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Seeking a subgenre.
Sun Oct 8, 2017 5:12am

I've noticed lately that there seems to be a subgenre of what I have to call generational historical fiction. This is where a book or series of books doesn't follow one character, but a family line across a long swathe of history.

The first example that comes to my mind is Rosemary Sutcliffe's Eagle of the Ninth saga, which runs from the height of Roman Britain to the Norman Conquest. Thd family with the dolphin ring (another thing: there's quite often an heirloom passed down the family, to maintain the narrative thread) is fairly common, but they make a great window on British life pre-conquest.

There's also Steven Saylor's Roma and Empire, which run from before the founding of Rome to the reign of Emperor Hadrian. That also has a piece of jewellery, and sticks with the same family; it does bring its protagonists rather closer to greatness, though (they hang out with basically every Emperor).

But I don't know how big this sub-genre is. In particular, I'd love to know if it exists for history outside western Europe. If someone's done this for, say, China, or one of the African nations, it would be a fantastic way for me to fill some of the gaps in my feel for history.

Does anyone have other examples? I think Stephen Baxter's Time's Tapestry also counts, running pretty continuously from the Roman invasion of Britain to Columbus' journey - though it is a bit more sci-fi-ish, with the 'heirlooms' being messages from the future. I can't count something like his Northland trilogy, because it only shows three widely-separated generations, not the slow progression.



    • Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, maybe.Neshomeh, Thu Oct 12 2:18pm
      Rather than following one family, it follows several intertwining ones through WWI, WWII, and the Cold War/Civil Rights era. All European and American, but with some good attention paid to women, gay ... more
    • Non-fiction, though--a sort of creative autobiography mixed with family history, IIRC. It's called The Hare With Amber Eyes (I've forgotten the author's name). It uses a particular type of Japanese... more
      • That sounds about right.Huinesoron, Thu Oct 12 4:46am
        The 'fiction' part of 'historical fiction' was the more disposable part. ;) It sounds interesting, I'll have to look it up; the artistic nature of the heirloom ties in with some of my previous... more
        • Great :)Zingenmir, Fri Oct 13 4:25am
          Hope you enjoy. The author's name is apparently Edmund de Waal; Google says he's a British ceramicist, which is a nice coincidence considering I was just looking at a Facebook post about potters... ~Z
    • That's a pretty cool subgenre! Never heard of it before...twistedwindowpane, Sun Oct 8 2:18pm
      The closest thing I've seen is that thing creators do sometimes when they make one story's protagonist the descendant of another story's protagonist as kind of a fun detail or easter egg. (Yep. iD... more
      • Well, for my part...Huinesoron, Mon Oct 9 9:31am
        .... I've gotten very bad at replying to anything . Checking over the Front Page... ... sweet mercy, how is the entire month of September still up? Where's everyone gone ?! Anyway, no, you're not... more
        • Oh mein Gott. East of Eden.twistedwindowpane, Thu Oct 19 9:48am
          I'm reading it for English class. Would that count? It covers multiple generations and is historical fiction (a lot of Biblical references in there, too.) -Twistey (Also, there are a couple googly... more
          • I don't know, I've never read it.Huinesoron, Thu Oct 19 10:42am
            [Checks] It looks like it precisely fits what I was talking about, buuuuut I did Of Mice and Men at school and just plain don't like Steinbeck. ^_~ (I saw this one ; I also saw this one before it... more
            • Yeah I know right?twistedwindowpane, Sat Oct 21 7:15pm
              Steinbeck is all like "Mass production and working in groups is destroying our creativity. Nothing good can come out of collaboration." and I'm like "Oh yeah?! I can debate that! *shoves Warriors... more
        • Ah, okay. Thanks for letting me know. (nm)twistedwindowpane, Sun Oct 15 8:05pm
        • I mean, there aren't many new threads, but...Iximaz, Mon Oct 9 10:14am
          The ones that are currently up have been extending longer and longer. There's 72 posts in the last week alone.
    • Old Kingdom Series - Garth Nix (nm)Maxewell, Sun Oct 8 1:05pm
    • Wikipedia has a list of some popular works in the genre.
      • Looks like!Huinesoron, Thu Oct 12 4:50am
        Wikipedia's list looks incredibly drab, though - it's items 'of literary note', which is usually shorthand for 'borderline unreadable'. ^_~ I quite like the idea of The Palaeologian Dynasty. The Rise ... more
    • The only such series I think I've read . . .doctorlit, Sun Oct 8 7:53am
      is the North and South trilogy by John Jakes. It presents the U.S. Civil War period through the eyes of two separate families from Pennsylvania and South Carolina, reaching from the decade of unrest... more
      • The funny thing about the civil war...Huinesoron, Thu Oct 12 4:55am
        ... is that I've learned most of what I know about it from alternate history stories. Certainly I can't think of any other reason I would have had the Natural Geographic civil war poster hanging... more
    • Need it be a family line?Thoth, Sun Oct 8 7:21am
      ...Because look at Foundation: It has a lot of aspects that you're discussing: an heirloom (The Seldon Plan and the videos) as a common thread, following a common line across a wide swath of history... more
      • Ah, Asimov.Huinesoron, Thu Oct 12 4:53am
        It's bad to say that I've never really liked his writing, isn't it? :( But I haven't. I think this genre is actually more common in fantasy/scifi than realistic fiction. Being able to explore the... more
        • Fair enoughThoth, Thu Oct 12 9:56am
          Yeah, makes sense. As does your distaste for Asimov: it's not for everyone, especially not Foundation, which is an interesting series, but has quite a few problems as a story - well, the trilogy... more
          • AddendumThoth, Thu Oct 12 9:57am
            And to be fair, I feel the same way about Tolkien a lot of the time. :-)
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