The war in France
It’s also best to avoid controversy or anything doubtful, which has a hint of being anachronistic. It has to feel correct. E.g: Soldiers did play baseball in the American Civil War. I believe they also played in a Jane Austen novel too. But the reader may found that hard to accept.
Societies traditions, moral mores and customs help to build the picture, but this is where even the most fanatical historian can come unstuck. Many time periods, such as Regency, have become so stylised that you may actually be considered to have written an historically inaccurate book if you do not follow the “popular perceptions” of the period. Presenting a realistic and complex view of society during a specific era can be the thing that makes the difference between a passable yarn and a gripping story.
It’s surely about striking the right balance. The story is the most important thing, but it must be firmly rooted in the appropriate period. It must not simply be a costume drama. The past must be made as relevant as the present. The problems can be the same: human emotion, conflict and behaviour. Falling in love and losing that love are just as painful, whatever year it is in.
It’s a combination of accuracy and imagination that will make the story plausable. The writer needs to incorporate the odd, quirky detail. Perhaps the price of cheese, a housemaid’s monthly wage, a description of underwear, length of time for a journey, breed of horse, how someone would get their boots mended, what book or newspaper they might read. How would they conduct a funeral, spin wool, pluck a hen, fire a rifle, fight a duel or take part in a bare knuckle fight. Whatever is needed for your story. When you can’t draw on personal experience or memories use interviews, explore diaries, memoirs, biographies, newspapers, etc. Select with care. Don’t put material in just because you wish to show off how much you learnt at the Imperial War Museum. Too much info can be boring unless it is entirely relevant to the story.
It is the correct little details which builds the atmosphere, gives a strong sense of time and place that creates a feeling of reality vital for the reader, so that they’ll sit back and enjoy the ride.
Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil.
Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.
Available in most good books shops and online.