edited: Monday, October 15, 2007
By Rosemary Poole-Carter
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, October 15, 2007
Become a Fan
relections on historical fiction
A few years ago, I joined the Historical Novel Society, a community of writers and readers who share enjoyment of the many forms of historical fiction: novels based on the lives of historic personages, novels using history as a backdrop, mysteries, romances, adventures, speculations, and more. While I enjoy reading novels that incorporate history in a variety of ways, in my own writing, I tend to use history as not so much a backdrop as a mask. Versions of the personalities that fascinate me, ideas that move me, issues that anger me today existed in the past and come to life again in historical fiction.
J.P. Hartley opens his novel THE GO-BETWEEN with these words: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Yes, they do—and yet, they don’t. Doing things differently is the mask, but the needs and passions that drive those actions have changed very little over time. As I turn from a history book on the American Civil War and Reconstruction to the morning paper, I find far too many parallels. When I see a soldier missing a limb or talk with a veteran missing friends, present and past blend together—the physical and emotional damages of war have not changed.
Yesterday at a bookstore signing, I asked my friend Wava Everton to perform the Civil War song, "Somebody's Darling", mentioned in my novel. The chorus is this: “Somebody’s darling, somebody’s pride, who’ll tell his mother where her boy died.” One of the customers listening to Wava’s glorious voice was a weather-beaten middle-aged man, whose eyes began to fill. After she finished the song, the three of us talked a little about the man's son, whom the man had not seen in years and who had just shipped out for Iraq. The father's sadness and sense of loss was as timeless and moving as Marie Revenal de la Coste's haunting lyric. In a bookstore in the 21st century, three people—all of us parents—wished what parents have always wished: May our children outlive us.
Rosemary Poole-Carter, WOMEN OF MAGDALENE, 978-1-60164-014-7