It wasn't long ago we were talking about the Interregnum, the period between the establishment of the Commonwealth after the execution of Charles I and the collapse of the British republic and the coronation of Charles II. I'd like to know more, but it's usually glossed over in the textbooks.
Serendipity has lent a hand in the form of Act of Oblivion, the latest novel by author Robert Harris, who is my guilty pleasure in between reading proper writers like Vladimir Nabokov and Hilary Mantel. The novel begins with the hunt for the men who signed Charles I's death warrant, but there are plenty of flashbacks to the Civil War and the period under Cromwell.
I usually say that in good fiction there are no heroes or villains, but in this book Harris takes it a step further. Everyone in Act of Oblivion is both hero and villain, in a sense -- or we could just say that they are human and therefore flawed, complicated, and fascinating. He also does a good job of taking us into the mindset of 17th century characters without sacrificing relatability. Always a strong storyteller, here he's on top form with a compelling subject.
Thanks for this Dave, a serendipitous recommendation as I have recently subscribed to a blog which emails daily entries from Pepys's diary and so this epochal decade is very much in my mind!ReplyDelete
Further serendipity exists in the fact that at the moment we are matching day/date with SP's diary (i.e February 5th was a Sunday in 1660 as well as 2023) so the rhythm of our weeks are matched (it's fair to say Sam was *not* doing Dry January however!). Getting a single, daily entry this way makes SP's life and Restoration London seem vividly connected with our own lives - postcards from a timestream running parallel to our own rather than 'dead and gone.' I recently found myself remarking to my wife how SP had sadly been kept awake 'last night' by the barking of a neighbour's dog!
As I say, a world vividly connected to ours, in sight and sound, through the magic of words and imagination.
I've been meaning for some time to do a thorough dive into Pepys's diary, John, so maybe this is the right time for that. (I assume it's pepysdiary.com?)Delete
Yes, that's it! I wonder what SP would make of the website and think he would probably take it in his stride!Delete
The Killers of the King by Charles Spencer, is an excellent book which looks like it covers similar territory to The King's Revenge.ReplyDelete
I agree there is a death of popular history covering the interregnum, which seems bizarre given how - in many ways - it's an entirely unique period, out of step with the rest of English history (albeit also oddly in keeping, with the mercantile establishment ultimately able to co-opt both sides and plough on regardless).
I haven't yet read it, but The Restless Republic by Anna Keay is an exception to the above rule and I understand it's supposed to be very good.
Most fiction on the subject tends to take place during the Restoration, I imagine because of the depth of source material found in Pepys diaries.
For fiction, An instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears is well worth a look if you are not already familiar with it (albeit like An Act of Oblivion, it's set during the Restoration with references back to the Interregnum).
There was a really good (non fiction) series by Adam Nicholson on BBC 4 in the early 2010's called the Century that Wrote Itself, which looked at records from the period, but so far as I can see it was never repeated but worth keeping an eye on iPlayer for (you never know your luck!).
I'll keep an eye out for that Nicolson series -- frustrating that the BBC haven't issued it as podcasts.Delete
I also found an article in History Today (https://www.historytoday.com/archive/puritan-war-christmas) but it's behind a paywall and in any case it's only one article.
Dave didn't mention it, but he certainly knows An Instance of the Fingerpost, as he's the reason I have a copy!Delete
I can't remember anything about it now, though I see it sitting there on the shelf so I'll read (or re-read) it as soon as I finish my current book (The Iliad, as it happens).Delete
I can't remember anything about it myself apart from it being a historical crime novel (the Bao connection being responsible for you giving it me) and being pretty good.Delete
Perhaps it's time to publish the Bao novel? Easy to do on Kindle. I have been trying to get Oliver to self-publish his novel The Knight of the Fields, which no traditional publisher seems likely to go for now. His argument is that he'll only sell half a dozen copies a year, but I think that's a big improvement on no readers at all.Delete