Finished a couple books over the weekend, but this one above (Heresy: A Medieval Thriller by S.J. Parris) I'm just starting. It was a review book sent by the publisher (READ: Freebie).
It's about the real historical figure Giordano Bruno, an Italian monk who lived during the period of the Inquisition (Elizabethan era in Britain, where much of it takes place). Bruno was one of those rabble-rousers out to disprove facts about the universe beyond the earth not being at its center. Basically, he was pissing off the pope, and would have been one roasted monk if he hadn't fled what was later to become the country of Italy.
So, he's looking high and low for this book, a heretical book written by an Egyptian priest re: everyone becoming God, somehow or other. Don't quite understand this bit yet, save that it's very much a banned book the Vatican would like to make into kindling. Kindling they wouldn't be averse to using fora Bruno barbecue.
Great premise, and I don't know enough about the real history of this for it to annoy the hell out of me if Parris gets something wrong. I understand she did her research, but what always irritates me about historical fiction is where the line is drawn between fact and fiction. I hate reading made up history, just as I don't like visiting a historical home in which reproduction furniture has replaced the original. But I digress.
The irritating part isn't the history (entirely), it's the WRITING. Namely, the syntax used. For what must be the millionth time, can an author NOT let the reader figure out who's speaking through context? Must she always let us know someone's whispering something, for example, when we know they'd have their head on the block if they shouted it out (i.e.: I'M LOOKING FOR A BOOK THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WOULD KILL FOR!!!)? Also, if we know a character is speaking, for God's sake leave off the "he said." And if a question mark is used, edit out the "he asked."
And the ADVERBS describing the manner of speaking! Leave out the ADVERBS!
Is that really too much to expect from a published book? Where have all the editors gone? Where? Where?
It's tough getting beyond such irritating syntax (and there are many, MANY even worse examples), difficult following a story line when your hand is twitching from the impulse to pull out a red marker and slash the annoying bits.
Less is more! Remember that bit of wisdom? (she asked, with rising annoyance)
When did writers forget that? Also, readers of historical fiction aren't likely to be morons. Don't treat them as though they are. Give them a little credit, and stop repeating things you've already said. Because you're making up some of this history, leave out so much extraneous material written so badly.
I know, I know, historical fiction novels are SUPPOSED to be long. But that's a rule I'd love to see broken. BE A REBEL! (she yelled, violently)
Phew. I feel better having vented. Not any more anxious to get back to Heresy, but better. What the book has provoked is a desire to read quality nonfiction about the Inquisition (no one expected it!)(sorry, it's a Monty Python thing if it makes no sense)(actually, it is even if it does), so I guess the experience isn't all irritating. Mostly, but not entirely.
Thanks for your attention to this matter.