Great Reads: Historical Fiction

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The appeal of historical fiction lies in the ability to be nostalgic for a time long ago, whether you yourself were present or not. I love the occasional historical fiction novel, and I’ve read a few in my time that I’ve loved, so these are the ones I want to share with you.

1.

A Little in Love by Susan E. Fletcher

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As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive. – from Goodreads.com

I think most people have heard of Les Miserables, and even more know the story. But do you know Eponine’s story? If no, fear not, Susan E. Fletcher has got you covered. Written from Eponine’s perspective, this companion novel chronicles her journey in Victor Hugo’s classic novel.

2.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

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A spirited, witty and fresh reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! Lydia is the youngest Bennet sister and she’s sick of country life – instead of sewing and reading, she longs for adventure. When a red-coated garrison arrives in Merryton, Lydia’s life turns upside down. As she falls for dashing Wickham, she’s swept into a whirlwind social circle and deposited in a seaside town, Brighton. Sea-bathing, promenades, and scandal await – and a pair of intriguing twins. Can Lydia find out what she really wants – and can she get it? – from Goodreads.com

Similar to A Little in Love, Natasha Farrant’s Lydia narrates the story of Pride and Prejudice from Lydia Bennet’s perspective. We know she runs away to Brighton and ends up marrying the devilishly handsome George Wickham, but what do we know about what she got up to there? In Farrant’s novel, we can certainly find out!

3.

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

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Judith can’t speak. Ever since the horrifying trauma that left her best friend dead and Judith without her tongue, she’s been a pariah in her close-knit community of Roswell Station; even her own mother won’t look her in the eye. All Judith can do is silently pour out her thoughts and feelings to the love of her life, the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember – even if he doesn’t know it – her childhood friend, Lucas. – from Goodreads.com

When I first picked this book up, I didn’t realise that it was historical fiction. I’m not sure where I first read the synopsis but my brain assumed it was a contemporary, and so when I began reading the opening pages, I was definitely surprised. Having said that, the book gripped me from the first page and I still think about this book a lot even to this day, even though I read it two years ago. I definitely haven’t read a book like it since!

So these are my recommendations to you for historical fiction. Have you got any for me to try out? And are you going to put these books on your TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

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Big Books: Over 500 Pages

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As I said in my Quick Reads post: I like big books and I cannot lie. I don’t always like to read books with lots of pages, as sometimes they can be quite intimidating, but occasionally I can’t resist and sit down for the long haul. Here are some of the bigger books that I’ve absolutely loved and want to share with you.

Please note that the number of pages is subject to the edition.

1.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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Number of Pages: 593

Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality. – from Goodreads.com

One of my favourite reads from last year, Pessl’s Night Film is not only told in prose but also articles and web pages, which makes it stand out from the rest in its field.

2.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

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Number of Pages: 802 

Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. – from Goodreads.com

I don’t think there’s a person on the planet that hasn’t heard of Game of Thrones, and whilst you wait for season seven to start, why not go back to where it all began with the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

3.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

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Number of Pages: 608

One beautiful March morning, a student goes to school with guns instead of books, and starts shooting. Ten people are killed, and the local town is left reeling. In the search for justice and explanations which follows, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case is the state’s best witness – but she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. Or can she? – from Goodreads.com

This was the first ever Picoult book I read and I absolutely adored it. The way the book was crafted and woven together was magical to watch and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

4.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Number of Pages: 1,463

Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. – from Goodreads.com

Perhaps for the most dedicated fans of Les Miserables The Musical or the 2012 film, the original works that inspired both is nearly a beastly 1500 pages. I have read it and I loved it!

5.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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Number of Pages: 512

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. – from Goodreads.com

Retellings are very common, but finding one as sublime as Sittenfeld’s Eligible is slim. This is another book I read last year and absolutely loved! Now it’s the top of my recommendation list.

So these are my top five books that are definitely worth your time, despite how big they seem. In a lot of these cases, the pages are just a number so you’ll end up flying through them. Do you have any big books you think I’ll love? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 10 Movie Musicals

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The “movie musical” is a genre that has become increasingly popular over the years. With West End shows more popular than ever, it seems every director is jumping on the all-singing, all-dancing bandwagon. Recently, classics such as Les Miserables and Into the Woods have taken the leap from Stage to Screen starring big names like Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep. I’ve watched a fair few myself, taking pride of place in my illustrious DVD collection, so I’ll be ranking my favourites from ten to one. As always, I’ll only include films I’ve seen and can vouch for, and I’ll only include titles that have appeared on both the stage and the screen.

10

Sweeney Todd

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The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical. – from IMDb

The Burton/Depp/Bonham-Carter conglomerate has been a bit hit and miss (let’s not talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but Burton definitely got a hit with his re-imagining of the Tale of Sweeney Todd. The cinematography is sufficiently creepy, with fantastic performances from Sacha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, Jamie Campell Bower as Anthony, Ed Saunders as Toby, and Alan Rickman (RIP) as Judge Turpin.

9

Les Miserables

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In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever. – from IMDb

One of the more recent movie-musicals to hit the screen, and one of the most incredible all-star casts since Love Actually. The only reason this film doesn’t chart higher on the list is because it’s so long! The stage musical itself is generous in length, but I often don’t watch the DVD because I don’t have time to watch it in it’s entirety. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks give standout performances, and it’s interesting to observe these stars singing live, which has never been done in a movie-musical before.

8

The Sound of Music

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A woman leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower. – from IMDb

On paper, this film shouldn’t work. Singing nuns, seven children, clothes made out of curtains, yodeling, goats and Nazis! But there’s something familiar and warm about the Sound of Music, and Julie Andrew’s portrayal of the naive and feisty Maria. In my house, it’s practically tradition to watch this ever Christmas.

7

Love Never Dies

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10 years has passed since a fire broke out in Paris – leaving only a mask behind… As the love story continues in Coney Island, NY. – from IMDb

This musical is my guilty pleasure. It seems like someone has turned Phantom of the Opera into a sticky soap-like fan-fiction, and is loosely based off of The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, the unofficial sequel to the original novel by Gaston Leroux. I’m not quite sure what Andrew Lloyd Webber was on when he wrote this musical, but there’s something beautifully bizarre that keeps me coming back.

6

Billy Elliot

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A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval. – from IMDb

So this is a slight cheat here. Billy Elliot the original film had music in it, but wasn’t necessarily a musical. It was adapted to stage in 2005 and most recently, the live production was streamed out to hundreds of cinemas around the country, and was released on DVD. I’ve seen Billy Elliot in London four times, and I love having a piece of it to watch at home.

5

The Phantom of the Opera

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A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves. – from IMDb

Okay, slight cheat numero dos. I haven’t ever seen The Phantom of the Opera film starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum (can you blame me? I’ve only heard bad things), so I prefer to watch and listen to the 25th Anniversary Live performance with the Holy Trinity (Karimloo/Boggess/Fraser). I know some parts were tweeked from the stage version normally shown in London, but I really enjoy watching the Holy Trinity at their best.

4

Into the Woods

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A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree. – from IMDb

This film was my most favourite of 2015, with another all-star cast, all of whom had fantastic voices and an imaginative reworking of Sondheim’s classic tale. Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch particularly stands out, and Corden and Blunt’s chemistry leaps off the screen, perfectly complimented by Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. The list is endless for reasons why I love this film.

3

Rent

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This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America. – from IMDb

This film was what kick-started my love for Rent. I know this ensemble doesn’t contain entirely the original cast, but having most of the originals there made it so much more special. The screenplay was also written by one of my favourite writers Stephen Chbosky who famously wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book and screenplay).

2

Jersey Boys

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The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons. – from IMDb

My Jersey Boys obsession has been a recent discovery, as last year I saw the musical for the first time when it came nearby on tour. There’s something so electric and charming about these four guys and their dynamic that keeps their story timeless. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and instead of casting well known actors in the roles, Eastwood decided to cast actors who had played the roles on the stage, including John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his performance as Frankie Valli on Broadway.

1

Mary Poppins

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A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker’s unhappy family. – from IMDb

Mary Poppins is probably one of the greatest musicals ever written. Originally adapted from the book written by PL Travers, into the Disney Classic we know and love today. The story was then adapted onto the stage, starring a young Carrie Hope Fletcher, and closely resembled the book, rather than the sugary-sweet practically-perfect Mary that we were closely affiliated with. To me, Julie Andrews is at her best in this role and is my all time favourite movie-musical.

What do you guys think about my top ten? Have I missed any out? And do you agree or would you rather see a different film take the top spot? Let me know in the comments.