Nonfiction November Week 2: Book Pairings

This week’s #NonFicNov prompt is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey,  and she challenges us to pair a nonfiction book with a novel. She suggests a historical novel paired with the real history, which is the best place for me to start. In the run up to publication of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, third and final book in the Wolf Hall series, I took in a pre-Broadway run of Six in late 2019, and reread the first two books in early 2020. I was so ready. Unfortunately, my reading experience ended up being seriously dampened by early pandemic anxiety. A reread will be in order. But to make myself feel better, I indulged in a couple of Tudor nonfiction titles.

So if you liked the Wolf Hall series, you should check out:

  • Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII by Gareth Russell. Juicy and scandalous, but scholarly enough to bring some real insight into what the Tudor court was like for an eligible young woman.
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives is a little drier at times (he has a lot to say about her possessions, textiles and drinking vessels and prayer books and whatnot), but not without controversy, as theories abound about who Anne really was and how much agency she really had. But this does seem to be the authoritative account, and has been since 1986.

And speaking of royals, fans of Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle, or specifically the first book, Quicksilver, which is all I read, should check out the real life story of a minor character in Anna Keay’s The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth. He is portrayed as a lecherous rake in Quicksilver, and well, he basically comes across as the same in Keay’s history, but with some nuance. Great fun, and illuminating, if you read historical fiction set in this time.

Reading history (and not just royal history) to clarify and illuminate novels would be a fun project! It’s got me thinking about the world literature I’ve loved this year, like Independent People (20th century Iceland) and Demons (19th century Russia), and how they could probably be appreciated better with more background knowledge. I have a bit of a TBR going for Russian nonfiction, but wouldn’t know where to begin with Iceland.

I hope others are able to go beyond Katie’s suggestion of historical fictions/history, but I’m drawing a blank! I thought about suggesting various anti-social media books to go with Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts, but I’m going to save that for next week’s prompt…

13 comments

  1. volatilemuse

    What strikes me as being so extraordinary about Henry 8th is that people (well, women specifically) kept right on marrying him! Maybe they thought it could never happen to them.

  2. Nish

    These are very timely recommendations for me. I just finished The Mirror and the Light, and would like some non-fiction on these times. The Boleyn book does sound a bit dry though.

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    Thanks for sharing your recommendations. Someone taking part in NonFicNov actually has some suggestions re Iceland this week, though sorry I can’t remember who it was. A couple of my pairings don’t involve history.

  4. The Paperback Princess

    Historical fiction/nonfiction is where my brain always goes. Some interesting titles you’ve shared here – it’s been a very long while since I read about Tudors, might be time to dip back in. Have you read Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone? It’s about Stuarts, not Tudors but it was so very good.
    I’d be interested to find what books you come up with for Iceland! That’s definitely not an area I’ve read about at all!

  5. silverbuttonbooks

    It truly is difficult to not think of historical fiction / history. I suppose I should have paired poisons and mysteries! Ack, the benefits of hindsight. This is always the prompt that separates the mood readers from the people with passions and plans. I LOVE your pairing!

  6. louloureads

    I’m quite jealous that you were able to see Six before the pandemic hit! I’ve been loving the soundtrack over the past few months and am very keen to go and see it once masks are no longer required here. I’ve never actually read Wolf Hall – it must be one of the books that’s been on my shelves the longest.

  7. JaneGS

    And here I thought I was done with the Tudors for awhile, but now I am thinking I need to read the Catherine Howard book and maybe even the Anne Boleyn, although just a few months ago I swore off any more reading about Anne. It’s amazing how +500 years out, we are still drawn to trying to make sense of these people and their times.

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