English Civil War Through the Restoration in Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography, 1625-1999 (Bibliographies and Indexes in World History)

Written by Roxane C. Murph
Review by Sarah Johnson

Freelance researcher Murph presents a descriptive list of fictional works all set between the beginning of Charles I’s reign (1625) and the death of Charles II (1685). In all, annotations are provided for 509 works of verse, 821 novels and short story collections, and 936 plays. A comprehensive index completes the volume.

With regard to the novels, my principal interest, this volume is not nearly as comprehensive as Murph’s earlier compilation, The Wars of the Roses in Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography, 1440-1994 (Greenwood, 1995). Surprisingly lacking are mentions of Sara George’s recent The Journal of Mrs Pepys, Stella Riley’s Civil War saga Garland of Straw, and Catherine Darby’s King’s Falcon, to name just a few. Author, title, publisher, date, and pages are provided for each work, along with a long abstract.

The annotations themselves are well written and suitably lengthy; it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that Murph has herself read each one of the works she lists. Because the descriptions include complete plot summaries, complete with spoilers, this work is more a scholarly compilation than a readers’ advisory source. Most descriptions include critical comment, and Murph never shrinks from expressing her own opinion of a work. Authors and readers of historical romance should be warned of the author’s contempt for this genre: one novel is described as “standard historical romance fare: hackneyed plot, cardboard characters, and uninspired writing.” As many romances are included in this book, such descriptions quickly grow tiresome, and readers will find themselves disagreeing with Murph on occasion. In all, while the author knows her history and has clearly done her research, she ignores — and indeed often denigrates — the appeal that these novels have for their readers.

These faults don’t diminish the fact that this book is perhaps the best single source for information on novels of the early Stuart era. Books rarely included in library catalogues, such as paperbacks — and those included without detailed subject classification, such as UK-published novels– are finally described in full here. An essential reference for completists and indeed for anyone seeking a novel set during the English Civil War or Restoration, if the annotations are taken with a grain of salt.