A new review of "Yankee Reconstructed" appeared today. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but I think I like the description of "disturbingly accurate." If I catch the reader's meaning, he's admitting that the story is accurate but wishes it weren't. Here's what he wrote:
"Having grown up in another state, I was concerned about some references to historic events during Reconstruction in South Carolina. After reading sections, I researched the real events (i.e., in Abbeville and Camden) and found the book disturbingly accurate in historic detail. I enjoyed the symbolism of the Sheldon Church ruins, having been there many times. This book explored some complex issues with characters of that time, including the acknowledgment of families of mixed slave and plantation owner roots and the conflict for transplanted Northerners."
That's one of the problems of writing historical fiction, of course. We tend to want to romanticize the past. The past itself, however, can be really nasty. How much of the nastiness to include is the question with which every author must struggle to some extent. For a historian turned novelist, there's just no way to ignore the follies of our ancestors.
I'm curious to hear from other readers. Do you enjoy learning about the past even if the story contradicts your long-cherished beliefs? Do you want your writer to tell you the truth even when it hurts? Or do you prefer a pleasant, sanitized version of history -- one that offers nothing more than entertainment and an escape on a rainy afternoon?