A Literary A-Z: F

Up to ‘F’ already. Please feel free to play along. Any book, fiction or non-fiction, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with that letter.

In the 1970s, I used to belong to The Military Book Club. One of those organisations that sent a book every month, and you could decide whether or not to keep it. They sent me a book by John Keegan, ‘The Face of Battle’. I kept that one, and still have it today. This examined the historical side of combat, the logistics, the myths, and the realities. Choosing just three famous battles, Agincourt, Waterloo, and The Somme, Keegan delivered a fascinating insight into war over the centuries. One for fans of the genre only of course.

Sarah Waters 2002 novel ‘Fingersmith’ might best be described as a Victorian crime drama, with a modern twist. Imagine the writing of Dickens, but with references to lesbianism and pornography, and you will get the idea. Told in three parts, this is a very interesting book, exploring so many different themes which are all intertwined in the lives of the main characters. Don’t be put off by the subject matter though. This book won awards, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize too. It was later made into an excellent two-part drama by the BBC, starring Sally Hawkins. It is available on DVD.

Philip Jose Farmer was an American writer who specialised in the Science Fiction genre. I only read his ‘Riverworld’ series; five books set on an imaginary planet in the future, populated by some characters who are familiar to the reader, in a decidedly unfamiliar environment. This is an enormous work of fantasy and ideas, which I became sucked into, after struggling with the first book for some time. Once you get your head around the concept, it becomes addictive indeed. If you like such themes, but have never read this series, prepare to be amazed.

‘What if?’ books can be very intriguing. Take historical events, reverse the outcome, then explore what might have happened differently. ‘Fatherland’ is a 1992 novel by Robert Harris, and it is based on the presumption that Germany was victorious in WW2. In 1964, Hitler is still alive, and about to celebrate his 75th birthday. The story centres on the investigation into the death of a high-ranking official, by one of the leading characters, detective Xavier March. But the world imagined is so well done, with a believable alternative to actual events, and convincing technology, politics, and world affairs. This really is an excellent novel, and can be enjoyed by fans of many different literary genres.

My top pick today is a novel about books, and the burning of them, from one of the great modern writers, Ray Bradbury. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ was published in 1953, but is as relevant today as it ever was. In the shadow of the McCarthy era in 1950s America, Bradbury brought us a vision of the future, in which all books are banned. In the book, ‘Firemen’ are employed to burn books, and the possessions of those who read them too. Paper ignites at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, hence the title. One ‘Fireman’, Montag, becomes involved in saving books, and associates with others who hide books to read. I will not give away any more of the story, but I recommend this book without reservation, as the foretelling of a dystopian future that is all-too possible.
It was also made into a film in 1966, starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.

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61 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: F

  1. Pete, I like your “F” choices and “Fatherland” sounds great, I think “what if” historical writing can be fascinating, so I’ll definitely check that one out. “Face of Battle” was just outstanding, I think even people who have 0 Zero interest in military history would find it hard to put down.
    Speaking of military history, “The Forgotten Soldier” by Guy Sajer is one of the best war reminiscences.
    Fiction: “Frankenstein” was already mentioned, and can be re-read and enjoyed on many different levels.
    Robert Frost, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner of course. Jack Finney “Time and Again” one of the best time travel novels ever. Alan Furst for his WWII novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to meet someone else who has read Keegan’s wonderful book. I read the Sajer in my 20s, and it’s a powerful memoir of WW2. I didn’t feature it, but also recommend ‘Devil’s Guard’, by George Robert Elford. ‘Fatherland’ is well done, but not so good as a film, despite a compelling cast.
      Thanks for all your other suggestions too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was thinking of Fitzgerald and Faulkner. It’s very difficult to choose a Faulkner novel. Some are quite complicated but I love them all. Perhaps ‘The Sound and the Fury’ and ‘As’ I Lay Dying’ Superb suggestions!

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  3. Fantastic blog, Pete. I now realize I have missed A-E so some catching up to do. Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite authors ever, and I realized a decades-old dream the first time I tasted dandelion wine. I’ve also had the chance to make some of my own, all because of Mr Bradbury. My older brother brought me up to read science fiction when we were much younger so Philip Jose Farmer was another of the names he ‘made’ me read… How about an obvious ‘F’ – Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus? Although I’m sure some of your other readers will have suggested that. Or Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (another favourite). It is the first in the Deptford Trilogy of novels. Keep ’em comin’! All the best, Elizabeth

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  4. F already? I love Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, World Without End, Winter of the World, Eye of the Needle, Edge of Eternity. I admire Murray Bodo’s Francis: the Journey and the dream, it’s a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I also read Joy Fielding and Helen Fielding, Anne Frank (of course) , Robert Fulghum’s books are a must read for me. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is a personal favorite. Mister God, This Is Anna also belongs to my fave list. It’s by Fynn.

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  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of one (if not my all-time) favourite book from school, The Great Gatsby! I was trying to save that one for your “G” day to have a double letter, but I really can’t resist today.
    Hope all is well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, TTT. I did read ‘Gatsby’, and always thought I should have read much more of his work.
      The 1920s were a fascinating time of change. (Just sneak it in again under ‘G’…)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There are not many left with “F”!
    Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary
    Joy Fielding,
    Margaret Forster,
    Marianne Fredrikson
    an the great German Theodor Fontane *1819-1898.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fahrenheit 451 and Fingersmith would definitely be at the top of my list Pete. Also:
    The Froggy picture book series – London
    Faith of My Fathers -McCain
    Fall Of Giants – Follett
    Fall Of the House Of Usher – Poe
    Frankenstein – Shelley
    The Falls – Oates
    A Fine Balance – Mistry
    The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Albom
    Five Quarters of The Orange – Harris
    Flags of Our Fathers – Bradley and Powers
    Flight Behavior – Kingsolver
    Flora – Godwin
    Forever – Hamill
    Forever – Blume
    The Forgotten Waltz – Enright
    Fortune’s Rocks – Shreve
    Freakonmics – Levitt and Dubner
    Funny Girl – Hornby

    Authors: William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nancy Farmer, Raymond Feist, Jasper Fforde, Helen Fielding, Anne Fine, John Flanagan, Ian Fleming, Ken, Follett, C.S. Forester, E.M. Forster, Anne Frank, Robert Frost, Cornelia Funke, Mark Ferrari

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  8. A nice selection Pete.

    Can I suggest Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby and Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes, two of my favourites, plus for non-fiction Freedom at Midnight about the lead-up to Indian (and Pakistan) independence by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love all Nick Hornby and most of Julian Barnes. The other one educated me on the details of Indian independence when I was travelling there (especially on the horrors of Punjab and Bengal).

        Liked by 1 person

  9. A great list, Pete. Let me add to the “F” list with a book I love: Lucy Irvine answered a classified ad in the early 80’s and ended up a “Castaway” – a bestselling memoir she wrote that became a movie as well. Her followup book was “Faraway”, her memoir of moving to a remote island in the South Pacific to chronicle a family who lived there for decades…it’s a fascinating book that takes many twists and turns – and she is a great Writer….here is more on the book if you missed my post about it –

    https://johnrieber.com/2016/08/31/faraway-lucy-irvines-castaway-sequel-more-amazing-island-escapes-2/

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith was a brilliant write, I agree! Back in the 1980s, with the creation of Virago that published fiction by women over the years, I came across Pamela Frankau. One book of hers was The Willow Cabin the story of a triangular relationship in wartime….some very well drawn characters, and a poignant story. I liked her prose. Talking of good prose, how about Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I adored Le Grand Meaulnes. Excellent choice, Sue. I have a couple of Pamela Frankau books inherited from my parents but I’ve never read them. I must find them in my as yet unpacked boxes. I’m pretty certain one is The Willow Cabin.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I hope you find those books! I have only read The Willow Cabin and The Winged Horse of Frankau’s – and the Willow Cabin was far and away the best. If you loved Le Grand Meaulnes, you might possibly like Bassani’s Garden of the Finzi Continis

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I have never read that Fournier novel. With two recommendations, it looks like I will have to search it out. Thanks for agreeing about ‘Fingersmith’. I really enjoyed the book, and the TV series.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I cheated, because the author’s pen name is really Alain-Fournier, christened Henri Alban. It is made the more poignant and wistful as it was his only novel, he was killed in WW1…..

        Liked by 2 people

  11. No, let’s add ‘The Federalist Papers” by Publius (Hamilton and the boys). From my point of view, these late 18th Century essays are a commentary on contemporary American government and politics.
    Warmest Regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “F” is a good one for me – in the military category: “Flyboys”; “Flags of Our Fathers”; “Five Came Back” & “FUBAR”. in fiction: “Four Past Midnight” by Stephen King and “Frankenstein” by Dean Koontz.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I will start with fiction…..Frederick Forsyth….”Dogs Of War”….can I get a triple for “Fourth Protocol” by Frederick Forsyth? Now for my more geeky stuff….”Fidel” by Tad Szuk…..”From Dictatorship To Democracy” by Gene Sharp……”Federalism In America” by Ellis Katz and finally “Foreign Policy Analysis” by Breuning……now I leave room for others….enjoy your day my friend….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

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