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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Monday, December 16, 2013

Historical fiction or History with fictionalized human perspectives?

Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J. M. Harvey

I had just finished watching the episode of A History of Scotland that referenced Robert the Bruce and the hardships his family suffered at the hand of the British host. When I had an opportunity to read the ARC of this novel, I couldn't resist. As a result of The Bruce and his men killing John Comyn (1306), Edward I, called for the 'Raising of the Dragon'. Which meant that no quarter would be given to The Bruce supporters, including his family. This work follows the effect of war and this edict upon the men and more particularly, the womenfolk of The Bruce.  
The story is mostly expressed as a series of letters penned between the sisters, which adds to the sense of the personal. However this is more a history book than the fictionalized story of the sisters. This unfortunately renders it a dense and lengthy work. I found myself having to put it down and take it up over a longer period of time than I normally would. Should this have been two books, or a book from each sister's perspective? For better readability something along those lines would be more accessible.
[I was watching a newscast by Avon Romance with   http://avonromancelive.com/ the other day (with Eloisa James, Sarah Maclean and Julia Quinn. Eloise James was asked a question relating to history and fiction. Her answer talked about this very thing, about dumping swathes of history on your audience as opposed to using historical fact to enrich the novel aspect of the work.]

Getting back to the novel however, certainly in Sisters of the Bruce, the atrocity of the women's treatment and their subsequent physical, emotional and mental state is well presented by the Australian author Harvey. A history of Scotland that does persuades one to reflect on the human cost of war no matter the times.

A NetGalley ARC

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