Kate Grenville Watch #2

In the post "Kate Grenville Watch #1" which appeared here yesterday I included the line: "A British author takes exception to the implication that Grenville's novel is the first to tackle this subject matter." The passage from "The Canberra Times" which instigated my note is as follows:

British author Jane Rogers has accused Grenville of implying on her website that the novel, The Lieutenant, is the first to cover this ground. Rogers' 1995 novel, Promised Lands, which won the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Book award in Britain, is also based on the life of the amateur scientist and astronomer Dawes. In an email to a Canberra acquaintance which was forwarded to The Canberra Times, Rogers said Grenville "has based her novel on exactly the research that I did for Promised Lands, although she seems to imply that hers is the first novel ever to cover this ground".
There is more, which you should read, but this was the part that caught my eye. I didn't make any comment on this at the time for a few reasons, mostly to do with time. And then last night I received a comment from Kerryn Goldsworthy on the original post that made me go back and have a look at the full newspaper piece, and also at Grenville's discussion of how she came to write the novel, from her website.

"The Canberra Times" includes the paragraph (On her website she says, "When I came across the germ of this story in historical sources, I knew I had to try to tell it: I wanted others to feel the hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck excitement I was feeling about these two people and what happened to them.") which, I assume, they feel supports Rogers' case. It is a statement taken from an interview Grenville has also posted on her website.

The question is: does this lead you to think that Grenville believes she is the first to see the literary possibilities with this material? I don't think so, and I'm with Kerryn here; I just can't see anywhere in Grenville's piece where she implies anything, and if the interview answer is all they have to base their accusations on, well...it's bit thin. Maybe the thought is that because Grenville doesn't explicitly acknowledge Rogers' novel then she implies, I don't know - maybe it's "non-existence". It's a real stretch.

Grenville, herself, has stated that she was aware of Rogers' novel but only skimmed it enough to ascertain that her approach to the story would be different to her own; a wise move in my view. But I can't see how this can lead to anything. As Kerryn says, it's a beat-up. And to top things off, how about this last sentence from "The Canberra Times": "Grenville has been at pains in recent interviews to make it clear that The Lieutenant 'is not history', preferring to refer to the book as a novel about 'the past'." I just love the quoted words 'the past'. It's an historical novel. Let's leave it at that.


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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 3, 2008 2:27 PM.

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