I’ve been reading a few novels recently. Some of them are Tesco’s 2 for £8 and I didn’t know what I was letting myself into. There are limited opportunities here for book browsing here; there is an Evangelical Book Shop that I’ve never been in, and another sort of bookshop above the white goods store. Anything else is a the best part of an hour away.
I’m not going to tell you the name of this book because it’s so awful. I only read it for something to do. But when a couple of characters agree to meet at “half two” and on the next page, having met and having played badminton for an hour and a half, you find them resting at 3pm you might get the message. I didn’t really follow the plot, such as it was, though the actors seemed pretty interchangeable. Which was just as well, as Adam suddenly turned into Luke mid-way in a conversation with a girlfriend (or was it the other way round) though Adam reappeared just as suddenly as he had disappeared. Not that it mattered, as the girlfriends seemed pretty interchangeable as well.
In another book, there was a reference to a Swiss 10 Franc piece. The largest denominated Swiss coin is Fr 5. It would only take a few moments to check this on the web, so why wasn’t it? Laziness?
A Twitter friend recommended Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, and I second that recommendation. She had ‘read’ it as an audio book. In the printed version, there is a facsimile of a typewritten letter at the beginning. The letter is dated in 1947, and printed in Pico. There are a couple of words in inverted commas. But not only didn’t they have carbon ribbons then, typewriters didn’t have smart quotes either. The setting is the Arctic, Spitsbergen, in winter. The narrator’s diary describes warming the valves of the Austin, to get the engine to start. Alas, removing the valves of an engine involves taking it to bits — I’ve been there, it really does. It was the custom, though, when motors were recalcitrant, to take the sparking plugs out and to warm them in the oven. Much easier. This isn’t the sort of thing that modern authors would know — I suppose here that the author has mis-remembered something historical that she had read.
Believe me, I don’t go looking for discrepancies in books, but there are times when they jump out from the page and kick me in the cajones. I don’t go checking on the moon phases, as in Dark Matter, nor do I check the details of something I know next to nothing about; but somehow when I recognise these trivial errors, the spell is broken for me. I like to be engaged with the novel, as a participant, an observer, to identify with the hero. But when something jars, the spell is broken.
I just want to enter the fantasy world of the author, nothing more than this.