For some reason this year, I’ve had an insatiable desire for historical fiction. I’ve always loved the genre, ever since I was a school reader. But the devil they say, is in the detail, and it’s the more intellectual detail I love, especially from writers of the calibre of the late and most wonderfully great Dorothy Dunnett and the most current and thoroughly popular Phillipa Gregory. I have also enjoyed Sharon Penman, SJA Turney and Posie Graeme Evans amongst many others. Eleanor Of Aquitaine and Henry I sit comfortably with Caesar, with Claes van der Poele and with Francis Crawford of Lymond. Apart from the unique plots, the height and breadth of research is what thrills me. I try and soak up just a little bit more information each time I open the books.
With Dorothy Dunnett, it becomes an exercise in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe, especially if I arm myself with the two volume DD Companions. I studied fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe at university many years ago and swear if I had access to the wonderful hist.fict novels of today I would have learned even more than I did by listening to fusty, dusty lecturers and prattling, rattling tutors. In my novels I hear the characters of history speak and interact and suddenly things that I learned about in the past have a resonance that thunders. SJA Turney did this for me with Marius’s Mules which I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog. I studied Ancient Civs in first year uni and failed miserably because the lecturer was so jaw-droppingly boring. He inspired nothing! But if I’d had someone like Fronto to lead me through Caesar’s campaigns in Middle Europe, then I would’ve remembered everything! This guy has the driest wit and a campaign mind that puts even Caesar’s back in his box.
I think I may have been born in the wrong era. I fancy riding side-saddle on a palfrey or sitting in a solar embroidering, even being a lady scribe and creating illuminated manuscripts (probably not politically correct at the time) or a troubadour (and yes, there were lady troubadours).
The lack of creature comforts is momentarily forgotten as I sweep down a marble stair in a silk gown that whispers as I move. Over my eyes I have a mask decorated with ivory feathers and pearls and as I move through the doors to the waiting gondola, darkly-cloaked individuals step out of the way. Ah yes, this year I’ve had an insatiable desire for hist.fict.