A long time ago I picked out a book at the library called Queens' Play
, probably on the title, since many library books lack dust-covers, and maybe because of the epigraph stating "The chapter headings are taken from the Brehon Laws," the 5th c. Irish legal tracts, although most of the novel is set in 16th c. France and England. The chapter titles that came out of these were priceless:
Part One: The Vulgar Lyre
"My son, that thou mayest know when the head of a king is upon a plebeian, and the head of a plebeian upon a king."
The Fork Is Chosen
I. Silent in the Boat
II. Dieppe: The Pitfalls and the Deer
III. Rouen: The Nut Without Fruit
IV. Rouen: Fine, Scientific Works Without Warning
V. Rouen: Fast Drivings for the Purpose of Killing
VI: Rouen: The Difficult and the Impossible
As the story unfolded, I realized I had no idea what was going on or who the protagonist was supposed to be--he was in disguise, and I couldn't figure out who he was or why he was doing anything, but I just couldn't put the book down because it was so beautifully written, suspenseful and intriguing. Somewhere in Part Two things started making sense, and eventually I discovered that this book was the second novel in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. After I finished it, I went back and started over with the first book, The Game of Kings
, and read the whole series. Best historical novel discoveries ever.
I try to forget the bad ones, but recently my sister and I came across a novel in B&N called Searching for Pemberley
by a Mary Simonsen. The blurb and enthusiastic reviews made it sound like a pleasant bit of Jane Austen-ite fluff. Instead, it turned out to be the most tedious pack of kitsch I've ever tried to read. I got about halfway through and just couldn't care enough to continue. The modern (1940s) characters were predictable yet poorly drawn, the "search" for the supposedly "real" counterparts of Austen's Pride & Prejudice
characters was incredibly dull. Since there was no indication that Simonsen's "real story" had any basis in history, it was like reading a bland plot summary of P&P with the character & place names changed. Meanwhile, the 1940s story of a small-town American girl finding love in London during the blitz was so predictable that it wasn't worth finishing. So I stopped. This is what happens when fan-fiction gets out of control.