There’s always such a lot of discussion on accuracy in historical novels. Readers will always find fault with some aspect even for respected best-selling authors. I recently listened to a very amusing talk by a well-known crime writer on letters he had received, calling him to account for what the reader perceived as wrong or offering to help him get it right next time. And yet, cinema-goers rarely display the same critical level of awareness about film. I’m thinking of Braveheart and U-571 which do their best to rewrite history. Surely a film reaches more people than most books and how many people go away with false information from a film thinking it’s true? They tend to criticize continuity errors more than the accuracy of the subject matter, it seems to me.
I recently read a book, Villa Mimosa, which I got free. I read it as a lighthearted spoof about the war in 1944 in the Pas De Calais. I doubt that anyone would consider it bearing any relation to the truth and yes there may have been historical inaccuracies, even faults with the French language but I enjoyed reading it as entertainment. It was
well-written, had good characters and made me smile. You can read my review on Amazon.
I beat myself up about getting historical facts wrong but it is bound to happen. We novelists do not purport to be non-fiction writers and research historians. We aim to tell a story set in a particular time, bringing a flavour of the times to the book without overpowering the reader with a long list of facts. The story and the characters are what drives the book. If it makes the reader think and draw comparisons, so much the better.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live in a town under siege from bombs? You see these images on the television of Syria and the Yemen where people are living in not much more than rubble. How does anyone survive, keep going, stay sane? I am writing today about a bombing raid in WW2 which seems tame in comparison with what you see now.
It was our parents
and grandparents who lived through it but did they mention their terror.? No, I probably heard more about the difficulties of rationing than I ever did about aeroplanes coming over and shooting at them or bombing them. And yet, it happened, regularly. How does the mind cope with that amount of constant fear? Do you try to ignore it? Think it will never happen to you? If you have children, you probably have to try and keep cheerful, make light of it, while you are sitting in a dark shelter, knowing that at any minute, you could be dead or horribly injured, or worse, your child dead and you left alive.
Perhaps you develop some mechanism to cope with it. Or is it the stoical, stiff upper lip, while deep inside your bowels turn to water and you feel constantly nauseous with fear. I rather dread asking my remaining aunts about it. I don’t want to upset them. Perhaps it was all so long ago, they have forgotten what it felt like.
For my sins but really being a willing member of the wonderful CHINDI network of Independent Authors, I have said I would arrange organise a ghost tour for the LOCA, the Littlehampton Arts Festival next July. I am hoping to receive lots of ghostly short stories which we can use to plan the tour and also create a book for participants. With this in mind, yesterday evening, I went on a ghost tour of Chichester with a ramblers’ group, organised by CHINDI member, Julia Macfarlane, and very enjoyable it was. I visited parts of Chichester I had never been to and will now visit again, saw artwork on walls (like miniature Banksy’s), how had I missed them? Instead of rushing in and doing shopping, next time I will take the time to look at my surroundings. When you pause and look up, you are reminded what a beautiful city it is. Roman walls and the most wonderful Georgian buildings sit side by side and so many ghostly tales, true and created by CHINDI and Bognor Write groups. It is something to live up to. I have scheduled a trip to Littlehampton on Monday to start researching and visit the haunted Dolphin Hotel. Watch this space.
If you want to know about the Chichester Ghost Tour booklet. Here is the link.
I fear I am failing at this. Oh yes, I make my lists and religiously cross things off but I tend to
do the easy ones first. Doesn’t everyone? If I am in a writing mood, everything else goes to pot and this week writing has come before hoeing up the weeds in the drive. Well, that can be done anytime. What about dealing with the Amazon tax form update? It can stay on the list. Now organising venues for the Littlehampton Festival for CHINDI events. That’s urgent, I must make a start this week. Tomorrow, I keep promising myself. Our super blogger, Books in my handbag, wants extracts from me to help publicise my books, another urgent one because I said I would get round to it by Wednesday. And that’s today, whoops! Visiting mother, cooking dinners and doing the laundry can’t be ignored but housework? No, not unless visitors are arriving within the next 24 hours.
Then there’s the reading – three new books on my desk to help with research. Plus the books I have promised people I will review and sometimes wish I hadn’t been so accommodating when I begin.
The social media marketing is fitted into odd seconds when I feel guilty enough. That reminds me I have missed #TheAuthorHour on Twitter again.
How did I ever find time to go to work? Everyone who is retired says that, but it’s true. Are you organised? Do you have a set time to write or wait for the mood to strike?
The third book in my Australian trilogy needs a title. I am a year off finishing it so you might think it’s early days but I want to create a Pinterest Board for it. My working title has been Sadie because she is my protagonist. But threaded through the story are rivers starting with the Canning near Perth Australia; the Yarra (or to give it its full title Yarra Yarra (meaning ever-flowing river); The great Murray River, The Torrens in Adelaide and last but not least, the Humber. My feeling is that I should try and include Yarra in the title so that it attracts my Australian readers. So, I would like your opinion on the following suggestions.
- Dreaming of Yarra (or Yarra Yarra)
- Yarra Holds my Heart
- Ever flows the Yarra
- Other suggestions welcome
I have been wanting to read this book for ages. It won the Debut Indie Book Award and I had read great things about it from an Australian Writer’s Blog I subscribe to. Well, the library did me proud. It was not in stock, not even published in the UK until now. I put in an order online and it arrived last week.
The setting is both Chichester and South Australia; how apt. Reminiscent of The Poisonwood Bible in some ways, although we hear only one point of view, that of the eldest daughter, Hester, this tells of a devoutly Christian man, improvident and deeply flawed, who destroys his family by degrees. Pride, stubbornness, blind faith, lead him to drag his family to the Coorong, in a last-ditch attempt to rekindle his fortunes, first as a dairy farmer and latterly a sheep farmer.
This multi-layered book will live with me a long time. Key to the book is the family’s relationship with the Ngarrindjeri natives who live on and around the family’s ‘property’ and in particular, Tull, a half-caste boy, who has more native intelligence and humanity than the father can ever know. It is, of course, a story of the white man’s arrogance, but it is subtle, in as much as Hester’s father considers himself to be doing good until disappointment turns him evil.
Characterisation and an acute sense of place thread their way through the book. Of the area around Chichester ” the interlacing of hedgerows .. meander through unblemished fields. Of the Coorong, we live the seasons, cold, wet winters, hot, parched summers “the wind was coming in hot breaths from the north…. I watched it ruffling and stroking its way across the water”.
As well as being a fabulous read, this is a book with raw intelligence and understanding. A book to keep and savour.
Joseph Timms, railway magnate, pastoralist, race horse owner etc. etc. was an entrepreneur, a man of many interests, completely self-made and very much a family man. All his children and his brothers were involved in the business. He lived in some of Australia’s great houses and liked to splash his money around, especially on
St Hubert’s c1905
race horses. I have been doing some research on one house this week, St Hubert’s in the Yarra Valley. It was a winery and is now again, begun by Hubert De Castella, a Swiss immigrant, it was also owned by David Mitchell, the father of Dame Nellie Melba. Joseph bought it in 1905 with an agreement to leave the vines for 5 years. Thanks to a lovely lady at Yarra Glen Historical Society, I was sent links to some photographs taken around 1905. I have tried to enlarge the photos, with no success because I have a feeling that the lady in the cart may be Joseph’s 2nd wife, Isabella, and in that case, the only photo we have of her. In the second photo, a man and a woman are present, tiny figures beneath the clematis-clad veranda. Once again, could they be Joseph and Isabella? They peer out, ghosts from the past and I long for them to speak to me.
St Hubert’s c 1905