I’m reading Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” at the moment.
I hardly ever read historical novels- whether based on fact or pure fantasy because I’ve always felt negative about history. However, this book is a wonderful creation- although I recognise the names of some of the characters- like King Henry and his Katherines, Anne Boleyn, King Richard, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk… I can understand them as characters, rather than as figures in a tableau with no context. As a child none of this king and country stuff made any sense. It was pretty, sometimes murderous and scary, but never salient- I just could not relate to the times nor the people. It may as well have been fiction and I didn’t like the way the tales were told! IN this book Mantel makes a complex tale and links up the diverse events I had heard about but never felt were relevant to anything. great read- and I’m only about half way!
Recently I read Tim Gautreaux’s “The Missing” which also brought part of history alive- this time the southern states of the USA during the birth of jazz in new Orleans. Most of the story concerns a store detective who tries extremely hard to retrieve a little girl who was snatched from her parents in a department store. The poor guy’s life is almost totally shit- but he does win something in the end. The author really brings out the suffering in the lives of the poor whites as well as the still fairly enslaved Negroes who worked the big riverboats that entertained workers along the Mississipi. WHile this isn’t quite as well-written as Gautreaux’s “The Clearing”- about cypress timber harvesting in the same area- there is such wonderful description that I could visualise the places and people while getting thoroughly absorbed in the plot. It was also interesting to hear an account of how the flu struck people down so quickly during past epidemics. Quite a harrowing read and complex too.
The book “The Truth about my Fathers” by Gaby Naher is a true story with some missing bits creatively filled in but not embroidered. It’s also a tale of part of the history of Kings Cross and Elizabeth Bay in Sydney. She attempts to trace the family history that produced her biological father, her adoptive father and her natural mother. The tale is ultimately set around the diminishing health and death of her adoptive father, who seemed to be a lovely guy.
To be continued…