I was reading a work of historical fiction yesterday evening and came very close to flinging it against the wall. But a) it is a library book b) it has a plastic cover that would make a mess if it lands on the woodstove and c) I don't want to dent the wall.
It was very disappointing and what's worse is that the author started off drawing me right into her world with a great story and historical detail. The first sign of trouble came with a few info dumps, but I was willing to let those go and just skim. Then it happened - a HUGE historical error - the death of a real person four+ years too soon. It just yanked me right out of the story and I couldn't go back. I tried, I did, but I just couldn't let it go.
Now, under other circumstances I might have kept going. Had the book been more of a wallpaper historical, I might have brushed aside the mistake, but in this case I couldn't, because until I ran into this error, I'd been immersed in another era, courtesy of the author. Even the info dumps, though awkward, convinced me she knew her stuff. So when this mistake reared its ugly head, I just couldn't ignore it and began to question all the other historical details.
To make matters worse, there was no Author's Note. I checked, hoping to find an explanation there (it would have had to have been a pretty good one, mind), but nada. So I was left questioning whether or not the author KNEW this particular person died later and just moved it up for convenience sake OR if she just didn't know and threw the reference in regardless. And that was my sticking point. Up till that point, I'd trusted her, and now that trust was broken, I couldn't lose myself in her world any more as I no longer believed in its veracity.
On various listservs, forums and groups I've discussed the question of historical accuracy and have conceded that there are times an author can fudge. My opinion hasn't changed, BUT I like to know why and that's why the Author's Note is so important. If you can't convince your publisher to give you room for that note, I caution you against making changes (historical or otherwise) your readers will catch (and some of them ALWAYS will), or risk losing them for good.
Have you ever put a book down for the reasons I've discussed? And do you find it worse if the author has created a world you believe in, then ruins it with an inaccuracy?
Currently Reading: I'm between books - have several to choose from
Link of the Day: The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London (link courtesy of Claire Delacroix / Deborah Cooke)