Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison published twenty-six children's books before turning to adult novels with the "Mara" series of Celtic historical mysteries set in 16th century Ireland.

Her latest novel is Beyond Absolution, the third book in the Reverend Mother Mystery Series.

Recently I asked Harrison about what she was reading. The author's reply:
Currently I am reading Hilary Mantel’s book on the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. It’s not at all as well-known as her Wolf Hall and its sequel, but oddly I find myself enjoying it very much, more so, I think, than her more famous work. I was led to it by an article about Hilary Mantel that I read, in the Guardian, I think, which describes how this, her first novel, was written almost accidentally. She had intended to write a non-fiction book about the French Revolution, had done a tremendous amount of research, filing cabinets full of tantalizing snippets of information, and, no doubt, books, with post-it notes or cards stuck into relevant pages, lying around on tables and desk.

And then, suddenly, her non-fiction book turned into fiction. The three main characters of her research, Robespierre, Danton and Camille began to come alive for her; began to talk; had, in her mind’s eye, childhoods that modelled their future actions; had developed relationships with men and women that were to have consequences. Somewhere or other, Hilary Mantel says that she has to take chances with that. Knowing that she will never know whether she is right, or not, she has to put forward a plausible character, someone who will fit in with the known information. And so far into the book she has won me over completely and I will never be able to consider these three men in any other way than in the way in which she had painted them.

So why am I enjoying it so much more than Wolf Hall? I think that it is because, with Wolf Hall, I know too much about that early Tudor period. I have a couple of shelves full of books on that time, have read virtually all the biographies written about Henry VIII and quite a lot of those written about his numerous wives. And as for the other players on the stage, well, I’ve read about Thomas Cromwell, and I’ve several biographies about Thomas More and my vision of these two men does not gel with the vision put forward by Hilary Mantel. And I know quite a lot about Anne Boleyn, from early girlhood to her tragic end, and somehow my Anne Boleyn is not Hilary Mantel’s Anne Boleyn. So, to a certain extent, despite its fame, despite its obvious merits, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring up the Bodies, is spoilt for me and I did not really enjoy either book.

But when it comes to the French Revolution, I know shamefully little and so Hilary Mantel has woven her spell over me and I accept her vision and for ever those three men will be for me the ones that I have watched through her eyes, during childhood, adolescence, manhood and death. A splendid book and one to give me courage to research and to recreate in my ‘Reverend Mother’ series: A Shameful Murder, A Shocking Assassination and Beyond Absolution, the men and women who took part in the trouble-filled years of the early 1920s, during the emergence of Ireland as a Free State.
Visit Cora Harrison's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cross of Vengeance.

My Book, The Movie: Beyond Absolution.

--Marshal Zeringue