Saturday, January 24, 2015

Readings in History -- The Civil War. The British Regency. And Campy Espionage?

Last night the Notting Hill Napoleons, our peerless book club of 23 years, met at the Malek home for a stimulating discussion of Jeff Shaara's moving novel of the 1863 Vicksburg campaign, A Chain of Thunder. 

The general conclusion?

We liked the book very much.

But then that's no surprise. Our booklists of recent years have regularly included one of Shaara's titles. He is an excellent, fair minded historian who writes with insight, empathy, and careful prose.

But several in the group last night suggested this novel may have been their favorite of all the Shaara novels we've read, particularly because he featured among his other characters (Grant, Sherman, Pemberton, Johnston, and others), a female civilian who provided an intense look at what went on in Vicksburg itself during the long siege.

It's a very good book.

My other post-Epiphany reading has involved much different literature. Indeed, one might be hard pressed to justify even calling it literature. But it's been a lot of fun. And it has provided its own sense of history; namely my own.

You see, on one of the 12 Days of Christmas, I gave Claire a rather campy gift of 14 cheap paperback books I had found on E-bay, books that were based on the 1960's TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Claire got a kick out of the gift (a few days before she had given me a download of the whole second season of the show) but she knew my present wasn't only for a gag. She knew full well that I couldn't wait to read them myself. And that's exactly what happened. They are very quick reads but they're full of page-turning adventures as Napoleon Solo, Ilya Kuryakin, Mr. Waverly and the rest of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement battle the evil minions of T.H.R.U.S.H.

Like I said, fun stuff, especially for someone who appreciated U.N.C.L.E. the first time around.

And the other book? Well, that's one I'm re-reading from years past. It's Pride and Prejudice by the incomparable Jane Austen. I probably should be reading another of her masterpieces, Persuasion, since that's the NHN selection for February, but I can't wait any longer to read P. D. James' 2011 mystery that I just bought before the holidays. It is Death Comes to Pemberley. But since James uses the scenes and characters from Pride and Prejudice for her mystery, I wanted to make sure I had those clear in my mind.

So Pride, then Pemberly, and then Persuasion.

Unless I find where I can order those few Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperbacks that I'm missing. If so, I'll probably push everything else back a bit.