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Monday, May 4, 2009

Student Reading List: So you liked The Other Bolyen Girl, Now Try...

Along with reading maps, some of my students chose to do annotated reading lists for their final projects.

Here, Emily used the popularity of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl to offer 5 fiction and 5 nonfiction titles for further reading. In her talk and paper, Emily explained that she was supposing that readers who like the Gregory book do not mind long books and like historical fiction about real people. She also focused on stories about strong women, with a few men thrown in for good measure. Also, I like how she added a bit of humor to the list. See the first nonfiction title, A Treasury of Royal Scandals, below. Finally, notice how she wrote the annotations themselves. They are a good example of leading the reader into a book without giving it all away.

Here is Emily's list with links to Amazon:

If you enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, then you might try one of these!

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (1996) 432p
This is a novel about an extremely controversial character, Joan of Ingelheim, the first and only female pope! Yet Joan makes her way through school, the monastery, and up to become the pope's confidante all under the guise of being John Anglicus, a man. Along with the story of Joan, the reader will get a colorful and complex view of what it was like to live in the 9th century. This is a story of the struggles and relationships that one woman faced in order to become the most powerful figure in religion. However there is one thing that a woman can do that a man cannot, and that is something that is difficult to hide, especially from a catholic audience....

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund (2006) 592p
Like many royal marriages, this is one that was arranged at a young age. Marie Antoinette is sent to marry the Dauphin of France. She goes there trying to embrace her new family and her new country, but comes to realize that without producing an heir to the throne, she quickly falls out of favor. When you can't produce an heir because your husband will not consummate the marriage, what is a girl to do? The young Dauphine throws herself into an abundant and over indulgent social life at court. Readers get a vivid view of court life in France during the 1700's. But what will the cost of her socializing be? What about the country that she is supposed to be ruling? Will they turn against her and the Dauphin? Will they survive?

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran (2007) 496p
Set in ancient Egypt, this compelling and thrilling story is full of colorful places and people. This book is written from the viewpoint of Nefertiti's sister Mutnodjmet. She views her sister Nefertiti’s marriage to the unstable pharaoh Amunhotep and describes how the couple embrace a new god and their desire to overthrow the state religion and indulge in all of their own power. Mutnodjmet does not share in her sister’s desire for power, but she struggles as her sister orders her to remain at court and marry for political gain. We witness the relationship between family and the pressure to do what politics force royal families to practice. At what cost will Nefertiti and Amunhotep pay to gain the power they desire? At what cost to the sister's relationship? Egypt itself?

The Agony and the Ecstasy
by Irving Stone (1961) 784p
A well known historical figure, Michelangelo is portrayed in this novel as he explores his passion for sculpting, his talent for painting, and his struggle with the manipulative powers that use him as a pawn. Stone carves a delightful and beautiful story set in the vividly described Renaissance era. The art, the places, the people, and the discovery of rich and meaningful talent are clearly portrayed in this book. Michelangelo struggles with the tasks that royalty and the church require of him, the competition of other artists, and leaving behind unfinished pieces of precious marble in order to complete the work of a lifetime, the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. What hardships did he have to face in order to survive? What loves did he leave behind? What did one suffer in order to remain in favor of the powers that be?

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Key Penman (1985) 720p
This is the story of King John of England has taken the throne, his bastard daughter Joanna, his favorite, and Joanna's love Llewelyn the Great. This is a story about a woman struggling between the love of her doting father, and her romantic great love for her husband. This novel is rich in detail of the worlds of 12th century England, France and Wales. The relationships in this story are of true family love, but also marred by the politics of the time. King John is ruthless in his ruling and his greatest opponent is none other than his daughter's husband. Llewelyn did not know that he would fall in love with his rival's bastard, yet he does. How will the love of these two great men affect Joanna's life? If in the end she needs to choose one, which one will she choose to love?

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farqhar (2001) 352p
True as these stories may be, they are written with the mind of a common tabloid with subject headings such as "Temper Temper", "A Son Should Love His Mother, But...", and "Until Divorce or Decapitation Do Us Part (in Six Sections)". This book is full of all the nasty, interesting, twisted things that royals and people of power have done throughout the hands of time. This is a fun read that is entertainingly informative of those figures in history that we love to love, or love to hate. Can anyone guess who that last subject heading was for?

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
by Eric Ives (2004) 458p
Anne Boleyn had one controversial role in history as Henry VIII's mistress, then wife. We are familiar with her person as a seductress and emotional woman. Ives details Anne's life so that the reader learns that Anne took an active part in the politics as queen, a woman passionate about the new cultural Renaissance, and an intelligent ruler. Her whole adult life she struggled to remain in favor with the king and Tudor politics, but as we know her life is cut short. How did the court really bring down Anne Boleyn? Why is it still questioned today as being truth or lie?

The Six Wives of Henry VIII
by Allison Weir (1991) 656p
There was Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn...but was Henry VIII not famous for having six wives? Weir examines the lives of all six wives that Henry had. This book is not recognized for scholarly quality and reads more interestingly like a novel with little to no dialog. Every wife Henry VIII had was in some way scandalous. There is forced annulment, executions, deaths, and of course politics. We see Henry VIII as a man that wanted to please his people, but only if he could also please himself. He was a man of passion, but a passion that was so strong that he would kill or socially destroy his wives. And why would women keep flocking to him? Was his power so great? Did he ever finally have a wife that suited him and his people?

Catherine the Great by Henri Troyat (1977) 400p
Catherine the Great of Russia was another controversial character, and is somewhat similar to Henry VIII in the manner that she had many lovers. Catherine was married to the Grand Duke Peter, who was stark raving mad having deep obsessions with toy soldiers and Prussia. After the Empress's death, Catherine shows her power and ambition by overthrowing her husband, has him murdered, and takes over ruling Russia with love and determination as though it was her home country. Yet Catherine had not a drop of Russian blood in her veins. After having an unconsummated marriage for 8 years, Catherine begins her own string of romances and lovers. Catherine uses her relations with men for political gain and becomes one of the greatest female rulers in history.

Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn 480p
Illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I is a well known figure in English history. Mary Queen of Scots is also a figure that is recognized for her power and rule over Scotland. The relationship between these two women is strictly one of blood. Blood relations and the desire for the other ones blood on the scaffold. Having never even met, these two figures plot, plan, and attempt to destroy the other for the sake of their own personal safety and thrones. Of course as female do, they save face and speak not ill of each other to the public denying any plots against the life of the other. These bitter rivals share so much in common besides family ties, they struggle to rule a kingdom as single women, they fight the pressure to have a husband to produce heirs, and they both proclaim to be devout in their religion and love for their people. We know that only one of these women survived this brutal rivalry, but this book gives us the scandal and truth that lived behind the plot.


Michelle Moran said...

Thank you for recommending Nefertiti! I really enjoyed Here Be Dragons and Pope Joan. It's a shame more people aren't reading Pope Joan, in fact. In Germany, it's a mega seller!

Great list!

eme021 said...

THANKS!!!! Another librarian I work with just created a display with royalty in fiction and she used Nefertiti as well. People sometimes forget that there is historical fiction NOT based in England.