Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks)

Blogger Book Nook #9: Time machine

May 12, 2018Hels

This month, the book prompt for Blogger Book Nook was all about historical fiction…

Initially I had no idea what I would write about as I immediately thought about history in the sense of the Tudors and the Romans. Then, as I was sat reading All The Light We Cannot See, it suddenly hit me – duh, all the amazing war literature I read, one of my favourite genres, is historical fiction!

If you could time travel either to the past or the future, which would you pick and why?

Definitely the past. My Dad is an archaeologist and we spent most of our childhood exploring castles and churches. While he is amazing at telling us all about the places and what the times were like, it would be pretty great to go back and actually see it for myself.

Historical novels aren’t always accurate in their details – is this something that bothers you? Why / why not?

It depends. Generally I don’t mind because usually it is obviously a work of fiction, and so I appreciate that the author might want to adapt or amend a few details. Saying that, I think if a book is claiming to be ‘historical’ then I think the essentials should be accurate – dates, figures etc.

One trilogy in particular that springs to mind for this question is Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy. The first of these novels, Regeneration, looks at the experience of soldiers being treated for shell shock during World War 1. Many characters are based on real people, including Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who were both patients at Craiglockhart War Hospital, and W.H.R. Rivers, a psychiatrist at the hospital. There are also fictional characters, such as Billy Prior. She drew inspiration from historical sources, but the lines between historical fiction and non-fiction are quite blurred in this story.

The Ghost Road (Pat Barker)

Is there one specific historical era that especially interests you? What novels set in that time would you recommend?

Anything from the two World Wars will always appeal to me. I especially love the poetry written during those times. I’d really recommend the Regeneration trilogy (Pat Barker), Birdsong (Sebastian Faulkes) and although this is a biography rather than fiction, I’d really recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris).

Which historical figure (fictional or real!) would you most like to have dinner with?

Uhm… Mr Darcy? Does he count as a historical figure?! I don’t know! I’m drawing a complete blank. Real: Shakespeare would be pretty cool. Fictional: …Can I say Doctor Who and then he can take me to all the different eras? He’s kind of historical…

Do you find historical fiction an appealing genre? Why / why not?

I do find it appealing, but I have to be interested in the era/topic before I start a historical fiction novel. To be honest, if I pick up a book and it’s set anytime before…maybe 1800, it wouldn’t be my first choice. I’m sure I’m missing out on hundreds of incredible stories, but I seem to find it hard to engage.

Mini review – Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks)

Birdsong follows two characters. Stephen Wraysford, a British soldier on the front line in France during the First World War, and his granddaughter, Elizabeth, who, in 1970 is trying to understand Stephen’s experience in the war. The novel looks at the shock and the trauma of death, and Faulks’ aim was to bring more awareness to the experiences the soldiers faced. Elizabeth’s part of the story looks at how the past can be recovered and documented, which I found fascinating, and she finds her grandfathers journals from the war.

I love this book. It was one of the first books I read about WW1. Once I finished, I immediately started reading more on the subject. It’s brilliantly written and it’s one I’ve read a few times.

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