Historical Novels? Let me suggest ‘The Dublin Saga’ | SierraSun.com
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Historical Novels? Let me suggest ‘The Dublin Saga’

Barbara Perlman-Whyman
Special to the Sierra Sun
Stock photo/Sierra Sun
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When you think of history, do you equate it with memorizing all those dates and battles for high school history class? Or is history more interesting when you attend a Chautauqua event, or visited a “living history” museum or event? Perhaps you enjoy history, genealogy, or sociology and would like to explore the “what ifs” and “adventure” of digging deeper in search of truth. For each history buff, the historical novel is a genre of writing that should offer particular appeal. It will capture your imagination and teach you something at the same time.

A historical novel is a form of fictional narrative that reconstructs history and re-creates it with imagination. In it, both historical and fictional characters may appear. Though writing fiction, the good historical novelist researches his or her chosen period thoroughly and strives for that which resembles the truth.



Marie Edgeworth’s “Castle Rackrent,” published in 1800, is usually considered the first example of a regional novel in English and is regarded as the “first historical novel.” In 1814, Sir Walter Scott published “Waverly,” the first of his many novels, and remains today as one of the supreme examples of the historical novelist in English literature. His popularity inspired many other English well-known (and not so well-known) authors throughout the 19th and 20th century (i.e.Thackeray, Charles Kingsley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Baroness Orczy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy. Robert Graves, Mary Renault, William Golding, F. C. Forester, Pat Barker and T. H. White).

Among the European historical novelists are such notable authors as Balzac, Stendhal, Thomas Mann and Leo Tolstoy. And here in America, historical novelists such as Gore Vidal, Leon Uris, Pearl Buck and James Michener are respected and emulated. Each has brought an individual style to the genre and has established a following among other writers.



For example, Michener pioneered a type of historical fiction whereby his novels chronicle, in all-encompassing fashion, the history of a time and place through its development up to modern day, mixing fictional characters and families with real people and events. “Hawaii,” “Poland” and “Caribbean” are examples.

One of his disciples, so to speak, is the English writer Edward Rutherfurd. Born in the cathedral city of Salisbury, England in 1948, Rutherfurd was educated locally, going on to the universities of Cambridge, and at age 36, attened the Sloan course at Stanford University’s Business School.

Immediately after graduating, he worked in political research, bookselling and publishing. Then in 1983, after numerous attempts to write books and plays, he finally abandoned his career in the book trade, and returned to his childhood home to write “Sarum,” a historical novel with a 10,000-year story, set in the area around the ancient monument of Stonehenge and Salisbury. Four years later, when the book was published, it became an instant international bestseller, remaining 23 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Since then he has written five more bestsellers: “Russka,” a novel of Russia; “London,” “The Forest” set in England’s New Forest that lies close by Sarum, and his latest dubbed “The Dublin Saga” written in two volumes; “The Princes of Ireland” and “The Rebels of Ireland,” novels that cover the story of Ireland from pre-Christian times to the 20th century.

Having completed “The Dublin Saga,” I found my venture through the centuries of Irish history fascinating. Beginning in the first volume with the passionate tale of Conall and Deirdre, a reworking of the Cuchulainn legend, to the desecration of the Irish Catholic churches and shrines during Henry VIII’s reign, and then in the second volume from the ill-fated Irish revolt of 1534 through the years of British conquest and Irish insecurity and struggles for independence, I felt a more personal connection with the history as I became absorbed with the generation of characters caught up in the drama of their particular time and place in history. The humanizing of the characters and their fortunes changing with the centuries is very engaging.

When families’ divided loyalties are caught up in a century-long conquest of Ireland by the English and simultaneously the collision of religious turmoil between Catholics and Protestants ensues, the reality of the tension that is added to the times offers insight to decisions that were made, be they great and political or small daily dramas of everyday folk shaped by their personal passions.

I also now have a much greater appreciation for Dublin itself, a city that I dearly love and last had the glorious pleasure of experiencing a month after September 11, 2001 when I ran the Dublin Marathon to throngs of supporters throughout the city waving tiny American flags and cheering the Americans on. The deep scars of its history is ever evident in Dublin town, and there is no attempt to ever “cover them up,” but it breathes a vibrancy and optimism that is exciting, proud and patriotic ” as well as contagious. And, having read these books, I have a much greater appreciation for its evolution.

Both of these books are available on audio discs, narrated delightfully by John Keating, and although abridged, are quite comprehensive, lengthy and require time. Expansive as they may be, Rutherfurd’s books have been translated into 20 languages and there are more than 7 million books in print.

2 to 4 p.m. Reel Talk. Join us as we watch the PG rated film, “Field of Dreams,” based on the book Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella. This moving and inspiring film about following one’s dreams has become an American classic. A film discussion will follow the viewing. Adults.

4 to 5 p.m. Bernie Beauchamp and His Marionettes. Bernie uses marionette puppets in a musical variety format. Music from long ago is used to help children relate to many challenges, with an emphasis on tolerance for others and hope for the future. All ages.

November 9 – Carl Sagan (1934)

Ivan Turgenev (1818)

November 10 – Friedrich von Schiller (1759)

November 11 – Kurt Vonnegut (1922)

November 12 – Tracy Kidder (1945)

November 13 – Robert Lewis Stevenson (1850)

November 14 – Astrid Lindgren (1907)

William Steig (1907)

November 15 – Marianne Moore (1887)

Adults (fiction): “Sacred Hunger” by Barry Unsworth

Young Adult (ages 13-17): “Poison” by Chris Wooding

Juvenile (4th-6thgrade): ” The Jumbo Book of Space” by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson and Paulette Bourgeois

Children (2nd-3rd grade): “Samsara Dog” By Helen Manos


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