I just sat down with my morning tea, planning to review the Man Booker Prize for nominees from long ago and far away setting but Kate Braithwaite over at the Historical Novel Society beat me to it. She found that six of the thirteen nominees are historical fiction! Yes!
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is set in 1866 New Zealand.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, I assume, takes place in 1st century Palestine which places it in a time/place nearly as popular as the US and Western Europe. (The Near East spikes again at the Crusades.)
And, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is set in India during the Vietnam War. I confess I’m having a hard time labeling the Vietnam War historical fiction. Nothing that happened during my lifetime should qualify. But if that’s far enough back for you – then we’ll call it Long Ago and Far Away.
And it seems we’re not the only ones excited about historical fiction placed outside the normal geography. This year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction went to The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. The story is set in post WWII Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
Mr Eng was born in Penang, Malaysia and splits his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town, South Africa. His debut novel The Gift of Rain was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Garden of Evening Mists was shortlisted for the same. That’s an impressive start to a writing career.
Score a major victory for books written of Long Ago and Far Away!
And this one just leapt to the top of my To Be Read pile. I spent four years right across the Malacca Straits in Sumatra. In fact, the outline of my novel was birthed while on a much needed vacation in the Cameron Highlands. I can’t wait to read this!
Venue for the Historical Novel Society’s 2013 Conference,
The Vinoy, St. Petersburg, FL
This summer I attended my first Historical Novel Society conference. The speakers and breakout sessions were great, the food was perfect, the venue stunning, but the best by far was each writer’s excitement for their projects – eyes lit up and hands in motion.
Most historical fiction is set in the United States or Western Europe but there are writers compelled to explore more obscure times and places. These are the people I gravitated towards – since I am doing the same. We have to build entire worlds using fragmented and vague historical records; often extrapolating based on resources from the nearest time or place even if hundreds of years or miles off our mark. All the while we know there is some specialist historian out there who will catch us out in some small (or large!) detail. Could anything be more daunting? Or exhilarating?
The three hour drive home allowed my brain to process a dozen fortuitous conversations. By the time I reached my door, this blog seemed the obvious response to my 48 hour conference experience.
Numerous blogs focus on general historical fiction and some have specific time/place specialties but I want this one to be a hub for readers and writers of historical fiction outside the usual settings. I hope to include the following:
- Interviews with writers
- News and observations relevant to our niche
- A repository of resources, thought and discussion particular to writing about the Long Ago and Far Away.
I have discussed my vision with several other writers who are going off the beaten path and am looking forward to their involvement. One new friend is a writer of historical mysteries: Annamaria Alfieri. She is in the throws of launching her new book, Blood Tango. When she comes up for air I hope she will be the first interviewee for the site.
I hope you will visit often and join us on our journey to Long Ago and Far Away!
Hotel Provisions for the Conference
And good for any other journey!