Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi: April 15 2016

The members of our Book Group were delighted to have Jacqueline Park with us for our meeting this month of April, to discuss her book, The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi, which we had been reading. It was fascinating to have the author talk about writing, and the writing of this particular work.

When asked about the creative process of writing, and whether images sprang into her mind already fully formed, Jacqueline's reply was truly humble. She explained that she doesn't first and foremost see herself as an artist, per se. She had spent many years writing for CBC television. On a Monday she would be given a one hour episode for a series, and had to have all 25 pages completed and ready to go by Friday. This had given her a foundation in the craft of writing. When she decided she would like to write a book, she spent three years researching how to write a book before she realised she really just had to begin. Her passion is storytelling, but that is not enough. What it takes to write a book is sheer hard work and dedication to the task. It took 10 years to write The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi: 10 years of dedication to the craft of writing; and doing the necessary research to give the story an accurate, historical background.

Jacqueline explained that historical novels are considered something apart from literature, as is detective fiction, and even slightly inferior. She sounded slightly apologetic. Considering that her first book was a best seller in North America and in Europe, she has no need to be in any way so modest. One of our Group said that when the book first came out, she had bought many copies of it to give to friends as she considered it such an important book. I totally understood that urge. It is 739 pages in the soft cover edition I bought, and I found it such a pleasure to read, I was sorry when it ended. Fortunately, it is part of a trilogy.

I love this book! It contains everything I like: the meticulous craftsmanship, and use of English written with such clarity; the rich historical background; a strong woman heroine; the complex storytelling, so well-written I almost feel as if I have seen the book as a dramatic production. Never once did the author intrude into her story with overly clever writing. I liked that! It was suggested that the book would make a television series, or a film. Jacqueline agreed, as she had written it with that in mind, as do all wise writers.

Jacqueline said that she had been concerned that it is such a Jewish book, with a Jewish heroine. As far as I am concerned, that is part of what made it so fascinating to me. I already knew a little of Renaissance history, and to see it through the eyes of a Jewish woman added greatly to my appreciation of that time. It also increased my understanding of the Jewish people, of how much they have suffered, and how this has molded their attitudes up to the present time.

There is no fortune to be made in writing, even a best-seller such as this one, yet the passion for story-telling drove Jacqueline to write. I felt a sense of awe when I finished her first book, and also gratitude that she had undertaken so much hard, even brutal, work to give me, and many others, so much pleasure.

1 comment:

Susan Drake said...

This was my first time at the book club and I was really lucky because the author herself was there. I really enjoyed listening to Jacqueline talk about her book - the first of a trilogy. I went back and reread some parts of the book thinking of how she had described her writing and her previous experience. I found new pleasure in each page where I knew she has made 100 decisions. I had a new appreciation for how she had embedded the history so seamlessly into the narrative. I loved seeing the letters at the end of the book that started Jacqueline on her quest to write this story. I enjoyed myself very much and the group members who were there. Thanks, Alainnah.