And his name is Attila - 'the Scourge of God'. Thus begins a saga of warfare, lust and power, which brought the whole of the Christian world to its knees, and was only ended in blood on the fields of France. It is a story of two men - Attila the Hun and Aetius the Roman. One who wanted to destroy the world, and one who fought one final battle save it...
Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden (2007)
aka Genghis: Birth of an Empire
The first book in the Conqueror series
Pages: 480 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolf-Plains-Conqueror-Conn-Iggulden/dp/0007353251
The first book in the bestselling Conqueror series featuring Genghis Khan and his descendants. The opening book in the Conqueror series, Wolf of the Plains is an epic story of heroism and adventure, of a boy who had to become a man too soon, but whose name would live on through history. The young boy abandoned with his siblings on the harsh Mongolian plains faced almost certain death. But his remarkable survival skills helped him ruthlessly fight off death from starvation and hostile attacks. Hunted and alone, he dreamed of uniting the great tribes into one nation. He would become a great warrior. He would become father to his people. He would be Genghis Khan.