Happy New Year to you! the holidays are almost officially over and it’s back to work for me tomorrow. It’s been a nice, relaxing break and I’m ready for 2014. I’m also ready to get back to blogging regularly.
I thought I’d start the new year with a post about a book that totally blew my socks off.
Nutshell blurb: This is the story of two women who live in two different time periods. They are connected by three books and a mysterious symbol.
Frankly, I don’t want to talk too much about the story. There’s a mystery involved and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Instead, I’ll tell you how it made me feel.
I’ve picked up quite a few historical books lately and as I’ve been reading them (or putting them down, as the case may be) I’ve become aware of two distinct styles of writing in them. I haven’t read enough to make any kind of scientific observations so bear in mind that these are merely my own observations.
Labyrinth is the type that I love. Rich descriptions of lush settings. Every word serves to paint a gorgeous picture of the world and the characters within. The words are carefully chosen and it almost seems like an epic poem. It reminds me of how I felt when I read the Iliad or the Odyssey. I felt as though I was reading a grand and sweeping legend yet at the same time I felt really close to the characters.
It’s kind of funny because I almost put this book down after reading a few pages. The prologue is written in the present tense and I can’t emphasise how much that winds me up. However, something happened within that prologue that caught my attention and I was hooked. Thank goodness I persevered! I was pleased to find that the rest of the book (except for the epilogue) was written in the past-tense. It’s very rare that I’ll keep reading a book that’s in the present tense. It’s completely off-putting.
The other type of historical fiction that I’ve been reading (and putting down) is the ultra-realistic type. It’s an interesting discovery to make as it gives me a bit more scope for my own writing. It’s good to read other people’s writing and analyse all of the things that I like about it but equally, it’s helpful for me to realise what it is that I don’t like.
These other types of historical fiction are gritty and raw. They are very much concerned with realism and accuracy. It seems as though they are trying to paint the world as it really was. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a matter of preference.
I’ve grown to realise that I don’t actually care about realism in fiction. If I want realism, I’ll read non-fiction. I actually prefer it when an author runs with his or her poetic licence.
I find that realistic historical fiction (and now the I’m thinking about it, any kind of fiction) is far more brutal than I care for. I don’t mean brutal in terms of violence. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m not at all squeamish. I mean brutal in the sense that everything is laid out dispassionately for the reader to absorb. Murder, rape, pillaging, slavery, torture. It’s all there and it’s told in such a way that it leaves very little to the imagination.
The latest book to hit my ‘did-not-finish’ shelf took place in Ancient Greece and there was a scene where some men and a boy were traveling in a boat. As some marauders approached in a different boat, the little boy kissed his dad and his uncles, smiled, jumped overboard and drowned. It was obviously a prearrangement that they had so that the boy wouldn’t be captured and have bad things happen to him. The boy is a throw-away character (he’s not even named) but he still haunts me even though I put the book down days ago. He’s just one of many throw-away characters that horrible things happen to and I only made it to page 42!
I think that the author was trying to show us what life was realistically like back in those days, but it didn’t work for me. The story lacked grace and poetry. Realism doesn’t really work for me. I want things to feel authentic but that doesn’t mean that they have to be authentic.
I’m not criticising these realistic types of books. They just aren’t for me. I’m not sure if that makes sense or not. It totally does in my head.
Ms. Mosse gave me a sense of authenticity in her story. She clearly did her research, but more importantly (to me, anyway) she made it feel epic and poetic. She didn’t shy away from violence or peril but it didn’t feel as though she was going for shock value. Everything had a place in the story.
I absolutely, unequivocably loved this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work.