Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Iron King Maurice Druon

So if you like historical fiction, you may end up here in the world of the Frenchies. It seems that a lot of people got here via the fantasy series A Game of Thrones. Same publisher trying to make capital out of some similarities and flogging it as the original Game of Thrones. But this is dealing with history not fantasy and so has disapointed lovers of dragons etc. It was also made by the Frenchies into a mini series a few years ago.

This is the first of a series of books collectively known as the Accursed Kings. This first novel was written in 1955 and it perhaps shows in that it is a bit brief. The Action is set in 1307 and if it helps you to place that time, it is during the reign of Edward II in England. In fact, his Missus, Isabella features in the novel as the daughter of the ruling Philip the Fair of France (Fair as in looks, not nature).

The characters are pretty much straight out of the history books. We have a couple of bankers tossed in to help carry the financial aspects of the plotting plus provide a bit of young love. But it is mainly a down to business novel setting out what happened at the time. Proves again to me that you don’t need to make stuff up – humans will come up with fascinating stuff and all you need do is to add dialogue to history for a good yarn.

I will keep on with the series. As I said, not a big investment of your time if you want to give it a go. And, while we may know that Edwards son is going to invade sometime,  it’s kind of nice not being in England or Rome where we know what’s going to happen to the various characters. Recommended and I shall report back after about book four or five.

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The Gravediggers Daughter Joyce Carol Oates

Didn’t like it. Can’t recommend it. The first half of the book feels like a very slow moving JCO novel. It finds horror in the lives of a family. No need for spooks, demons or vampires for Joyce. Humans have more than enough horror in them. A German Jewish Dad manages to get his family to New York in 1936. Having saved them from the Nazi holocaust, he provides his own version of it. OK, it certainly would be tough being a refugee but what sort of dickhead saves his family only to torment them? We then follow the main character into her teen years where she takes up with a misogynist girl basher. Out of the frying pan, as they say. This guy is a real prick and you know she will have to leave him or he will kill her. Given the pace of the novel, you can be certain she is not due to die anytime soon.

The second half of the book flows along nicely. After Mr Arsehole girl basher has expanded his nastiness into bashing the baby, she has managed to leave. But we continue into all men are bastards territory. I’m more than happy to admit my gender are not all gentlemen but in a novel, there should be the odd decent bloke. I guess the guy she takes up with is OK. He provides for her and adopts her son (another damaged child) but he still no advertisement for men. The story runs along at a reasonable pace and then stops rather than concludes. 

At the end of the novel, an epilogue is tacked on which is correspondence between the main character and a woman who is perhaps a long lost cousin. 

This is an overly long novel that seems disjointed. The main character is damaged (and fair enough given what happens to her) but I didn’t really care that much. Go read something else, or have a cup of tea and a haircut – much better use of your time.

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