Verus ~ A to Z Blogging Challenge


Verus: Latin for true, real.

Fiction is by its definition unreal, the imagination of the author. Yet, fiction is based on reality, it represents a part of  The Truth.

In Stranger or Friend, I kept the plot rooted in reality, the feeling as close to my memories of small-town Wyoming as possible.

But, does fiction have to feel real? Moreover, how important is accuracy in historical fiction?

Pulitzer Prize

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction is Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See. I haven’t read the book yet, but this accolade sent me to Amazon, where I found over 500 one-star reviews.

I usually dismiss the one-stars as vindictive, perhaps because if a book were that bad where I couldn’t give it any other rating, I would not review it. Just a personal thing.

Sure, there were some ridiculous comments, like: the book never arrived. Is that the author’s fault? Semi-biased as I am, I found the prose I read in the Look Inside feature absolutely gorgeous.

But as I read on, a theme began to emerge.  Many reviewers pointed out glaring errors in historical data the author used in the book, such as mentioning the use of the bombing of Paris during WWII as a backdrop for the characters to escape the city.

Paris was not bombed in WWII.

We know the French government surrendered, the city was not bombed by the Nazis, the Allies recognized its cultural significance, and yet more politics were involved. But, no bombing.

This will not keep me from reading the book, but I’m puzzled by the gaps in historical data, especially when it comes to one of the most important events in modern history. 

Again, I haven’t read the book. If you have, please let me know your thoughts on it. But, in the mean time, tell me this: is accuracy in fiction — especially historical fiction — of any importance?



26 responses to “Verus ~ A to Z Blogging Challenge

  1. Hi Silvia – how interesting … and yes a major fact must be remembered – so that’s crazy .. no wonder people are bringing it up. Minor things can be forgotten perhaps or glossed over …

    I’m not even sure I knew that Paris hadn’t been bombed – considering how much London and other cities were attacked – thanks for highlighting that bit of knowledge via this glaring mistake in Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light we cannot See” … Hilary

  2. impressive – well detailed!

    • Thank you, Hilary. It’s become a topic of intense conversation and maybe this book had something to do with it. France, according to history, was most certainly bombed, and there were fights and fires in and around Paris, but recalling history, the French government surrendered in order to save the city.

  3. The word, which sprang to my mind, is authentic. The story may be fictional, but unless it is about a parallel universe, places and events should be accurately described. Sue

  4. Oh, I read this (she says raising her arm in excitement.) I didn’t know the bombing didn’t actually happen. I thought the book was beautifully written, if a little long. I asked (OK made) my sons read it. They hated it, pointing out that it took forever for what happened at the end to end (don’t want to spoil it for you.) Interesting about the bombing inaccuracy and about winning the Pulitzer, which I didn’t know.


  5. I expect historical accuracy in books that are marketed as ‘historical novels’, especially one that wins the Pulitzer!! Otherwise the author should disclose up front if he’s materially distorted historical facts, and book should NOT be listed in ‘historical novel’ category.. Bombing Paris would qualify as a materially distorted fact!

    • It’s what puzzled me as well, Sammy. And if you read the reviews on amazon, this is the issue with most of the reviewers. Thank you for spending part of your weekend with me.

      • It just seems to be another example of ‘letting things slide” in our rules, laws and guidelines. Given that no one at the Rolling Stone got fired or suspended for the false rape story, in what should have been 100% factual reporting, it appears both truth and fiction are being given more and more ‘passes’ for duping the public.

        I’m very disappointed in the Pulitzer judges. Did you know this book wasn’t one of the four originally submitted for the prize? Judges didn’t want to award it to any of the four submissions, and they asked for a 5th submission. That’s how Doerr got the prize.

        That might speak to the poor quality they had to choose from. Why not suspend the award, instead, because no book deserved the prize?

      • Wow, Sammy, no I didn’t know that. I suppose this is because big publishers push their books while quality fiction sits out there unnoticed. And the Rolling Stone article, yes, a complete mess. I remember the woman journalist making the rounds on cable TV. If she knew this to be a lie and spoke with such indignation, she should’ve been fired. Or at the very least, someone should’ve been demoted. I assume there is a legal case against the paper from the families, as there should be. Thank you for sharing the Doerr story with me. Shaking my head at the whole thing.

      • Now I find a little factual error in my comment about the Pulitzer which i will correct in a post with reference to your post. Soon 😍

  6. Boy, did you make some interesting points! Often I think of fiction as totally from one’s imagination… not real.. but WHAT IF Paris was bombed? Is the book considered an historical fiction? Then was the book self-published? Was the author attempting to play “devil’s advocate’ and make people think out of the box? What was the author attempting to make the reader see or do? Is he in essence a weaver attempting to weave his own design? Interesting thoughts that you point out about truth. Thanks!

  7. I’m reading the book now. My book club loved it, and what I’ve read, the writing is well done. Wonder why the author, or an editor, let this error stand if Paris was not bombed. Are we sure? Just don’t see the point of a mistake like that. So many books to read, so little time. Glad to be following you after visiting during the #Challenge.

  8. It’s very interesting what you said about this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner’s amazon reviews. I’ve found that many critically acclaimed books are not embraced by the populace.

  9. greyzoned/angelsbark

    Hmm, interesting question. I think if a novel is positioned to be “historical fiction” then there should absolutely be truth in fact. If however it’s a true fiction novel, isn’t it supposed to be okay for the author to portray the setting as he or she sees it? It’s an interesting question for sure. I can see both sides of the issue.
    Good post and great word, verus.
    Michele at Angels Bark

  10. I’m surprised that wasn’t corrected through the editing process. I stopped writing historical fiction because people in the critique group were to picky about ever little detail. I set the story in 1941, Minnesota, and on Dec. 7, I described the light dusting of snow on the ground. One person questioned if I knew for a fact that there was a light dusting of snow. Boy, I didn’t think anyone would question snow in MN in Dec., but maybe it was the amount. I didn’t know All the Light won the Pulitzer. I guess historical accuracy isn’t as important as the story itself. It’s on my TBR pile.

    • Mary, now that is too much, questioning the amount of snow in MN in December. I sure hope you go back to writing historical fiction. Please. Distorting real history is one thing, and what your critic said is something else. You know, I’d wondered about the editorial process as well, but editors nowadays are so overwhelmed, I could see it happen in some cases. It’s on my TRB as well. Maybe we’ll compare notes at some point. Thank you for reading and the comment.

  11. Interesting observations, Sylvia. I received this book for Christmas and haven’t gotten around to reading it. The discussion about how the Pullitzer is awarded reminds me of the current controversy surrounding the nominations for the Hugo Award this year. These awards appear to have become politicized, just like the Nobels.

  12. Accuracy in historical fiction is vital. A big glaring error will turn me off a book like that in a minute. Unless it’s labeled as alternative history, and then the idea is that things happened differently than in the history we know.

  13. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never expected fictional works to bound by what really happened. If Dan Brown had been concerned with accurately depicting reality, The Da Vinci Code wouldn’t have been very interesting. If I want historical accuracy, I’ll read a non-fiction book. Otherwise, I’m fine with suspending reality for a well told story.

  14. If a book is based on historical fact I expect that it to be correct in the details otherwise it loses its veracity for me. I know it’s supposed to be an excellent book .. I wonder if he states in the foreward or somewhere about this ..?

I welcome your thoughts.

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