mardi 12 mai 2009

When history comes alive

I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction. If well done, it’s an excellent way of revisiting a particular period of time. That said there are some historical periods that are more difficult than others. Take for instance the period of the French Revolution. Not exactly fiction material unless you were writing a tragedy maybe. But two of the best historical novels I’ve read recently are set during this particular period. They are the Red Necklace and its sequel Silver Blade by Sally Gardner. They are ostensible written for a younger audience don’t give them a miss for this reason as they are easily enjoyable by anyone (regardless of age) who enjoy a rollicking good read. Not only are Sally’s novels impressive for their intrinsic qualities (which I will get to in a moment) but also when we consider her background. She had much difficulties in school to the point that she was labeled unteachable by her teachers. In fact she is dyslexic and she learned to read only when she was 14. Happily for us that she learned to read because from learning to read she went on to do art school, graduating with honors and then working in theater for 15 years. From the theater she went on to illustrate children’s books then to writing them herself. And now she’s written two great novels that everyone can definitely enjoy. Now you know why I’m such a fan of this formidable woman!

So back to the books. Red Necklace and Silver Blade tell the story of Yann, a gypsy boy with curious magical powers and Sido, an aristocrat’s daughter. Their story is both an adventure and a love story. In a Paris gone mad under a horrible miasma of fear and hate, they must struggle to overcome the enmity of Count Kalliovsky, who is as dreadful a foe as you could possibly imagine. It is a richly written tale written with much historical authenticity but without ever losing its narrative flow. The story draws you in and doesn’t release you till the end. The characters are brilliant and ones you come to care about. You start with Yann and Sido, but by the end of the second book you are also rooting for other memorable ones as Tetu the dwarf, M.Aulard the theater manager and even Didier!
Don’t give these books a miss! And if you want to meet Sally Gardner in the flesh, she will be at the Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore for a reading of Silver Blade on the 4th of June!

Practical Details for Sally Gardner's reading

4 June 2009

Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore

22 rue St. Paul

75004 Paris

Metro Sully Morland or St. Paul

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