Hunters in the Snow
The first thing to say about this novel is that it is really not at all conventional historical fiction, yet it is of interest to anyone interested in history and historiography. The young female narrator is staying at the otherwise empty, cold farmhouse in Yorkshire that belonged to her deceased grandparents. She is sorting and clearing her historian grandfather’s papers. Jimmy Thompson, a former professor of history, had assembled a series of notes on a number of figures and events from the past – Edward VI, Peter the Great’s visit to west Europe, the former African slave Olaudah Equiano and Lord Kitchener are all discussed from Jimmy’s rather scattered and ad hoc notes. The nature of historical truth and interpretation, and approaches to uncover the hidden past are the underlying themes of these historical detours. Allied to this is the disjointed thread of the narrator’s memories of her own grandparents and growing up with Jimmy’s historical enthusiasms. At times the book reads more like autobiographical musings than fiction, and being the author’s first book it is perhaps understandable.
This is a readable and intelligent novel that prompts the reader to reflect upon the role of the past in life and the necessity of history and its understanding. For some readers therefore, the book might fail as a more conventional fictional narrative; the plot, as such, is rather disconnected and lacks a unifying drive.