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Pedants' corner

Inaccuracies in books

(106 Posts)
Farmor15 Fri 18-Jan-19 11:56:55

Does anyone else get distracted when reading novels by mistakes? Not spelling or grammar errors but mistakes about the past. I know authors of fiction can alter some things for the sake of the story, but I'll give some examples of things I've read recently that I found annoying:

In an historical novel by Ian Mortimer he described a workhouse in 1740s England - workhouses didn't start till 1800s. In the same book, the main character was going to a cinema in 1942 - and the sign said "Screen One". To my knowledge, this term only started being used in 1970s/80s when the multiplexes started.

I'm now reading "The Heart's Invisible Furies" and while I'm enjoying it, and realise it's a kind of fantasy novel, it still annoys me that 50 pence pocket money was being given in 1959, when it would have been 10 shillings.

When I find these kind of errors, I look at the author profile, and usually find they are relatively young, so writing about times they haven't lived through.

I think this just means I'm a pedant, but can't help it!

Jalima1108 Fri 18-Jan-19 12:03:07

I find it extremely annoying too!
Some of the obvious mistakes you have pointed out are ludicrous - don't these authors do any research at all?

I started reading a book called In the Land of the Long White Cloud set in the early days of New Zealand. It has some modern-day American expressions in conversations in the book which just spoil it for me.

I've abandoned it in favour of a terrific book written by one of our very own Gransnetters!

sodapop Fri 18-Jan-19 12:05:28

Yes and spelling errors or the use of incorrect words. Spoils my enjoyment of the book.

BlueBelle Fri 18-Jan-19 12:11:23

I loved The long white cloud series I don’t think I m observant enough to notice things like that I just get lost in the story probably says more about me than the author I do think I d notice about decimal money though

paddyann Fri 18-Jan-19 12:29:22

The new Mary Queen of Scots film having the tow queens meet and giving Mary a Scottish accent when she grew up in France .I know its not a documentary but there are those who will believe every they did about Wallace ...when wee Mel Gibson played the man who was a tall person.
The other film that really annoyed me was My Sisters Keeper where they changed the ending and spoiled the story .Why do they do this?

Sparklefizz Fri 18-Jan-19 13:13:44

I have just finished "The May Bride" by Suzannah Dunn which is the story of Jane Seymour, but Dunn has written an historical novel and given the characters modern day speech, so characters comment on a pregnant woman's "bump", or say things like "he's a decent bloke", and "Time to grow up, sunshine!" Aaaaarrrgh. It drove me mad and I had to force myself to finish the book but I won't be reading any more of hers.

It seems I am to have no respite because I have just started "The Heart's Invisible Furies" which has annoying errors as Farmor15 mentions above.

Anja Fri 18-Jan-19 13:30:21

Yes! Just tossed aside a book where the murderer was supposedly revealed because the ‘detective’ knew that two brown-eyed parents couldn’t produce a blue-eyed child.

Wrong! 😡

Parsley3 Fri 18-Jan-19 15:51:22

I am reading The Heart's Invisible Furies too and am also annoyed by the errors. However, I will read on as the story is getting interesting.

yggdrasil Fri 18-Jan-19 16:20:47

Why not write to the author and point these things out.
I did it once and got a nice reply, saying she'd check and correct in the next edition.

Nannarose Fri 18-Jan-19 16:26:33

Oh yes, I too find it infuriating! However, it's difficult - I'm sure that a lot of novels have mistakes in that I just don't notice.
Also, there are lots of things that just have to be imagined - I find that a good plot and engaging characters make me more forgiving.

I have the Diary of a Farmer's Wife that is based on a lost document, re-written from memory (or made up?). The author makes this clear and we are invited to read it, not as a historical document, but like a folk song - passed down, altered, re-imagined, but with a truth at its core.

Jalima1108 Fri 18-Jan-19 17:30:25

giving Mary a Scottish accent when she grew up in France
Yes! I saw that in a clip recently
and the fact that they never met.

The trouble is, directors etc will say it is artistic licence but so many people will believe it is all true.

Bluebelle I will try The Land of the Long White Cloud again (I have downloaded the sequel too) and try to ignore the modern Americanisms.

the murderer was supposedly revealed because the ‘detective’ knew that two brown-eyed parents couldn’t produce a blue-eyed child.
Oh dear!
We had a chart at work which showed that this was indeed quite possible - and even that two blue eyed parents can produce a brown-eyed child although that is more rare.

Jalima1108 Fri 18-Jan-19 17:31:37

Yes! I saw that in a clip recently
Actually, as this is a thread in pedants' corner I should say that I heard that in a clip recently


Wheniwasyourage Fri 18-Jan-19 18:12:18

DD had a copy of "The Swish of the Curtain", but it wasn't the copy I enjoyed as a child in the 50s, it was a new copy bought for her. Little did I know that it was an updated version. angry Almost everything was the same except that Maddy bought stockings for 50p!!! Apart from the fact that the stockings cost 10/6, if she had been shopping in the 70s she would have been buying tights!

That one annoyed me for some time. In fact, I find it still annoys me! What on earth was the point in trying to protect precious children from realising that things change and if you don't understand old money, ask your parents? confused

Bathsheba Fri 18-Jan-19 18:23:13

I noticed that 50p pocket money error in The Heart's Invisible Furies too. It really irritated me (but didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book, so don't be put off Sparklefizz wink)
And yes, I too get cross when modern idioms are used in period novels - I read a book recently that was liberally sprinkled with these anachronisms, but for the life of my I can't recall which book it was hmm

M0nica Fri 18-Jan-19 19:14:23

I have given up on historical novels because even if they get the language and facts right, the characters always react as if they lived in the 21 century, especially in relationships between men and women.

It stops me watching costume dramas on television or in films.

Farmor15 Fri 18-Jan-19 19:35:50

Glad I’m not the only one who gets irritated by inaccuracies!

With regard to brown-eyed parents having blue-eyed children, 2 of our 5 have blue eyes, even though both husband and I have brown. No, I didn’t have an affair with the postman- used to be family joke🤭. Blue-eyed parents having brown-eyed child is pretty rare, but genetics of eye colour is quite complicated.

rockgran Fri 18-Jan-19 19:53:39

Yes the Scottish accent when it should have been French was the first thing I noticed about the clip of the new film. I also have trouble with an American accent in ancient times and a posh English accent if an evil alien is speaking.

JackyB Fri 18-Jan-19 21:11:21

On the cheaper Kindle books I have deleted some because of stupid mistakes like this. Inaccuracies of the kind described annoy me, as they could so easily be prevented (a young author only has to ask their Mum or Dad?!?!)

Spelling mistakes, grammar, and often the names getting confused are things that niggle and cause me to stop reading.

Jane10 Fri 18-Jan-19 21:26:38

I dislike modern attitudes being applied within recently written 'historical novels.' I actually really enjoy books written at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Yes they may sometimes seem politically incorrect but were accurate reflections of how people thought back then when they were bang up to date. They're also usually very well written and can be very funny. (Depending on the author of course as it always does!)

Anja Fri 18-Jan-19 21:33:58

Farmore that was my point 🤨😳🙄

Jalima1108 Fri 18-Jan-19 22:03:51

Mary Queen of Scots accent. Apparently she spoke the old Scots language. Not Gaelic which was not spoken in the lowlands of Scotland. She continued to speak Scots In France though French would have become the most dominant, as well as other languages. She was not taught English

Jalima1108 Fri 18-Jan-19 22:06:06
but cinema goers would be flummoxed!

BradfordLass72 Fri 18-Jan-19 22:28:37

Wheniwasyourage I can still hum the tune to the radio version of 'The Swish of the Curtain'. Did you know the author, Pamelo Brown, began that book when she was 14?

An anachronism which annoy me is when people say someone is pregnant in the days when no one would have used that word.
We had so many euphemisms for it and my aunties would even whisper, 'expecting', presumably because it hinted at what had gone on to cause it smile

And when men come into the room wearing a hat and make no attempt to take it off!

I also get on my high horse when someone uses 'prodigal' to mean returned. But I think I've mentioned that before.

About William Wallace - have just heard what I assume to be an accurate history of his life, by Ian Oliver. A sad age and a sad history indeed.

Nannarose Sat 19-Jan-19 07:37:35

Jane10 - I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but it seems to me that there will always have been different views & experiences among people.
For instance, I have recently been annoyed by some newspaper & radio references that women & girls were not encouraged to do sport in the early 20C. I am happy to believe that was their own family / community experience, but not that it was widespread.
I have also had some women of my age (late 60s) say that 'girls didn't do science when I was at school'. I say 'maybe they didn't at your school - we did at mine!

aggie Sat 19-Jan-19 07:51:22

I am 81 and we did Science at school , and Latin I found them both equally trying !