Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell (Five Stars)

Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell (Five Stars)

“Life isn’t like that!” he told my brother. “It’s too pat, too convenient!” “This is the stage, we traffic in dreams.”

The best historical fiction I’ve read this year. Bernard Cornwell’s a gift of engaging, informative historical fiction displayed throughout. The reader feels the grit, smells the filth and shivers—occasionally with the cold.

“I just wish he’d help me more.” “Richard, Richard! … You must be a good player, a good man, and your brother will see it in the end. Don’t look to your brother for help, be a help to him.”

He meters out information only as the plot needs it. Scene and character setting, yes, but no data dumps. Unfortunately, the blurbs give away too much. The reader is several chapters in before Cornwell identifies his famous brother. Cornwell subscribed to Horace’s in media res storytelling. Most chapters end with the initiation of some action, but the following chapter opens after it’s finished, then Cornwell fills in the gap before setting the next cliffhanger.

“My brother … once told me that the art of storytelling was knowing what to leave out, and I dare say he is right, though often, learning lines of his plays, I wish he had left out twenty times more.”

A gift to lovers of both history and theater. If you love either, read this.

“They want to believe,” my brother once explained. “They do half our work for us. They come wanting to be amused, to be impressed, to be awed, to be frightened. And they have imaginations too, and their imaginations amend our work.”

1 thought on “Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell (Five Stars)

  1. Hey,
    sounds like an interesting book and your review does it justice. Like how you clearly explain the writer’s process. Thanks, Lenore

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