Monday, October 10, 2011

revisionist history

I'm smack in the middle of reading The Paris Wife. I'm enjoying it so far, the premise is intriguing and the author's voice is quite easy to cozy up to which is just what one needs on a rainy Seattle night (see: all of them). For those who don't know, The Paris Wife is told from the (imagined) perspective of Earnest Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson. It takes place in 1920s Paris which is not a hard sell for this reader, regardless of the subject matter.

The genre is extremely popular but I'm of two minds on historical fiction. On the one hand, being a person who doesn't love doing research, I admire the lengths these authors go to get the details right and it seems like a brave thing to take such a well known figure as Earnest Hemingway and start putting words in his mouth. On the other hand, I can't help but feeling like it's taking a bit of shortcut (albeit a clever one) to write a novel based on an existing story, especially one which will automatically have a big audience as this one does. I think this particular book could stand well enough on its own merits but I find I get most excited reading it when I think oh, there's Gertrude Stein! There's Ezra Pound! Did it really happen that way? All a function of the genre.

So is historical fiction cheating or is it raising the bar on the already daunting task of creating a compelling novel?

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