Containment and historical novels: my favorites

Confinement et romans historiques: mes coups de cœur

Last week I proposed a list of ten films, many inspired by true events, on the baseball. I go there today for a few more suggestions, but I’m focusing this time on the historical novels.

As the exercise is highly subjective, I do not pretend to introduce you to what I consider to be the ten best, but those who have marked my youth or my professional practice. If the heart you in said, I invite you again to register your choice in the comments section.

As was the case last week, I impose a maximum number makes the task more difficult. I astreins to avoid to write a too-long ticket, but also because I hope, consciously or not, the confinement will end before you have exhausted the list!

Before we start, I said that as I have already mentioned the title The plot against America (Plot against America) in two of my tickets this year, I do not place here. The work of Philip Roth, there would be yet better.

You go for it!

10. Gone with the wind (gone with the wind, Margaret Mitchell 1936)

The novel as much as the film became classics. If I first saw the film, it was while reading the novel I was captivated. Much more than the relationship between Scarlett O’hara and Rhett Butler, this is the portrait of life in the South, which caught my attention.

9. Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)

I remember to have been deeply marked by this history. Of course, I knew the reality of slavery at the time of the release of the book, but it never had me made as well. The story of this black woman haunted by the memories of the baby she kills him and allow him to escape the slave can only be deeply moved.

8. The Black Daliah (The Daliah noir, James Ellroy 1987)

I appreciate so much the novels as historical novels. The book of Ellroy was appropriate for me. The novelist was inspired by a real incident, the death of Elizabeth Short, to develop the narrative that unfolds in Los Angeles. This book was my first contact with the work of Ellroy, just before L. A. Confidential.

7. The crucible (Les sorcières de Salem”, Arthur Miller 1953)

I cheat a bit by dragging the title in the list since it is rather a piece of theatre. Denunciation of mccarthyism (communist witch hunt after the War), the piece recounts the events of Salem in 1692.

The witches, as the people targeted by the committee led by Joseph McCarthy in the fifties, were accused without proof.

6. Of mice and men (Of mice and men, John Steinbeck, 1937)

The book Steinbeck was first for me a reading is imposed. A young teenager, I was retarded that because one of my teachers demanded it.

A few years later, already attempted by studying history, I was plunged back into the work to appreciate this time all the power. I keep a dear memory of the portrait of the 1930s, as well as the relationship between George and Lennie.

5. Harvard Yard (William Martin 2003). If you never read that in French, there is little chance that you know about this american novelist. I place it here because I know that some of you will also inform, in the language of Shakespeare. My apologies to the other! If I had to sum up the work of Martin, I would say that the author of the Boston is a kind of Dan Brown that would have a real talent as a historian.

I’m each time impressed by the research that precedes the writing of each of his books. Martin has a real talent as a storyteller and his portraits of the realities of another era are generally fine and nuanced. If we were translating the work, I would use it definitely in my courses.

I suggest reading Harvard Yard, but I took an equal pleasure in the attendance of each of his novels, more specifically, those who put forward the investigations of the antiquarian Peter Fallon.

4. The given day (A country at the dawn, Dennis Lehane 2008) If I mention just before the novels of William Martin, I don’t know who, Martin or Lehane, I prefer. If Martin impresses me more by the quality of his historical research, Lehane is a better writer. Several of his novels have been brought to the screen.

Among his many books, I retain The given day, first of all because the action takes place in Boston. This city is one of my favorite in the United States.

3. To kill a mockingbird (Don’t shoot the mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960) We are approaching the top of the list and the choices are becoming more and more emotional. The novel by Harper Lee is published in a intense period of the struggle for the recognition of the rights of the black minority. Racism and rape are the main themes of a work which quickly became a classic.

To kill a mockingbird it is also the story of a character that I was immediately fascinated: Atticus Finch. The lawyer of the South, which depicts Blacks is a model of courage and virtue. The young teenager that I was, at the time of the discovery of the work has been particularly marked.

When Harper Lee published in 2015 Go set a watchman (Goes and post a sentinel), as well as many other readers of my generation, I am shaken. Atticus Finch is tottering on its base, his portrait becomes much more nuanced and the author presents him as an individual racist who opposes racial integration. Quite a shock and a great disappointment. The character who has inspired a generation of would after all a bigot? There is something to be disoriented…

2. Cider house rules (The work of God, the hand of the devil, John Irving, 1985)

I have read and re-read the book of John Irving, as I have seen and reviewed the film we had shot. I grew up in an environment relatively conservative and if at the time of the release of the book I knew the theme of abortion and the debates that surrounded the practice, it is this book that I owe my first thought deeper and more nuanced on the issue.

I remember going to be quickly attached to the main characters. Wilbur Larch, the good doctor, marked by the atrocities of the First War, and Homer Wells, a young orphan who grows up in the orphanage run by the general practitioner. Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, difficult to remain insensitive in the face of the housing situation.

Many years have passed since my first reading, but each time you replay the emotion remains the same.

1.Roots (Roots, Alex Haley 1976)

How to explain the presence of this other classic all at the top of the list? At Three-Rivers in my childhood, Blacks were not legion. I have vague memories of an american black who, on occasion, joined in with our celebrations of the New Year. A friend of my uncle and my aunt, he had referred to the Vietnam war. Skip, I never knew his real name, spent the whole evening at the piano, which he exploited all the potential to learn the tunes of blues-syncs.

In addition to the presence of Skip in my life, it is up to Alex Haley that I owe my discovery of the history of Afro-Americans. Not by the novel first of all, but rather for the saga tv broadcast around the world.

I decided to read the novel to the end of my secondary studies. If I have earlier referred to the character of Kennedy to explain the origin of my curiosity for american history, the Roots played a large role in my decision to pursue studies in history.

If it is, first and foremost, the interest for our story that I wanted to become a historian, throughout my career, the history of the american neighbour and I will be winks to whom, possibly, I’ve not been able to resist.

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