Sunday, March 27, 2011

Historical Fiction

I just finished a novel by the author of the immensely popular "The Other Boleyn Girl" and I found it lacking in many ways. This novel, "The White Queen", set in the time of the War of the Roses is told by a character whose fate is known. I personally prefer the historical novel to have an unknown or relatively unknown protagonist tell the tale. There can be little suspense otherwise. This also gives the author more freedom in personal opinion and interpretation, as with the Poe book mentioned in the last blog post. It could just be me and my current state of mind, but I could not form any loyalty or sympathy for this Elizabeth since all the plotting, intrigue and casting of spells done against her and her family was no more or less than what she and her own family were up eat dog on the royal level. I love historical fiction for the insights into life in those times. And one of the things this novel brings up is life for women and how it all hinges on marrying the right man and how his fortunes progress. Our own time saw a change after the feminists brought women the ability to work and support themselves but this 'golden age' may be endangered by the economy of this decade. In a few hundred years, the historical fiction of the period from 1970 to 2010 may seem like a dream to those depending on others once again. What do you think??

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More on Poe

In an earlier post, below, I mention that I had written a poem about the death of Edgar Allan Poe, an unsolved mystery ironically involving the inventor of mystery/detective literature. One of my poet friends, Tammy Houtz (who also inspires me to write in different poetry forms I never knew existed!) has leant me a novel that is about a young lawyer in Baltimore who is obsessed with Poe's death (he had correspondence with Poe) and desperately tries to unravel the mystery so he can clear Poe's name of the negative images that came up during the days and years after the event.
The writing is very good...the book is called "The Poe Shadow". It's by Matthew Pearl. What I really love about good fiction is that it has the ability to offer us information about our own society without the direct finger pointing that we find in political rhetoric. Apart from an fascinating exploration of the life of Poe and the 'climate' of Baltimore in the mid 1800's, we get a wealth of information on how media operates and the lengths many diverse individuals and groups are willing to go to promote and protect their own special interests.
Even if you're not a big Poe fan (and I admit that I am not an avid reader myself) this book will be fascinating and thought provoking reading.