Heroes and reality

Gill Othen gill at othen.fslife.co.uk
Sun Aug 3 09:53:39 EDT 2003

> Speaking as a medievalist, though not strictly an historian, I have to say
that for me, this is where the grey area starts to get pretty big. I mean,
there's lots of historical fiction which to me is entirely unrealistic
because it presents 20th century motivations and personalities in medieval
settings. (Ken Follett's one attempt is a classic example.) Dunnett's
> Lymond and Nicolo are also, to my mind, 20th century men parked in an
historical context.<<

I've never felt that. Yes, they have seriously superhuman elements (no-one
could be *that* good in bed!) but they are also very caught up in the
politics of their time, with the sort of questioning and failure to question
different aspects of society that were coomon then too. They lived in
exciting times(characters? They can't be just characters!) and Dunnet lets
them see a lot more of their worlds than would e reasonable for most men -
though Pierre Gilles and Anselme Adorne were real enough, after all. They
are super-Renaissance men, but still of their own time, surely.

 >>Another non-realistic element common in all of  Dunnett's work is the way
the hero can recover from injuries as if he had
> access to modern medicine.<<

But as often as not he doesn't - I've just re-read the Lymond books (yet
again) and the time it takes him to recover is on the whole quite plausible,
I think. And Robin of Berecrofts' injuries are hardly cured with the wave of
a wand!

>> I can think of heaps and heaps of other  examples, the historical novel I
read where the woman thought to herself  that she looked like one of
Chaucer's characters before the Canterbury  Tales was written... But I
suppose that this is not what you are getting at  - - does it have to not be
non-realistic *on purpose* to be speculative?

Dunnett's heroes are definitely superheroic, especially in their ability to
plan ahead and manipulate others, but I don't think they are non-realistic
in terms of being men of the wrong century.

While we're drifting OT, has anyone read the new Jasper Fforde, yet?
Wonderful stuff. It's a pity Fforde has to concentrate on books in the
public domain, though - I'd love to see Howl or Chrestomanci in there.

And a genuine DWJ point - are Howl and Chrestomanci related at all? Howl
shifts between worlds as easily as Christopher Chant did, it seems, though
CC is in London and Howl is Welsh. Does anyone wonder whether Chrestomanci
keeps an eye on him?

Nice to be back after a break.


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