Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Favorite Reads #12: IN A DARK WOOD WANDERING by Hella S. Haasse

Alyce of At Home with Books hosts My Favorite Reads, a weekly feature spotlighting favorite reads from pre-blogging days. Because it's been a while since the books were read, these posts are not reviews per se, but rather impressionistic remembrances of a positive reading experience. I think of this feature as an opportunity to more deeply explore the range of my reading interests and those of other book bloggers and readers of book blogs outside of the current crop of new releases.

Do you have an old favorite that you'd like to share?

by Hella S. Haasse

Pub. Date: April 1991
Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers, Ltd.
Format: Paperback, 594pp
Sales Rank: 576,588
ISBN-13: 9780897333566
ISBN: 089733356X
Edition Description: Reprint

Description (from Library Journal):
This novel exemplifies historical fiction at its best; the author's meticulous research and polished style bring the medieval world into vibrant focus. Set during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the narrative creates believable human beings from the great roll of historical figures. Here are the mad Charles VI, the brilliant Louis d'Orleans, Joan of Arc, Henry V, and, most importantly, Charles d'Orleans, whose loyalty to France brought him decades of captivity in England. A natural poet and scholar, his birth and rank thrust him into the center of intrigue and strife, and through his observant eyes readers enter fully into his colorful, dangerous times. First published in the Netherlands in 1949, this book has never been out of print there and has been reprinted 15 times. This first English translation should find an enthusiastic audience. Highly recommended. BOMC featured selection; Quality Paperback selection.-- Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.

Why I Chose This Book: 
THROUGH A DARK WOOD WANDERING represents everything I like best about reading historical fiction. While I read this account of the life of Charles d'Orleans, I surrounded myself with reference maps and academic texts on British, French and European history. I read this book when it was first translated into English back in the late 80's/early 90's -- before the Internet had conquered the world. (Kind of gives a modern twist on the term "Dark Ages.") I just recall being so drawn into the events of the One Hundred Years War, that the contemporary world fell away from my consciousness. I would spend hours sprawled on my bed, poring over maps, and following up references in my texts. I love the way complete immersion in the historical period enables me to grasp the reality of that period - to fully understand, to know on a visceral level, and appreciate that the individual people actually existed and the events actually occured. I guess that's what they mean when they talk about bringing history to life. Closest thing to time travel that I've ever found!

Click here to visit the author's website.


bermudaonion said...

I don't think I've ever heard of this book, but it sounds fascinating.

Alyce said...

The way that you read history (with texts and maps surrounding) sounds like an excellent way to immerse yourself in the text. The only times I have come close to that are when I look things up online (like on wikipedia) while I'm reading.

celi.a said...

I agree with Alyce - that is dedication! I've never been that immersed, except when I've written history myself (I did a M.A. in Latin American History). I have to say that my interest in the late Middle Ages waned after high school, but this sounds like a solid historical read. Great pick!

My choice this week is D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.

Zibilee said...

This sounds so wonderful and like a book that I could absolutely lose myself in. I am so glad to hear that you loved it so much and that it inspired you onwards to much research. I am going to have to look for this one!