Frederic Raphael

History plus Sex

Confederates

By

Collins 554pp £5.95 order from our bookshop

The historical novel, generally speaking, could be said to owe its popularity to a simple formula: history plus sex. Even so cardboard an example as Sir Walter· Scott’s Ivanhoe, the first ‘adult’ book ever pressed upon me, is memorable for the lustrous Jewess (Rachel, I expect) who, if memory serves, was among those done to death in York, though she may, like Shylock’s Jessica, have lived to enjoy a spiritual nose-job through conversion to Christianity. The ancient world was first brought to something approaching life for me by the admirably candid, if scarcely Dionysiac, stories of Naomi Mitchison, though one did eventually discover that not all ancient historians were as left-right-left as Xenophon or as dryly sophisticated as Thucydides. (If only Procopius had been born a few centuries earlier, what an Alcibiades we should have!)

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,