Author Topic: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?  (Read 8897 times)

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Leafy

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S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« on: February 08, 2013, 03:49:42 AM »
A number of people in the reading pet peeves thread mentioned that they dislike historical inaccuracies or when it seems like the author has not researched properly. This reminded me that I occasionally will think "Hmmm, is that accurate?" when reading a book. I thought others might do this too so perhaps we can use this thread to check whether other Ehellions can verify the accuracy of some books or parts of books.

The one that has been bugging me the most is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Tatiana and her sister go to the club and end up having adult relations with soldiers. Tatiana goes on to sleep with Alexander a gazillion times before they get married. She never hesitates or indicates in any way that this is not the norm. The book is set in WWII Russia. How accurate is this? I would have thought that adult relations before marriage were frowned upon in that time yet no-one bats an eye.

magician5

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 04:16:28 AM »
Can you think of any time in history, any place, where "not supposed to do that" didn't actually work out to "it happened all the time"?
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scotcat60

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2013, 07:35:01 AM »
Slight spin off here I don't know how accurate the adaptation from the book "World Without End" the TV series is, but so far, it's featured a daughter of Edward III called Joan, who was not born until 5 years after the events  in episode 1, the execution of his mothers lover, Roger Mortimer, and who appears, by the cast list  on the International Movie database to be played by two actresses, one a child, one a grown up. Joan died of the Black Death aged 13.
Episode one shows Edward II's funeral in Westeminster Cathedral. Apart from the fact that whoever captioned the TV programme probably meant Westminster Abbey, Edward II is buried in Gloucester Cathedral.
Queen Isabella was imprisoned abfter the death of her lover, and I doubt she presided over the courts of appeal, as in the series. It was because she had had too much power that her son deposed her and Mortimer.

I also think people would know that the Lord of the Manor couldn't  have a Bible small enough to sit on his bedside table., but  maybe I'm just nit-picking on that one.

Margo

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2013, 09:29:04 AM »
A number of people in the reading pet peeves thread mentioned that they dislike historical inaccuracies or when it seems like the author has not researched properly. This reminded me that I occasionally will think "Hmmm, is that accurate?" when reading a book. I thought others might do this too so perhaps we can use this thread to check whether other Ehellions can verify the accuracy of some books or parts of books.

The one that has been bugging me the most is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Tatiana and her sister go to the club and end up having adult relations with soldiers. Tatiana goes on to sleep with Alexander a gazillion times before they get married. She never hesitates or indicates in any way that this is not the norm. The book is set in WWII Russia. How accurate is this? I would have thought that adult relations before marriage were frowned upon in that time yet no-one bats an eye.

I believe that after the Russian Revolution marriage was seen as slightly suspect as being linked both to the church and to bourgeoisie attitudes, so for a period there was a lot of discussion about free love, whether marriage was appropriate in Soviet state etc. I believe that the official line was a bit more restrictive again by the 40s and that public opinion didn't change much (although presumably, depending on your social circle, you might not have expressed your opinions much)

I would guess that this was probably more acceptable than it would have been in the UK or USA at the same time. I suspect that it is probably fairly accurate - that there would have been a significant minority of people for whom this was not usual. 

The 'World Without End' - I watched the first half hour and it was so stuffed with anachronisms and just plain ridiculousness I thought it must be a spoof and was waiting for the punch line..

One of my pet annoyances is one of the 'Brother Cadfeal' books where there's a major inaccuracy which basically drives a coach and horses through the plot. (Deliberately vague to avoid spoiling it for others)

Patchy 'period' language is really annoying to me, too. I can live with using modern language (after all, peopel would have used what was , to them, normal, colloquial language so it gives you the immediate 'feel') or using more accurate period language, but a mixture of the two jolts me out of my suspension of disbelief. (Downton Abbey is a repeat offender so far as this sort of thing is concerned, and it does it with social attitudes, too.)


One of my pet hates is when books are reissued and 'updated'. I am very fond of a set of books written by Monica Edwards and set on Romney Marsh in Sussex. They were written and set in the 1950s and 60's. There are some reprints which were published in the 1980s which I find really irritating as they have been 'updated' - so mentions of money have been changed from pre-decimal to decimal money (placing the action after 1971) but you still have horse-drawn milk-floats, references to the War, no television, penicillan as a virtually unknown wonder drug etc.

Kiara

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2013, 09:32:20 AM »
Quote
One of my pet annoyances is one of the 'Brother Cadfeal' books where there's a major inaccuracy which basically drives a coach and horses through the plot. (Deliberately vague to avoid spoiling it for others)

Can you PM me what it is?  Because I love those books, and now I'm wondering if I'm a doofus for missing something!  LOL!

Twik

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2013, 09:54:21 AM »
Can you think of any time in history, any place, where "not supposed to do that" didn't actually work out to "it happened all the time"?

It may have happened all the time, but not like in "our" time.

For example, if a pre-1960s woman isn't concerned about pregnancy, it's not realistic. If sexually transmitted diseases are not shown as a problem, in a book set before the widespread introduction of antibiotics, it's not realistic.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2013, 10:06:57 AM by Twik »
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wolfie

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2013, 09:58:00 AM »

I also think people would know that the Lord of the Manor couldn't  have a Bible small enough to sit on his bedside table., but  maybe I'm just nit-picking on that one.

You are nit-picking that one. I am assuming that the reason the lord of the manor can't have a small bible is because the printing press wasn't invented yet? Because that is the only thing I could come up with and I wouldn't even have thought of it if you didn't post here. 

Ereine

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2013, 10:19:41 AM »
Can you think of any time in history, any place, where "not supposed to do that" didn't actually work out to "it happened all the time"?

It may have happened all the time, but not like in "our" time.

For example, if a pre-1960s woman isn't concerned about pregnancy, it's not realistic. If sexually transmitted diseases are not shown as a problem, in a book set before the widespread introduction of antibiotics, it's not realistic.

I think that in case of the Russian story, at least according to what I've heard of later generations of women in the Soviet Union, abortion would have been a very common method of pregnancy "prevention". Though it's possible that it was only in later times. I read something online that said that having sex was pretty difficult, there were older attitudes and traditions from strict religion that still influenced people and romance was supposed to be something unimportant, after work and politics and comradeship. Also according to the article finding places for sex would have been difficult as most people wouldn't have their own bedrooms* and adult children lived with their parents. Hotels wouldn't allow unmarried people to rent rooms. My source was some guy who arranges Russian wives for American men so who knows how accurate it is, though.   

* S/O I've stayed once in a post-Communism apartment that was probably pretty much like it had been during Communism, this was in 1993. A family of five, parents and three sons lived in two rooms. One was a kitchen, with wood-burning stove if I remember correctly, very dark. The other was a tiny bedroom with bunk beds where the whole family slept. I assume that they had had sex at some point but there wasn't much privacy around (the bathroom was shared by everyone living in that story). I still remember how shocked I was, the family were friends with ours and sort of similar with civil servant father (who actually worked for some ministry, this was in one of the newly independent countries) and both parents with university degrees. Their style of living did change pretty quickly though and in the end it was pretty luxurious as their country's economy grew.

Nora

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 10:31:15 AM »
Can this go for other media as well? I've been watching Mr Selfridge, a new show about the start of modern stores in London/one big scandal fest, and it honestly took me halfway into the pilot to discover it was not meant as a parody of The Paradise. Jeremy Piven is incredibly grating in his performance as a niveau riche businessman from 'Merica, and I keep feeling my ability to suspend disbelief slipping when he's in the scene being shown.
Just because someone is offended that does not mean they are in the right.

Slartibartfast

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2013, 02:40:03 PM »
Speaking as someone who is trying to write a book set in 1870 and is having to do all sorts of weird and specific research, it can be frustrating to find information that's *almost* what you want, but isn't specific to your needs.  I can find information about what foods were common among the upper class in 1860 - but were they still common ten years later?  Were terms like "the upper ten thousand" (the social elite) applicable in England as well as America?  Were they synonyms to "the ton" like the Regency era used, or do they encompass a slightly different set of people?  When something "became common in the Victorian era," did that mean in 1850 or in 1910?

Another one that bugs me but I don't know if it should: as far as we know, most upper-class married couples called each other by their names/titles, even in private.  Definitely in correspondence, at least (which is all we have left to go by).  95% of historical romance novels, though, have the hero and heroine calling each other by their first names by halfway through the book.  That's another one of those things that's hard to research: would couples have done this?  Maybe only the ones who were in love, or the ones who weren't quite so rich, or the ones who were really rich, or the ones who respected each other, or or or . . .

Twik

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2013, 02:44:52 PM »
Slarti, I think in the casual 21st century, we find it almost unimaginable how formal people could be in years gone by. I remember the British Library had a display of a letter written by the future Elizabeth I to her brother, when she was, I think, in her early teens. It was a combination of affection (he was ill, and she had not been allowed to visit him, which worried her) plus language that would swamp a UN bureaucrat.
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snowflake

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2013, 03:02:43 PM »
The one that has been bugging me the most is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Tatiana and her sister go to the club and end up having adult relations with soldiers. Tatiana goes on to sleep with Alexander a gazillion times before they get married. She never hesitates or indicates in any way that this is not the norm. The book is set in WWII Russia. How accurate is this? I would have thought that adult relations before marriage were frowned upon in that time yet no-one bats an eye.

Premarital sex was actually fairly common in Europe in general during that period.  I can't speak to a specific region though.  If we were talking some small hamlet where everyone was a devout orthodox I might say nuh-uh. 

I have read several things (sorry, about 20 years ago so I don't have recent citations) about how we assume that any age before 1969 was very prudish but that was not the case at all.  One publication pointed out that in one parish in England during the 1500s, 30% of all couples had a baby within the first 5 months of marriage.  So apparently it was a very regular occurrence even if there was stronger pressure to marry if they did get pregnant.

What annoys me is when people specifically write about women/men with "old-fashioned" values that go from "Eeek!  Scrabble!" to "I love you! I love you! With my body, I thee worship" in a single night.  I grew up in a sort of repressed town and it never really worked that way.  I find it unrealistic that a woman who has no access to birth control and significant social shaming will be like, "Oh yeah, PREGNANCY!" after three months of Scrabble.  I find it unrealistic that love overcomes guilt without a whisper.

But then again, most people would probably start screaming in pain if they had to walk into my HS in the 80s and listen to all the Scrabble-angst.  No one wants to read that sort of realistic detail in an escapist novel.

Margo

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2013, 03:43:16 PM »
The one that has been bugging me the most is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Tatiana and her sister go to the club and end up having adult relations with soldiers. Tatiana goes on to sleep with Alexander a gazillion times before they get married. She never hesitates or indicates in any way that this is not the norm. The book is set in WWII Russia. How accurate is this? I would have thought that adult relations before marriage were frowned upon in that time yet no-one bats an eye.

Premarital sex was actually fairly common in Europe in general during that period.  I can't speak to a specific region though.  If we were talking some small hamlet where everyone was a devout orthodox I might say nuh-uh. 

I have read several things (sorry, about 20 years ago so I don't have recent citations) about how we assume that any age before 1969 was very prudish but that was not the case at all.  One publication pointed out that in one parish in England during the 1500s, 30% of all couples had a baby within the first 5 months of marriage.  So apparently it was a very regular occurrence even if there was stronger pressure to marry if they did get pregnant.

What annoys me is when people specifically write about women/men with "old-fashioned" values that go from "Eeek!  Scrabble!" to "I love you! I love you! With my body, I thee worship" in a single night.  I grew up in a sort of repressed town and it never really worked that way.  I find it unrealistic that a woman who has no access to birth control and significant social shaming will be like, "Oh yeah, PREGNANCY!" after three months of Scrabble.  I find it unrealistic that love overcomes guilt without a whisper.

But then again, most people would probably start screaming in pain if they had to walk into my HS in the 80s and listen to all the Scrabble-angst.  No one wants to read that sort of realistic detail in an escapist novel.

I think being pregnant at marriage was very very common.

Certainly for poorer people, where having children was a significant financial asset, they often got engaged, then had sex, then got married once the woman got pregnant. I forget the figures but I think well into the Victorian era a significant proportion of women were pregnant at the time they married.  And even later it wasn't particularly uncommon.

I think one big change in attitudes came in the 17th C with the rise of puritanism, and then another wave in the mid- to late Victorian era.

My mum is interested in family history. She found that her grandparents managed to produce their first child after only 5 months of marriage (she was only about 13 when she did the initial research and didn't make the connection. \my grandma had to suggest to her that it might be a good idea to just put the years, not the months, of the births, deaths and marriages before she handed in the family tree as a school project. . And I think that had more to do with how the (very early 1960s, all girls Grammar) School would see it, not due to any particular embarassment about her parents and sister!


Coruscation

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2013, 04:43:16 PM »
The statistics I read were that 25% of first born children in the Victorian era were born out of wedlock and 25% were born less than nine months after the wedding.

Slartibartfast

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Re: S/O Reading Pet Peeves - How Accurate is This Book?
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2013, 05:08:30 PM »
The statistics I read were that 25% of first born children in the Victorian era were born out of wedlock and 25% were born less than nine months after the wedding.

It was an investment, honestly.  Divorce wasn't available for anyone but the richest and most connected of the elite, so if you married someone you were stuck with them.  Combine that with primogeniture and you end up really, really needing a wife who is capable of bearing children.  If you married someone who then turned out to be unable to conceive, your entire net worth would be given away to a relative who may or may not be willing to use some of that money to care for your widow, should you die first.  Waiting until the woman was pregnant was insurance that yes, you will probably be able to procreate together.  If the baby kills her that's too bad but you'd be free to marry again - but if she can't conceive at all you're stuck.  (No mention of how the man might contribute to fertility issues of course.)