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Regular readers may remember that last year I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Alderney Literary Festival.  The lovely people who run that event have kept in touch, and today they have put a little piece by me on their blog.  It is about accuracy in historical fiction, which is something of a bugbear of mine.  And this demand for accuracy includes dialogue, of course.

My husband is away at the moment, which gives me the opportunity to go to the cinema and see whatever I want.  It’s not that we differ wildly in our tastes – the last film we saw together was “Fences” – but I have rather more tolerance for costume drama than he does, and his appetite for “bang crash” action is far greater than mine.  So when I saw that Hugh Bonneville’s latest outing “Viceroy’s House” was coming this weekend (lots of costumes, very little banging or crashing), I gave a literal little squeal of joy.  And then I read a review and watched the trailer…

The review is in the Guardian, with whose star ratings I often agree, and they call it “soapy”.  Now, soapy I can tolerate, but reading in the very first sentence that Lady Mountbatten says, “Our time frame for leaving won’t work!” – well, that goes beyond the pale.  “Time frame”?  In 1947?  I think not…  According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which I consult regularly, that phrase came in by 1964, which sounds about right.  But perhaps one clunker can be overlooked, and so I played the film’s “official trailer”, linked to in the review.  And in that we have Lady M – a serial offender, it seems – saying to her husband, “We’re giving a nation back to its people; how bad can it be?”.  “How bad can it be?”  In 1947?  Very bad, it seems.  And so I won’t be watching Hugh this weekend; if the writers cannot even hear the thud of linguistic anachronisms landing around them, how can I possibly trust their account of historical events?

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