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View Diary: Contemporary Fiction Views: Zelda and Scott and novels about real people (42 comments)

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  •  I Suffer No Anathema (8+ / 0-)

    to reading biographical novels.  In fact, I lust after them (hint hint).

    Can I just let drop Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall as the best fictionalized bio I've ever read?  Without which Thomas Cromwell seems just another dull bureaucrat of the Tudor Court.

    One of my best reads of 2013 is The Indian Clerk, a fascinating look at the relationship between two brilliant mathematicians of the early 20th C.,  G. H. Hardy and Ramanujan.  While no sesual tension exists between them, even though Hardy was homosexual, plenty of professional tension does.

    Then there's Julian Barnes' Arthur and George that speculates on the factual incident of Arthur Conan Doyle's interest and involvement in the legal case ( a miscarriage of justice) of George Edalji.  Doyle  championed his case for a pardon in the newspapers and in parliament, and it was the only case in which he ever participated in his own Shelockian investigation.  At times, plodding -- as only Barnes can be -- it's still an absorbing novel.

    Stretching the parameters of your thesis a bit, Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer winning novel, The Hours is one third fictionalized biography of Virginia Woolf.  And it's a jewel of a novel.

    For absolute fun, I recommend two small novels: The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys, speculative fictionalized bio of the "Little General's" return to Europe after he escapes St. Helena.  The second is the delightful The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett in which QEII discovers a love of reading when she happens to wander inside the bookmobile parked outside the palace's kitchen.

    And to return more directly to your topic, I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain about the tempestuous marriage of Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, in which we get a look at the young writer from his wife's eyes.  And it ain't purty.

    Oh!  I just remembered a dreadful example of why you should regard this non-genre genre of books like they're poison.  It's Paganini's Fire by Ann Abelson.  DON'T  READ IT!  Gak!

    But don't let that last put you off reading fictionalized biographies.  Some of the most thrilling are about painters (see first para) -- Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Susan Vreeland's works, included.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:51:34 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for the rec on the Indian Clerk (6+ / 0-)

      I had not heard about it and will add to my "to read" list. I enjoy historical fiction, and look forward to reading Z as well.

      If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - President John F. Kennedy

      by laurel g 15942 on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:29:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Hours is a beautiful book (5+ / 0-)

      and walk-ons by real people in novels never bothered me. Cunningham's book, with the alternating narratives, was more of an extension and tribute to Woolf's work than a retelling of her life (even with that heart-wrenching scene before she filled her pockets).

      Although much of the book concerned itself with Mrs. Dalloway, it was that moment that brought something from To The Lighthouse to life which completely captured me. Utterly brilliant.

      I didn't always have this feeling about fictionalized biographies. In junior high, Irving Stone's romances were my main reading fare. (Well, along with Jules Verne, Margaret Mitchell, Tolkien and Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy.)

      Perhaps it's just as well I can't recall the book that put me off this genre. So thank you for naming so many that represent the better part of it.

    •  Wolf Hall and The Hours both on my bests list (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I judge a book partly by whether it is easy to put down. Both The Hours and Wolf Hall were absolutely uninterruptable.

      I liked The Paris Wife but it was not on the same level.

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