Several Recommendations: Historical(ish) Fiction

They treat history itself or their historical fiction source material with varying levels of respect and success, but all manage to be pretty enjoyable.

If you’ve been following Realmgard for any appreciable amount of time, you should be aware that I’m a history buff — it’s been one of my major interests since basically forever and is ultimately what I have two university degrees in — shout out to the Carleton College of the Humanities and U Ottawa Department of Classics and Religious Studies/Département d’études anciennes et de sciences des religions de l’Université d’Ottawa.

Anyway, here are several more of my recently-updated recommendations, all of them featuring a history theme.

[H]onestly, things like “Even the heroes were jerks”, “The things we take for granted didn’t always exist”, “War is terrible”, and “The past was generally awful, be happy it’s over” aren’t terrible lessons for kids to learn.

I got my little brother the box set of the Horrible Histories books for Christmas one year when he was in Grade Four or so. And, clearly, they made an impression on him, because he actually read them — particularly surprising because he was never really into books in general and especially not into history.

Now, the books might be a little morbid and dark for some tastes, but if you’re at all into British humour, you’ll probably think they’re hilarious.

Incidentally, there’s also a Horrible Histories TV show from the BBC that’s basically a fast-paced sketch comedy show.

My full recommendation is here:

Let me put it this way: Tolkien had the approval of neither the Tolkien Estate or the Tolkien Society and didn’t have the rights to any of Tolkien’s published works — so, instead of mentioning any of his books by name, the characters just make a lot of vague allusions by dropping words like “rings” and “fellowship”.

Like, if the movie was a completely fictional account and they changed the Tolkien to, say, Johnny McWritesBooks, the film would have been pretty well received as a fairly emotional love story and commentary on the life of an artist.

Now, 2019’s Tolkien does get the broad strokes of Tolkien’s life right. And then promptly either ignores or makes up the details. It’s still a pretty emotionally powerful movie and does have some genuinely really funny bits of dialogue, but I suspect your enjoyment of it is going to be inversely proportional to how passionate you are about the integrity and accuracy of a depiction of Tolkien’s life.

My full recommendations is here:

47 Ronin the movie more or less follow the basic events of the [real story of the historical forty-seven ronin], just in the most movie-y, unnecessarily over-stylised manner possible … [but it] quickly becomes apparent that the historical story is going to be going off the rails to a degree not seen since Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 hit single

Like Tolkien, Universal’s 47 Ronin is decent in a vacuum, but a shockingly, potentially offensively, fast and loose adaptation of a real story. And, much like Tolkien, your enjoyment will probably be affected by how much you care about the integrity of that original story.

Let me put it this way: it’s not a Japanese movie, it’s an American movie about Japan, or least a lot of the Western cliches and stereotypes about Feudal Japan.

Fundamentally, it would have worked significantly better as an anime, but my recommendation of the movie we ended up with is here:

Look, I’m not big on mystery fiction, so for me the appeal isn’t the Mysteries part of the series, is the Roman part. I have a Classics MA. AD 79 Ostia is, as the cool kids say, my jam — well, technically, my jam (by which I mean “thesis subject”) was Judaism in Late Antique Roman society.

But, still, ancient Rome has been something I’ve loved reading about since I was a kid. My copy of the Eyewitness Rome book got a lot of mileage.

Roman Mysteries author Caroline Lawrence has Classics degrees. As we’ve seen, all the best authors do. And she’s putting hers to good use.

Like I said, I’m not super into mystery stories, so I’m not really sure I can judge how well The Roman Mysteries series executes its mysteries, but I will tell you that it’s a pretty engaging look at everyday life in Rome (which inevitably culminates in a mystery to solve) of the sort that tends to get overlooked both by surviving Roman sources and a lot of modern historians, which is precisely why it’s so engaging.

My full recommendation is here:

It’s an adaptation of the original novel. In much the same way Star Wars is an adaptation of samurai movies.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t love Disney’s 1993 Three Musketeers. I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t a terrible adaptation of the original novel. Worth noting, however, that there’s never been a good adaptation of The Three Musketeers.

A lot of that is that nearly 200-year old novels don’t necessary translate to screen, and most of the changes that make it a bad adaptation make it an enjoyable vaguely historical action movie.

My full recommendation is here:

My full list of recommendations is here.

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