cofax7: No such thing as too many books (Too Many Books -- Ropo)
[personal profile] cofax7 posting in [community profile] readingthepast
Many apologies for not posting on this earlier!

I propose a very loose set of texts for this discussion. I also propose a tiered discussion, with multiple opportunities to talk about history, themes, and colonialism.

Proposed texts (and feel free to read more widely and/or bring your own to the discussion):

Rosemary Sutcliff: Eagle of the Ninth. While almost any of her YA novels set in Roman Britain would work, Eagle has the advantage of including both military and civilian life, and both Roman and British life, as well as a cracker-jack adventure plot. Still, if you can't track down a copy, try to read The Silver Branch or Frontier Wolf or The Lantern Bearers (although that last is really more about the end of Roman Britain).

Patricia Finney: The Crow Goddess. This is OOP, might be available via library, is available used (although the copy I ordered still hasn't arrived). It's set partly in Britain and partly in Ireland, is a sequel (to A Shadow of Gulls), and contains a retelling of the story of Cuchulain, so it may not be for everyone. But I loved the intersection of the Irish tribesman/bard and the Romans, and the inevitable culture clash. (Also, Finney wrote it when she was, like, 18.) I would love to talk about it with someone who's read Finney.

Gillian Bradshaw: Island of Ghosts or Dark North, whichever you can find. Dark North is particularly interesting, as it's the story of an Ethiopian legionary who is assigned to a troop on Hadrian's Wall, so we get to examine racial issues within the military structure of the empire. And the Clive Owen King Arthur movie bears a distinct resemblance to the premise of Island of Ghosts, although this is not an Arthurian novel.

Lindsey Davis: The Silver Pigs. This is different than the others: it's a noir-ish mystery, the first of the Marcus Didius Falco series, which are officially set in Rome. This one includes an extended sequence in Britain, though, about AD 70, which is a bit earlier than the other novels. But it's nothing like the other novels, either, which is why I figured it was worth including. It's also quite fun, if you haven't read any Davis.

Finally, I'm throwing in Asterix in Britain, because why not? However the Amazon reviews indicate this translation is poor, and the older editions are OOP and very expensive used. So if you have read it, please feel free to discuss it and share your knowledge.

Themes to consider while reading: the position of women in the story, as characters and actors; the positioning of the characters in alignment with the Romans versus the British tribes, and how that positioning informs the narrative of British history; "civilization" and "barbarism" as defined by the story; how the eventual fall of the Roman Empire affects our reading of the story; the position of such novels in the YA canon (inasmuch as there is one).

Finally, Wikipedia has a condensed overview of the history of Roman rule in Britain.
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Reading the Past

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