I‘ve just started a book which doesn’t follow my normal choice of reading material.
It’s historical fiction. I have read and enjoyed some (Sarah Waters) but really I’d rather read something written in that period. I love Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth and Testament of Experience; and Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That, and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. There’s plenty of other great material to choose from too.
I picked up this historical fiction with a view to taking it to the beach. It covers early 20th century London with a young woman who qualifies as a doctor. So I’m fascinated by the period, I’m interested in and have studied the women’s movement and various members of my family are doctors, so medicine appeals to me too.
Just about instantly I knew I’d made a mistake, but having paid good money for it, and wanting something that let me relax and didn’t demand to much, I persevered. (And I feel a strong obligation to finish any book I start.) The whole thing has an anachronistic flavour and I find myself stopping and thinking ‘would they actually have said that then?’ Cursed with the ‘look it up’ gene, I’ve gone and checked out the date of origin for some phrases and they are just about okay. For example one character says something ‘boggles the mind’ each individual word of which is fine and was easily in use at that time; but ‘mind boggling’ wasn’t in use until 1960-5. Did we call policemen ‘cops’ in the early 20th century (coppers, yes, but cops?) Or is that an Americanism?
I am sure I am begging and praying to be criticized and found fault with; undoubtedly people will leave comments correcting my grammar and finding all sorts of errors in my writing. I don’t wish this to be personal or some kind of witch hunt. I am in awe of anyone who finishes writing a book, let alone gets it published, but I think I have learned to stick to work published in that period.
Maybe I haven't just got the 'look it up' gene - maybe I've also got the 'nit-picking' gene too.
Damn it; that means son's got the 'splitting hairs' gene from me and not husband.
Blast, perhaps I'd just better quit now, while I'm ahead. Am I ahead? Or is that the 'competitive' gene kicking in?