Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bits and pieces

The UK Historical Novel Society conference took place in Manchester on October 17th, and since I wasn't able to attend, I've been enjoying the reports from afar.

From Publishers' Marketplace... Three upcoming novels from Philippa Gregory have been announced, all part of her Cousins' War series set during the Wars of the Roses: The Kingmaker's Daughters (about Anne and Isabel Neville), for publication in 2012; The White Princess (about Elizabeth of York), and The Last Rose (subject TBA). All were sold to Trish Todd at Touchstone/Simon & Schuster US, with Suzanne Baboneau at S&S UK co-editing, via agent Anthony Mason.  Coming next, in 2011, is The Lady of the Rivers, about Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, mother of Elizabeth Woodville.

The Romantic Armchair Traveller is a wonderful new blog I found recently, thanks to a comment Danielle left on my site.  Pleasing from both aesthetic and literary standpoints, it takes readers on armchair journeys to lands near and distant.  Danielle focuses on romance novels and other romantic fiction with a strong sense of place, and her thoughtful reviews, full of incisive commentary, are interspersed with photos of the setting in question.

The murmurings in literary circles are growing louder every day, thanks to an Oxford academic's revelation that Jane Austen had some editorial help with her spelling and grammar, and she also revised her own manuscripts.  The BBC seems to have blown things out of proportion with the headline "Jane Austen's Style May Not Be Hers."  I prefer Catherine Delors's take on the issue: Breaking News: Jane Austen Was Human!  Most novelists today use word processing software, so the visual evidence of their editorial changes will be lost to posterity, but Austen's original manuscripts show all of her cross-outs and rewrites.

I spent the weekend reading an ARC of Kate Morton's The Distant Hours and finished it late last night, taking breaks every few chapters to draw out the experience a little longer.  I'll save my writeup to post when it's out around November 9th, but I'll note here that I loved it and envy those who'll be reading it for the first time.  (How's that for a recommendation?)


  1. Lovely post -- I can't wait for the Morton review, and thank you for the suggestion of the Romantic Armchair Traveller -- fantastic blog!

  2. Thank you for the interesting links, among which I was stunned to find my own blog mentioned. I don't know what to say, even after brewing myself a strong cup of tea, except - thank you so much for your generosity!

    As for Austen, there's that saying about great books not being written but re-written. In the introduction to my edition of Pride And Prejudice (Penguin Classics, 1985), there's a snippet from a letter Austen wrote to her sister regarding the book's revisions, in which she refers to how she has "lop't and crop't" quite "successfully". It is amusing how a perfectly normal writing/publication process can become the cause of such gossipy fuss. Must have been a slower day than usual in the academic world.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Sarah, and for the link to the Romantic Armchair Traveler!

  4. Anonymous4:18 PM

    I found two things from Deborah Swift's writeup interesting - 1) that the English Civil War is a hard sell, even in England and 2) that WWII fiction doesn't go in the US. Perhaps, with the latter, the reference was to WWII fiction set in England and not spy thrillers or something with the Holocaust or at least Occupied France thrown in.

    Sarah Other Librarian

  5. Doesn't Danielle write the most amazingly comprehensive reviews!

    Looking forward to The Distant Hours.

  6. Re: the Jane Austen piece...we heard the prof interviewed on As It Happens (http://tinyurl.com/2a6wd24) and what she REALLY says is that while JA was fantastic at dialogue (a real feat for fiction writers), she did have issues with spelling and grammar that her editor helped with. Far from what the BBC was saying, the prof ALSO said that while the editor made the prose more correct, he actually TOOK AWAY from JA's natural style and voice. You can listen on the AIH podcast - don't know if it will be in P1 or P2...it's very interesting :)

  7. Sarah, thanks for the links about the UK HNS Conference. We, in the US, don't get to hear about our counterparts in the UK as often as we should. Sometimes it feels like we are two very separate groups. I look forward to hearing more about UK books, authors, activities on the blogs from your links. Thanks again
    Judith Schara Caldwell

  8. Danielle and Tess - I haven't listened to the As It Happens piece yet (thanks for that link, Tess!) but from other reports I've read, like those on NPR, the outcry seems a bit much... except perhaps for those readers who did believe that everything she did was perfect. On the NPR piece, Sutherland says that "All I can say is that, you know, as critics we should just stop polishing her halo," which I'd agree with. What writer can be held to such immaculate standards?

    Sarah, I did find that interesting about the English Civil War. With regard to WWII, British-set sagas are incredibly popular in the UK, whereas there's no market for those books in the US at all. I've read a few and enjoyed them, but the experience isn't one that Americans can directly relate to. What flies in the US are spy novels a la Alan Furst or, more commonly, literary fiction.

    Judith, thanks for your comments. Are you a member of the HNS e-list? British HNS members frequently post there, and I'm sure some of them will be coming over for the San Diego conference. I've attended one of the UK events (in 2003) and it was quite a bit smaller, but still a lot of fun. The 2010 conference sounds like one of their more successful events.

  9. Thanks for the great post!

    I'm so envious that you were able to read The Distant Hours before its release. I'm looking forward to your full review, and to reading the book myself.