Sunday, November 29, 2009

Five best: historical novels

Rebecca Stott is a professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She is the author of the novels The Coral Thief and Ghostwalk and a biography, Darwin and the Barnacle, and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of historical novels.

One title on the list:
The Rings of Saturn
by W.G. Sebald
New Directions, 1998

In "Rings of Saturn," the *German author W.G. Sebald weaves fact and fiction into a book that is part memoir, part travel narrative, part meditative essay and part history. The story twists and turns and shuttles back and forth through time and along England's desolate East Anglian coastline. As the unnamed narrator makes his way south on a walking tour through sand dunes and villages, he describes the relentless erosion of the coast, and as he does, stories wash up—like the workings of memory—wherever he goes. A postcard here, a newspaper cutting elsewhere, the remains of a mulberry tree, a photograph—these lost objects lead him to discussions of Chateaubriand, Swinburne and Conrad, mackerel fishing fleets, skulls and silkworms. For Sebald, history and memory is like a storeroom in a derelict mansion—full of dusty, nearly forgotten things, each of which, in the author's hands, yields its own haunting tale.
Read about the other four novels on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue