Has this ever happened to you while reading? You’re going along, everything’s fine, and then — BAM!— one thing happens in the story that seems off, and suddenly nothing feels right.
My most recent read, which I’m still on the fence about finishing, was a novel I had been looking forward to reading. The premise looked interesting and fresh, the author was new to me but the reviews I’d seen were uniformly filled with praise.
The story, which I’m at great pains not to divulge the title of as it would violate my own review policy to not be negative, is set many decades in the past and therein lies my problem. Despite those glowing reviews that speak of the novel’s historical accuracy and use of period language and settings, it … doesn’t.
The kicker for me, the one inaccuracy that tipped the scales to the point where I’m not sure I care to continue, happened around a fifth of the way through the novel. A phrase which came into use in the 1970s was spoken by a character who in truth would likely have died of old age long before possibly hearing it. In retrospect, however, this “one thing” merely confirmed the feeling I had from almost the first page: the story was not as authentic as it was claimed to be.
To be sure, I’m not opposed to the intentional use of anachronism for comedy or perhaps to make a political or artistic statement. I can live with the occasional honest mistake, too, which as authors we’re all liable to make (Ed: here you could refer them to “Carpathia” and “The Devil’s Harvest” as examples 🙂 ).
But a big part of why I was so excited about this particular novel was the idea that I would be immersed into a time period that I haven’t seen much fiction set in. At its most basic the main plot has been told endlessly, but I had hoped it might be made fresher and more compelling simply because of the setting.
As someone who has written Historical Fiction and likely committed the same “sin” as I’m judging this other novel for, I realize there is a great likelihood of being called a hypocrite. If it happens, I can’t deny it, but I also have been called much worse :).
I would love to hear your thoughts …