It was Sumit’s first time to any book-related group and he made his entry with a non-fiction New York bestseller called Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. The story is set in 1959. Nine experienced hikers mysteriously die in the Ural mountains in Russia. Their story has been documented. So there are diary entries, photographs, government case files, and interviews. “Those nine people turned into nine distinct persons. I connected with the hikers and felt for them. I didn’t want them to die in the end,” Sumit said. The mystery of their death remains unsolved.
“Literature humanizes people beyond your circle of experience,” Jaya said. “This makes a good case for historical fiction as it gives history a different persepctive.”
In the context of stories being more poignant than statistics, Anurag spoke about A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. The story begins in 1976 before the Jamaican general election. Bob Marley and his family were wounded by assassins. James traces the lives of the murderers and tells the story of Jamaica simultaneously. He uses a large canvas and multiple points of view to paint a richer tale of the past.
Apurba is a fan of historical fiction too and spoke about her favorite books including Gone with the Wind and the Ibis trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. She was reluctant to start The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver but she is glad she read it as it is the kind of book that stays with the reader a long time after it is read.
The Poisonwood Bible is a story where the wife and four daughters of the Price family are the narrators, each chapter being alternately told by on of the five narrators. Nathan Price is a fierce, evangelical Baptist. When he moves with his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959, they are uprooted, shocked and transformed. Apurba speaks of an instance when the stubborn Price wishes to continue with baptisms but is faced by logistical problems like crocodiles in the river.
Conversation veered to the function of historical fiction in throwing light on ways of life and times entirely foreign to readers. For Apurba, Kingsolver provided a very different view of Africa as compared to the ideas of Africa narrated by writers like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
History could be made richer by historical fiction. Do you agree or disagree? More books discussed in part 3.