Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole's new novel is Letters from Skye. When she's not writing, Brockmole can be found reviewing historical fiction as part of the Historical Novels Review's editorial team.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Brockmole's reply:
When I’m writing (which, really, is always), I rarely read much beyond research books, usually historical nonfiction, memoir, and some fiction contemporary to the era. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about France in the era before and during WWI, about wartime artists, about rehabilitation of wounded soldiers. I try to immerse myself in the period I’m writing and all of its details.

One that I read recently—begun as research and finished because I couldn’t not—is Humphrey Cobb’s stark, heartbreaking 1935 novel Paths of Glory. After a botched attack on a hopeless section of trench, the general is looking to salvage his dignity (but none of the blame) and orders an execution. The order, given in fury, but received down through the ranks in silence, causes the men, from the officers carrying it out to the innocent soldiers waiting in prison, to rethink what it means to be brave and what it means to be unlucky in battle. A powerful story of courage, culpability, and the futility of war.

When I am able to evade the stacks of research books on my desk in favor of fiction, I read it in guilty, stolen snatches. I picked up Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name: Verity recently because I’d heard so many great things about it, then could scarcely put it down. On the surface, it’s a story about WW2 spies and prisoners in occupied France, but at its heart it’s a celebration of friendship, told by an unreliable, yet irresistible narrator. Read it once to see where Wein lays each careful bit of plot, and a second time to appreciate the artistry.

Two very different books, but both about finding and holding tight to courage within war. As a writer, I sometimes have to remind myself that fears can be gotten past, as long as one reaches as far as they can.
Visit Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

--Marshal Zeringue