Welcome to the latest instalment of my Past Masters series of blog posts, in which I share with you some of my favourite historical fiction authors. It may seem like quite an obvious choice this time round, but I wanted to write about this particular author because, despite my love of history, I only discovered him when a relative lent me one of his books. Today, it’s C J Sansom.
C J Sansom
Which historical period does he write about?
He’s done a couple of standalone novels, but his most famous are the Shardlake books, which are set in Tudor England.
Why should I read him?
I didn’t pick these up initially simply because they were shelved in the crime section of my local bookshop, and I’m not really a crime fan. If like me that’s put you off trying them, don’t let it. The first three books of the series had already been released when an aunt lent me “Dissolution”; I devoured it and never looked back! I think the series is so successful because of the appeal of its main character, Shardlake: a lawyer with a hunchback and not at first glance the most likely of protagonists. Yet he is a character who really gets under your skin and as the books went on I found I became extremely attached to him. First and foremost he’s incredibly human, experiencing self-doubt, frustration, fear and anger; his authenticity endears him to the reader, as does his unswerving desire to do the right thing and ensure that justice prevails, even when he comes up against the most vile of characters. The stories are thoroughly gripping, a bit grim in places but never unreadably so – they are whodunnits, yes, but with a real depth of humanity to them.
Which authors are most similar?
The closest is probably S J Parris (someone I’ve raved about on the blog before), but I would also throw Rory Clements into the mix.
Which book should I start with?
I would definitely recommend the Shardlake series over the individual novels, and “Dissolution” is first in the series. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t read the books in order, but even though each novel is self-contained there’s always a bit of character development that perhaps you miss out on if you don’t follow the sequence.