Saturday, 27 December 2008

There's research, and then there's research

I'm just reading Kate Mosse's Labyrinth, and I have to say I have been horribly disappointed.

First of all, the stock characters. Any woman with overt sexuality is, naturally enough, a villain. I thought we'd maybe got past the madonna/whore syndrome, but apparently not...

Secondly, the little habit of dropping French and Occitan phrases into the dialogue every so often just so zat we know zat the Frrrench characters are Francais, becauzz zey speak like zis. They say hurry up and get a move on, and then leve toi. Or they have little Occitan thought bubbles that say Perilhos! danger!

Strangely enough they never have dialect words for the kind of thing you do have dialect words for, like ouzels, milly-mollers or bishy barnabees - the real, concrete things of the country. (At least get cigales right. They're not cicadas in France.)

But the thing that really made me spit is that when I looked up the book on Amazon, plenty of other people were saying these things but then admitted 'At least she's done her research.'

Well, I don't think so. It's 1209, and a Jew in Beziers refers to 'Your Christian Saint, Francis'. In 1209, Francis had only just started his Order.  He wasn't canonised till 1228 (and died in 1226).

Not difficult to research; it's on Wikipedia. And St Francis isn't exactly obscure.

There are other little glitches. Toulouse Cathedral didn't have a cloister when I was last there...

And Chartres is not, absolutely not, the 'first of the Gothic cathedrals.'

That made me spit. Because I love Laon, which really is the first - the first, purest, most lovely work of the springtime of Gothic. Chartres, together with Bourges, represents the classic Gothic style - a generation later, and much heavier. I love Chartres too; it's my local cathedral when I'm living in France, and I know it well. But it is by no means the first of the great Gothic works of France.

Ah well, having got that off my chest, I ought to see what happens next... at least the research is better than Dan Brown's!

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