All avid readers regardless of preferred genre or author will come across those books that for whatever reason they feel that they have to give up on – there can be nothing more frustrating especially if you have been looking forward to opening the cover.
Last week I stubble across an author in the library that I had discovered the week before while doing some research in to a new project. As soon as I saw her name I thought “Fabulous I will get you out now and see how you read.” Well what a disappointment.
The book and author will be saved blushes for this purpose of this post, for it merely triggered wider issues than those highlighted by this book.
So I started the book. Its set in Shakespearian London to start with. This you would think would give a great author lots to draw on instead its bland and at the first opportunity the character is remembering a sexual encounter. Then we move along and the author over introduces one of Elizabethian England biggest political figures.
This is where I have a problem; take note historical fiction writters, the people who generally read historical fiction, I would say 99% of them will have an interest in the people, events or period in which you have set your book. Therefore it is unnecessary to introduce characters in this fashion many of the great and excellent hist fict authors of Tudor England such as Philippa Gregory or C J Sansom don’t do this they understand their audience they don’t talk down to there readership.
So back to this book the story then jumps to the characters childhood and spends far too much time over simplifying details of Tudor life. So much so that the characters story that is semi interesting is lost and I’m finding myself getting frustrated at some American explaining what a summer progress are who key characters are after she has already done so when we have already met them. If you need explain in such basic things then you clearly have no idea of your target audience and underestimate there intelligence.
Now I know that not all readers of historical fiction has the breath of knowledge that I do, however other authors seem don’t seem to fall into the same trap. If I were to choose to read a book set in a different period that those I have studied I wouldn’t expect for the author to patronize me, if I felt I needed for more knowledge I would read around the subject.
Eventually I found more and more of the story was lost to the patronizing tone from the author and I came to page 45 & abandoned the book – if i had brought it i would have returned it to the bookshop.
Is it too much to expect that an author not talk down to the reader in a novel? In the case of a historical novel the story should be the most important thing and the historical references should highlight and set the mood, time and place rather than be explained – that is the role of a non fiction book not fiction.
I know literature is a very personal taste, its like shoes or perfume; one woman’s favourite maybe another woman’s least favourite; however the relationship between reader and author should always remain mutually respectful of each others intelligence and the author should never feel that they are a cut above their reader – if that is the case they do not deserve the readers time or money.