Monday, August 29, 2011

Five Best Books: Based on a True Story

The 5 Best Books meme is hosted by Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston.

This week we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Based on a True Story. I don't really read a lot of books that are based on true stories. I do read historical fiction and historical mysteries that may feature real people, but they don't necessarily relay actual events. I do read historical books based on true stories occasionally, though. Here are my top five of those:

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The book that made me fall in love with Tey's writing. And got me interested in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains -- a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother's children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England's throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

2. Killer Angels by Michael Shaara: Recreates the Civil War at Gettysburg. My favorite novel about war. In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty were also the casualties of war. Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece is unique, sweeping, unforgettable—the dramatic story of the battleground for America’s destiny. - (
Random House, Inc.)

3. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. O
ne of my rare forays into true crime--particularly serial killers. But this one is so well written. A compelling account of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 brings together the divergent stories of two very different men who played a key role in shaping the history of the event--visionary architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and Dr. Henry H. Holmes, an insatiable and charming serial killer who lured women to their deaths.

4. Katherine by Anya Seton (click title for my review): I'm not much into the medieval time period. But this one is very good. This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.

5. The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter. Another British Inspector solves a mystery from long ago from his sickbed.
It is only to entertain himself in the hospital that the impatient Inspector Morse opens the little book called Murder on the Oxford Canal. But so fascinating is the story it tells--of the notorious 1859 murder of Joanna Franks aboard the canal boat Barbara Bray--that not even Morse's attractive nurses can distract him from it. Was Joanna really raped and murdered by fellow passengers? Morse believes the men hanged for the crime were innocent. Now, in one of the most dazzling investigations of his career, Morse sets out to piece together the shattered past, hoping to expose the shocking truth about the Barbara Bray--and a beautiful wench who is journeying towards her death.


Yvette said...

Great list, Bev.

KATHERINE, especially sounds very intriguing.

I'd forgotten that Morse story. Didn't read it, but saw the show based on the story.

J F Norris said...

I read THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY and really enjoyed the architectural and World Exposition part of the story more than the H H Munro part. I had long ago read a fictionalized account of the H H Munro killings in a novel by Robert Bloch called American Gothic so I was already familiar with the story. The sections devoted to Daniel Burnham, the building of the Ferris Wheel and the rivalry between Ferris and Eiffel, and the White City was thoroughly fascinating.