It’s the first Blogfest at “Heroines with Hearts”, the group blog to which I belong with four other writers. The blogfest is to celebrate getting 100 followers, although we’ve now increased that to 111 – you can follow us at http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com and join in our discussions on a different writing topic each week, usually posted on Mondays.
The ‘rule’ for this blogfest is simple: “All you have to do for this blogfest is fess up on the first adult book you picked up and read: whether a classic, a racy novel or that of unusual content, then post your entry on own blog July 24th/25th.” Click here to read what other people have chosen as theit first adult book.
Actually this topic got me thinking. My teacher in my final year at junior school introduced us to some of the classics, though only in bite-size pieces – selections from Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Kenilworth, Treasure Island. In high school, I seem to recall David Copperfield being the first set book in our English Literature classes.
But what was the first adult book I actually chose to read? As I thought more about this, the fog cleared and I remembered. Well, it might not have been the first, but it was a book which had a profound effect on me – ‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey.
Alan Grant, a police inspector, is trapped in hospital with a broken leg and is bored out of his mind. He considers himself an expert on faces so his friend gives him some portraits to study. He decides one face is that of a man of conscience and integrity who has suffered, and is then shocked to discover that he is looking at a portrait of King Richard III, the ‘monster’ said to have murdered his nephews to gain the crown of England.
The rest of the book is Inspector Grant’s ‘investigation’ of the murder of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, similar to a modern investigation, but using 15th and 16th century ‘witnesses’ in different historical sources. In the end, he comes to his own conclusions about the unreliability and/or prejudice of many of these witnesses, and forms his own opinion about the real villain.
Josephine Tey brought the controversy surrounding Richard III and the Princes in the Tower to a wide public audience in the 1950’s and is perhaps the most popular defense of Richard ever written. Forget the fact that it is unbalanced and ignores the evidence against Richard, forget the fact that dozens more books have since been written which have examined all aspects of evidence.
This book has inspired people all over the world to question the traditional (i.e. Shakespearean) view of Richard III as an evil, crookback murderer. Ask any ‘supporter’ of Richard III what first got them interested and 9 out of 10 will probably say ‘The Daughter of Time’.
It has had a lasting effect on me, probably more than any other book I’ve ever read. I won’t say it was this book which inspired me to become an historian, as I was already more interested in history than in any other subject. But my interest in Richard III still continues, more than 50 years since I first read the book. I now have a whole shelf of other books written about Richard and the Wars of the Roses, not least Sharon Kay Penman’s wonderful novel ‘The Sunne in Splendor’, and I've visited many places linked to the later 15th century, including Richard's own castle at Middleham in North Yorkshire.