But possibly not love?
Tim Lott , one of my writing heroes, has been complaining (Saturday’s Guardian) that love stories no longer figure in contemporary literary fiction, and to a great extent he’s right. Not that big name writers don’t have romantic strands, but as he says, you wouldn’t call Atonement or Birdsong love stories. If anyone’s to blame I think it’s publishers, who seem to be looking for anything that’s new or different, rather than a ‘conventional’ love story, especially since Ms Gray went out of her way to diss the ‘domestic drama’, which for so long was the mainstay of women’s fiction (Drabble, Byatt, Lively et al).
Historical fiction, on the other hand, has no problem with romance, not if Sarah Bower’s Needle in the Blood is anything to go by. This is a weighty but absorbing read based around the making of the Bayeaux Tapestry and the complex interplay of church and state in England after the conquest. For the first half I was reluctant to pick up its 500 pages, but for the second half, as the complex plot unfolded, I was reluctant to put it down. But amongst all the wheeling and dealing of 1067, the book is at heart a full-on romance between a nobleman (the real Bishop Odo) and a fictional servant: cue lustful looks, rumpled beds and a great deal of kissing with tongues, an art apparently invented by the Normans. (These French clearly had a head start even then!)
Meanwhile the Amazon judges have scrapped (along with my efforts!) the entire romance category from their ABNA competition. Shame on them! With genre romance and historical romance flourishing, it’s a pity that present-day (real-life?) love stories are becoming a thing of the past.