Our assault on the infamously inaccurate BRAVEHEART of Mel Gibson, a ragbag of cliché, myth and libel he claimed to be authentic, prompted many enquiries for films and books we could recommend for their historical accuracy. In general, for many reasons that directors and accountants can explain, films tend to be both uncaring and careless, but some great exceptions do demonstrate the advantages of conscientious research. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and THE LION IN WINTER spring readily to mind.
However, we do not wish to begin a regular series of recommendations for cinema-goers, and apart from occasional comment on the Cinema Notes pages we intend to leave the question of cinematic integrity alone. Books are different. Authors do not have to observe the same budget disciplines that corrupt the authenticity of movies, and thus we need not be quite so hesitant about noting historical inaccuracy.
What books can we recommend? Well, actually, we have quite a long list of titles, but many of them were written a long time ago and may not be easily obtained.
Modern books? There are two historical novelists whose books are currently selling well, and deservedly so, with whom we should like to start this BookPost column. (There are many more, of course ~ but we have lots of time.)
INTO THE WILDERNESS is by an established novelist writing under a new name, Sara Donati. She leaves her readers with the impression that unless she is a time-traveller, and was actually there in the middle of the action, then she must have spent so many years undertaking the research she can scarce have had the time to write. Her story is of the beginnings of modern America in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The period detail is precise and the behavioural patterns of her characters show no hint of anachronism. The book teaches history while it entertains.
Oh, yes, it's a gripping tale and, to the delight of those who have been captivated by it, we now know that a sequel is in preparation, one that will bring its principal players to Scotland in search of their heritage ~ and thus into a region and history we know from from our own researches. ("Into the Wilderness" by Sara Donati is published by Bantam Books ~ ISBN-0553-10736-4 and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.)
You may order INTO THE WILDERNESS now!
DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon is the second of the recommendations for this month. The author's name is, of course, very well known, for this is the fourth volume of the series about her time-travelling heroine whose bigamy, spread across the centuries, is excused by her passion. Those of our own readers who remain a little sceptical about the nature of timewarps will recognise that such stories, if they are to grip their readers, must balance the mind-boggling demand on the imagination with the meticulous authenticity of the minor details. Here the author succeeds admirably ~ and we have attached some notes this month to illustrate this meticulous authenticity.
The author's large fanclub and the associated websites testify to her huge popularity, but for us the measure of her success is her grasp of historical detail in this difficult period of the 1745 Rising, her understanding of Jacobite politics, and the herbal lore she weaves into her story. ("Drums of Autumn" by Diana Gabaldon is published by Arrow Books ~ ISBN-044022425X and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.)
In the United Kingdom OUTLANDER carries the title CROSS STITCH, and the ISBNs of all four books are different from those used in North America. To order from Amazon in England, click the following -
To continue to the next page ~ CLICK HERE
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