Music boxes and willows, Edmund Bohan

The Song Journey
T E Scott
Scott Publishing, $37.00,
ISBN 9780473328863

Napoleon’s Willow
Joan Norlev Taylor
RSVP Publishing, $30.00,
ISBN 9780987658784

One of the attractions of historical fiction is its infinite variety. For far too long in New Zealand’s curious literary history, it has been a victim of intellectual snobbery and academic disdain. No longer, if one can judge by the sheer number of historical novels that have surfaced here during the last 20 years and their popularity with our reading public. We have caught up at last with what has been happening in the wider American, British and European markets for decades. We have matured since the stifling times in which I was growing up: when “proper NZ Lit” was jealously regarded as simply poetry and “serious” novels (very serious, dreary even); when solemn academics and agonising poets and short story writers searched in vain for the “great New Zealand novel”. Thank God we no longer bother! Yet historical fiction’s very diversity and popularity also creates its own problems for those with tidy minds who insist their genres must be clearly defined. We know about historical crime, saga, romance and so on, but what about time travel?

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