Do you ever rediscover books you haven’t read for years and take new inspiration from them?
For me, this week, it was the first two books of Iris Johansen’s Wind Dancer trilogy. These are books I adored in my teens. In proper, sweeping epic 80s fashion, the first book takes place in the fractured Italy of 1503, in the waning years of the Borgia papacy; the second during the bloodiest phase of the French Revolution. There are some… interesting… sexual politics involved (we’re talking Old Skool romance here), but what really impressed me about these books after all this time was their daring. These are no drawing room novels. They encompass battlefields, sea journeys, sieges, warring city states, corrupt tribunals, upheavals on a grand scale.
What I love even more? How they interweave with history along the way. “The Wind Dancer” involves a fictional statue in a fictional city state, but Cesare Borgia, who plays a more than cameo role, is real enough, as is the disarray of the beleaguered and fragmented Italian city states– not to mention tongue in cheek references to meeting a Messer Machiavelli. Likewise, the fictional cast of “Storm Winds” is firmly anchored in the real people and events of a revolution rapidly deteriorating into the Terror, with all its factionalism, crosses and double crosses.
These books reminded me of the joy of using fiction as a window onto history, not just one period of history, but a grand sweep of dramatic events. There’s something to be said for books that tackle tumultuous events that fearlessly….
What are your favorite rediscovered books?