Off Work Pt.2
Historical fiction varies just as widely in quality as any other genre. It swings from the brilliance of Hilary Mantel or Patrick O’Brian to the most banal of romances. At their best they offer a view into another world but even the straightforward ones give a glimpse into the past. Devil is the first in a projected series by David Churchill called The Leopards of Normandy. It tells the story of the Duchy and how it came to change England so dramatically. Churchill is the pseudonym for journalist David Thomas and he writes a decent yarn in solid prose. Writing about a period of which not much is written means that there are quite a few gaps to fill, and he manages to drive the story along with gusto.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is set in the years preceding and during the Second World War. Written in very short chapters (usually only a page or two) it alternates between the story of orphan Werner, a teenage genius at radios, and Marie –Laure, the blind daughter of a museum locksmith. It’s a gripping page turner and despite at times rather overripe prose it is moving without too much sentimentality. My favourite was Dictator by Robert Harris. This is the concluding part of the trilogy that begins with Imperium which charts the political life of Cicero. Though set over 2000 years ago we actually have far better sources than 11th century Normandy and Harris uses the device of Tiro, his slave secretary, to tell the story. It is a story that every aspiring politician should read and anyone interested in the Roman Republic – both hugely illuminating and entertaining.