“The Rebels of Ireland”

Edward Rutherfurd

This book, along with “Princes of Ireland” is typical Rutherfurd: one location and stories about a set of loosely-connected characters through centuries of history. In this case the place is Dublin and the period starts with the last pre-Christian years and extends into the Irish Civil War.

I liked “Princes” a little better. “Rebels” started to drag a bit. They were both good, but not quite as enjoyable as some Rutherfurd’s other novels.

“Paris”

Edward Rutherfurd

I’ve read several of Rutherfurd’s place-based epic historical novels. They follow the Michener pattern: interlocked stories of fictional characters that take place in one location over hundreds or thousands of years. The model works; I’ve enjoyed them all.

“Paris” — which I had the good fortune to read in Paris — is a little different in that there are fewer time lines. His main focus is on the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result the characters in this book are more fully developed — and a more interesting — than the ones in his previous books.

This was my favorite book of his that I’ve read so far.

“The Forest”

Edward Rutherfurd

As he’s done in his other books, Rutherfurd takes one area – in this case England’s “New Forest” – and uses it as a setting for a loosely linked series of stories. And as I’ve done before, I took a fat Rutherford book – this one – on a long trip, in this case to Croatia.

Aside from having a hight content-to-weight ratio, “The Forest” has some good stories. In fact there isn’t a weak section in the book, which spans the early Norman era to the present day.

“Russka: The Novel of Russia”

Edward Rutherfurd

Rutherfurd’s books are ideal for the traveler: they provide a lot of entertainment for their weight and are long enough to last for hours of train, plane, and hotel reading. Since I had read Rutherfurd’s “London” on a trip to France, it seemed appropriate to read “Russka” on a trip to Italy. “Russka” made me want to go to Russia. I don’t know what I’ll read on that trip – maybe his books on Ireland.

“Russka” follows the Michener pattern: it’s the story of a fictional place (or two: Russia so big and diverse that Rutherfurd sets his stories in a northern town called Russka and a southern one of the same name) through hundreds of years. The characters are loosely connected through time by family ties. The tales aren’t evenly distributed chronologically. More time is spent on the 19th and early 20th centuries, so the book reads like several novellas leading up to a novel. While the early stories (the novellas) are good, the last third of the book (the novel) is even better, dramatically portraying the shifting fortunes of aristocrats, peasants, and the middle class during the turbulent decades that lead up to the revolution.

This is the story of Russia, not the Soviet Union. For the most part Rutherfurd skips over the Stalin decades and the Cold War and ends the book with a short section set in modern Russian.

This is a big book about a big country, but it’s so good that, in the end, it seems too short.

“London”

Edward Rutherfurd

This is a fat fictional history of London from ancient times to the Blitz told as a series of stories loosely connected by multi-generation family ties. Rutherford’s human characters aren’t especially notable, but his portrayal of the main character – London itself – is both broad and deep. Its sheer size makes it (the paperback version, anyway) an ideal book to take on a long trip. I read it on at trip to… France.