15. A book that takes place on an island

And very conveniently, and homophonic, Ireland.

I did not like this book very much. At least, not as much as Kent’s first book Burial Rites which I read a few years ago.

This is another truish story about an alleged crime, inspired, as they say, by true events. I just didn’t really care about those events. Though I didn’t dislike it enough to put it down either. As you all know I never finish a book I don’t like (I’m looking at you Ian McEwan).

Set sometime before running water and electricity in rural Ireland, this book looks at the transition between pagan and church ways of thinking. It questions customs and beliefs, and tries to get the reader to understand how these can come and go out of fashion.

I think I had a hard time reading this book because I read so much fantasy. In those books fairies and magic are ‘real’ whereas in real life they are not. So I just couldn’t get my head around this as historical fiction with all the talk of the Fey. Her writing couldn’t make me believe that people really used to think this way. I wasn’t convinced, perhaps because I now have running water and electricity.

She is a good writer, don’t get me wrong. She evokes the period and tells the story in an enthralling way. It just wasn’t a topic that really drew me in.

Like her other novel the build up to the event took a long time too. Though this was written in the present tense, rather than looking back like the other one. It still had the same sense of foreboding though, that dramatic irony where you know something is going to go wrong. It just wasn’t the injustice of the other novel. It was just a bit meh for me.

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19. A Book Based On A True Story

This one is a bit of a stretch.



Originally I was going to write this novel up as my sequel, but then, after the biography debacle, I realised I would need something for a true story and this kind of fit there. I say this because I don’t really like reading true stories, hey are pretty much like biographies which you already know are not my favourite. I have read a few novels based on true things, one by Louis Nowra and of course Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and I adore In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. But I am not really in the mood to look for one this year, especially as I have read this book and need to fit it somewhere.

So The FitzOsbournes in Exile is the sequel to a book I read and enjoyed last year. It is about a family who are the royal family of a fictitious country off the coast of Spain which has been taken over by the Nazis. It is set just prior to World War Two and the royal family is now living in exile in London.

The whole plot revolves around the family’s trying to get something done about the invasion of their country. What makes it interesting is that they are all adolescents and he book is written in diary form by the eighteen year old princess. So it’s a coming of age novel set against the backdrop of the world also coming of age.

This is why it is a stretch to say it is based on true events. Because while the characters are fictitious the world which they inhabit, their historical context, is very real. There are references to the Spanish Civil war, Guernica, the Mitford sisters and of course the build up to the war. 

It raises the debate about whether historical fiction is really fiction. If something really happened and a person who wasn’t there writes about it does it make it any less true. If an author sets their novel in a historical period and gets the language, customs, social hierarchy, food etc right but the whole plot and characters are made up does that make it untrue? These are hard questions. It all boils down to – what does based on true events mean? It could be that this novel doesn’t really fit this category and maybe I will have to read another anyway.

Coming up on my next blog: One more review before I can start reading again.

A Symphony of Echoes: Volume 2 The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

I love these books. I don’t even know if you can buy paper copies, but I will always spend money on anything electronic that Taylor releases.

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This is the second in her St Mary’s series. Basically it’s about an institution where historians travel back in time to learn more about important events and people and do a little bit of mystery solving. I fluked finding the first book and I was totally hooked. It’s another book with a ballsy female protagonist, a little bit of romance, some mystery and some excellent suspense and action sequences. In the first book they went to the Cretaceous period and Alexandria. In this one, it’s Elizabethan England, or more precisely, Mary’s Scotland.

They are very similar to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, except are historically based rather than literature based. And as it seems that Fforde has decided to stop writing, this is the next best thing.

Coming up on my next blog: I become a spokesperson for Tourism NSW.