I am always amazed at how well everyone remembers their childhood reading. Me? I know I devoured Enid Blyton, but I don’t remember it. The first book I do remember reading is The Hobbit, at age 11. At 14 I discovered Jean Plaidy’s Tudor Saga. I even remember two pieces of vocabulary she taught me. Disembowel and excruciating. I think poor Mark Smeaton was being executed at the time …
How many authors trigger such vivid and specific memories?
I was past my Plaidy phase by the time she published the first of her 14 volume Plantagenet Saga in 1976. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I started researching potential material for the #1976club. Then I thought what a great opportunity to revisit a fondly remembered author!
Well … historical fiction has come a long way in the intervening 4.5 decades. (Or literary historical fiction has.)
And really, that is all I want to say because I’ll never stop if I start to list Plaidy’s cardinal sins: don’t trust your reader to understand your characters but repeat the point, the behaviour, the thought ad nauseam; include salacious and impossible gossip in your plotline as in Eleanor of Aquitaine having an affair with Saladin, who was 11 years old at the time she was on crusade, etc, etc.
Where was the editor? Perhaps by 1976 Plaidy was too big a name to be edited. When I think of the personalities she was working with: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Becket and how flat they appeared in her pages. Too much telling, not enough showing. Admittedly Beckett came across as a more complex figure, but then he did go through a radical character shift, one that Plaidy couldn’t ignore. He had to change as the pages turned. Henry and Eleanor, however, remained stuck in the same old ruts, playing the same old soundtracks.
What a slog. Still at least I can strike the other 13-volumes of the Plantagenet Saga from the wishlist. Silver linings and all that.