The Book Show S3 #9 26th March 2016 (Historical Fiction)

On The Book Show this week, all of our guests journey into the past through their books.

Sinéad Gleeson talks to best-selling author Tracy Chevalier about her latest novel At The Edge Of The Orchard (Borough Press) which is set in America in the mid-nineteenth Century.

It follows the fortunes of the Goodenough family who have settled in the swamp lands of Ohio where they plant apple trees for fruit and for liquor.

Meticulously researched, Chevalier’s novel crosses generations and the continent and blends real lives with fictional ones.

Botany provides a theme for the novel, as she explains to Sinéad her fascination with the nineteenth century apple growing trade and with the real-life botanist and plant collector William Lobb.

Sinéad is joined in studio by three Irish writers whose work is set in the past and whose novels also blend fiction and history.

Nuala O’Connor’s Miss Emily (Sandstone Press) is a story about the American poet Emily Dickinson’s fictional Irish maid. Gavin McCrea’s Mrs.Engels (Scribe) is a fictional account of the real-life relationship between the English mill-owner and political radical Frederick Engels and two sisters Mary and Lizzie Burns. Marita Conlon-McKenna’s latest novel Rebel Sisters (Transworld) looks at how the members of one family in Dublin became caught up in the 1916 Rising there and caught up with its leaders.

They discuss these novels and writing about historical events and characters.

Yann Martel is probably best known for his novel The Life of Pi which was also turned into a movie by director Ang Lee. He talks to The Book Show about his latest novel The High Mountains of Portugal (Canongate) which links three stories set in three different periods in the twentieth century.

Each story deals with loss and grief and Yann tells us that his writing has led him to explore religion which he feels is counter to our age. He also speaks about how animals in his fiction often bring his characters to the ‘here and now’.