London Historical Fiction Book Group - Help choose our December book

From: Justin
Sent on: Sunday, September 18, 2011 3:51 PM

Hi everyone.
Firstly, welcome to all those who've joined the group recently. Very much looking forward to seeing you at one of our meetups soon.
Thanks to everyone who came last Monday evening to talk about "Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn and contributed to our lively discussion.
Good to see a few new faces - hope we'll be seeing you again.

Our next meetup is on Monday 24 October to discuss "The Golden Mean" by Annabel Lyon. Please RSVP when you get a chance if you haven't done so yet. Details here:

After that, we meet on Monday 5 December and it's time to choose the book for that.
As discussed, we are going to choose our last selection of the year from the last five runners-up in our polls. These are all books that received a substantial number of votes but didn't quite make it, so we are giving them all another shot.

I've created a poll for everyone to vote on the December book from the shortlist detailed below.
Please go to the Polls section to vote.

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 December read.
I will close the poll as soon as sufficient people have voted, hopefully in ten days' time or so.

Thanks and happy reading


The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (2010)
Pages: 448

1920. The Great War has been over for two years, and it has left a very different world from the Edwardian certainties of 1914. Following the death of his wife and baby and his experiences on the Western Front, Laurence Bartram has become something of a recluse. Yet death and the aftermath of the conflict continue to cast a pall over peacetime England, and when a young woman he once knew persuades him to look into events that apparently led her brother, John Emmett, to kill himself, Laurence is forced to revisit the darkest parts of the war. As Laurence unravels the connections between Captain Emmett's suicide, a group of war poets, a bitter regimental feud and a hidden love affair, more disquieting deaths are exposed. Even at the moment Laurence begins to live again, it dawns on him that nothing is as it seems, and that even those closest to him have their secrets ...

Imperium by Robert Harris (2006)
Pages: 496

The first book in a trilogy set in the Ancient Roman Empire by the number one bestselling author of Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel and Pompeii.
When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history. The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium --  supreme power in the state. This is the starting-point of Robert Harris's most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us inside the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics, to describe how one man – clever, compassionate, devious, vulnerable – fought to reach the top.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (1951)
(translated from French)
Pages: 288

In her magnificent novel, Marguerite Yourcenar recreates the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world. The Emperor Hadrian, aware his demise is imminent, writes a long valedictory letter to Marcus Aurelius, his future successor. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing his accession, military triumphs, love of poetry and music, and the philosophy that informed his powerful and far-flung rule. A work of superbly detailed research and sustained empathy, Memoirs of Hadrian captures the living spirit of the Emperor and of Ancient Rome.

Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff (1954)
Pages: 304

The Ninth Legion marched into the mists of northern Britain - and they were never seen again. Four thousand men disappeared and their eagle standard was lost. It's a mystery that's never been solved, until now . . . Marcus has to find out what happened to his father, who led the legion. So he sets out into the unknown, on a quest so dangerous that nobody expects him to return. The Eagle of the Ninth is heralded as one of the most outstanding children's books of the twentieth century and has sold over a million copies worldwide. Rosemary Sutcliff writes with such passion and attention to detail that Roman Britain is instantly brought to life and stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned. The book is also now the subject of a major film.

The Book of Love by Sarah Bower (2008)
Pages: 520


In 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expel the Jews from Spain, six year old Esther Sarfati finds herself travelling to Rome to join her father, a successful banker who has helped his fellow Spaniard, Rodrigo Borgia, finance his bid for the Papacy. Nine years later, as Pope Alexander VI, he repays the favour by offering Esther a place in the household of his daughter, Lucrezia, who is about to marry Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duchy of Ferrara. Against her own better judgement, but in accordance with her father's wishes for her future, Esther converts to Christianity and enters Lucrezia's service as lady-in-waiting. Flattered by Lucrezia's favour, seduced by the friendship of her cousin, Angela Borgia and swept off her feet by Lucrezia's glamorous and dangerous brother, Cesare, she is drawn into a web of intrigue and deceit which will test her heart to its utmost and burden her with secrets she must carry to her grave. Set against the glittering background of the court of Ferrara in the early sixteenth century, this is the heart-breaking story of what happens to an innocent abroad in the world of the Borgias.

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