Turtledove, Harry. The Guns of the South.

NY: Ballantine, 1992.

I read this above-average alternate history novel when it was first published and I was impressed. I knew who the author was via his several earlier Byzantine-themed stories, which I thought were pretty good (possibly because I had some background in the history of that period), but this was his first novel in a comparatively modern setting. It was also, I believe, his first real commercial success. Unfortunately, it kind of went to his head.

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Bayard, Louis. The School of Night.

NY: Holt, 2010.

This isn’t quite the sort of book I would have expected from the author of The Pale Blue Eye and The Black Tower, but it’s interesting, none the less, and not a bad effort. It’s set more in the present than in the past, for one thing, and it’s much more cinematic and rather less intellectual than his previous work.

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Horn, Pamela. The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant.

London: Macmillan, 1975.

This not-huge volume has become the basic work on the life of the servant class during the 19th century. (I believe it’s based on the author’s graduate thesis.) After a brief chapter on the origins of domestic service in Britain, and why it was so much different from the equivalent situation on the Continent,

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Published in: on 26 November 2011 at 6:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Horn, Pamela. High Society: The English Social Élite, 1880-1914.

Stroud, UK: Alan Sutton, 1992.

Horn is a very well-regarded author in the field of 19th-century social history at all its levels, but here she restricts herself to the uppermost levels and only in the last generation, when the Prince of Wales was having a decided effect on people’s attitudes toward “Victorianism” and the Great War was just over the horizon.

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Published in: on 25 November 2011 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Kress, Nancy. Steal Across the Sky.

NY: Tor, 2009.

Kress is best known for her “Beggars” trilogy, the focus of which is genetic manipulation. That subject provides the underpinnings of this story, too, but in quite a different way. It’s a generation in the future and things aren’t that different on Earth — except for levees in lower Manhattan because of global warming — and then the world is startled by the sudden appearance of an alien presence on the Moon.

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Published in: on 23 November 2011 at 5:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Horn, Pamela. Ladies of the Manor: Wives and Daughters in Country-House Society, 1830-1918.

Stroud, UK: Alan Sutton, 1991.

While Mark Girouard is the best and best-known authority on the phenomenon and institution of the English country house, Horn is undoubtedly the leading expert on the people who lived there. She’s also one of the very best authors when it comes to domestic history of the Victorian era, from the scullery maids in the basement kitchen to the children in the attic nursery.

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Published in: on 21 November 2011 at 7:10 pm  Comments (3)  
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Barstow, Phyllida. The English Country House Party.

Wellingboro, UK: Thorsons, 1989.

For the past three or four centuries, but especially in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the English upper class (titled or not), spent as much time as possible in their often semi-palatial homes in the country. This tradition was very different from the situation in France, Germany, and especially Russia, where an urban-oriented aristocrat only repaired to his country estate when his sovereign ordered him to go there, as punishment.

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Baker, Kage. The Bird of the River.

NY: Tor, 2010.

This very appealing book is the third and last volume in a trilogy set in a fantasy world that is both very like and very unlike our own. In fact, unless she had an unpublished manuscript or two in her desk drawer, it’s the last work we will see from Baker, who died of cancer in 2010. (Which means fans of the “Company” novels are never going to find out what happened in 2355, dammit.)

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Published in: on 17 November 2011 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Baker, Kage. The House of the Stag.

NY: Tor, 2008.

This is the second volume of the fantasy trilogy that began with The Anvil of the World, and it’s a far better book. It’s also not a sequel but a sort of prequel, and you still must have read the first book or you’ll miss the import of nine-tenths of what’s going on in this one. Every world, real or fictional, includes “furniture” — the history, cultural evolution, mythology, and religion that provide the background to present-day life.

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Baker, Kage. The Anvil of the World.

NY: Tor, 2003.

Except perhaps in her very first book, The Garden of Iden, and though Baker has often excelled in developing intriguing characters, and in creating interesting worlds for them to live in, and writing scintillatingly witty dialogue for them to communicate by, she has just as often fallen short when it comes to working out a coherent plot.

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Published in: on 13 November 2011 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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