29 January, 2009

Bernard Cornwell, "Bookclub", Radio 4 on Sunday 1 February

Bernard Cornwell's novel The Last Kingdom, set in ninth-century Britain against the background of the wars between Alfred the Great and the Danes, is the subject of February's Bookclub on BBC Radio 4.

The programme will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 1 February at 1600 GMT, and repeated on Thursday 5 February at 1600 GMT. If you're outside the UK you can listen to the programme live on the BBC website, or on the Listen Again page or the BBC iPlayer (look under 'B' for Bookclub in the alphebtical listings) for 7 days after broadcast.

More information on the Bookclub web page.

Bookclub is a monthly half-hour programme presented by James Naughtie. Each month a well-known book is selected for reading and the author is invited along to answer questions from the presenter and members of the audience.


Kathryn Warner said...

What do you think of Cornwell's Last Kingdom series, Carla? I haven't read any of them yet, though there are on my TBR pile!

Carla said...

Alianore - They're fairly classic Cornwell, so if you've read some of his other military adventures (Sharpe, Grail Quest, Arthur trilogy) you'll have a pretty fair idea what to expect. I thought the first two (The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman) were a bit disappointing, partly because they seemed to be longer on detail (How to paint a shield. How to burn charcoal) and shorter on story than usual for Cornwell, and partly because I don't buy the take on Alfred. This latter may be because the books are first-person narrated by Uhtred, who as a brash young warrior despises Alfred as a priest-ridden wimp, and I always want to see more than one point of view. I thought the third book, Lords of the North was much more up to Cornwell's usual form. Uhtred has started to grow up a bit and get more interesting (to me) and it's set in Northumbria in 880-ish when there's essentially no history to get in the way of a rattling adventure yarn in something of the Sharpe mould. I haven't read the fourth (Sword Song) yet.

Kathryn Warner said...


Unknown said...

He was very interesting to listen to, although I have not read these books yet. He did admit that as documentation of the time is scarce it made life easier for a writer. His description of how he believed his characters would feel before a battle really brought the horrors of hand to hand combat home.

Carla said...

Alianore - you're welcome!

Carol - I agree that in some ways the lack of documentation makes it easier to write a story, because your imagination has free rein. Conversely, though, having so little to go on makes it harder to get a feel for the period, how people thought and what made the world tick. Like many things, it cuts both ways.
Bernard Cornwell is one of the best writers of battle scenes in the business. If you want to get an idea of what hand-to-hand combat might have been like, he is very hard to beat.