Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Admittedly Righteous Indignation

I have something to get off my chest, because I seem to be the only one who's noticed what's going on.

This month, for my book club, we read Amor Towles' "Rules of Civility".  Many many people love this book, including many of the people in my book club.  It was a fine read, and the story line interesting.  (If you feel this way, or plan to read the book, stop reading this blog post now.  Live on in blissful ignorance.)

However, it is is an historical fiction, and host to inaccuracies galore.  Many people couldn't give a crap about whether it's accurate or not, but to me it was glaring and distracting and totally broke the spell that an historical fiction should cast.  So here they are, the things I noticed (which certainly can't be all of them, I put no effort into finding things, they just stood out to me):

1.  Cooking sherry is not drinkable, it is full of salt.  If it was drinkable they wouldn't be able to sell it in grocery stores without an ID, and during prohibition, which it was.
2.  Cheesecake was not a popular (or unpopular, for that matter) dessert in 1938.
3.  Women did not wear pants in public in 1938.  They certainly did not wear jeans in New York city in 1938.
4.  Few people in 1938 had showers, and people did not bathe daily at that time.  Only the rich who had built their houses since the 1920's had showers, and many people did not feel they were appropriate for women.  Showers were associated with athletics, and therefore, men.  It is very unlikely that Katey lived in any building with showers during 1938.

Ok.  Those are the ones I remember right now.  If someone else had pointed these things out anywhere else on the interwebs and I had found them, I would have felt like I was not the only one.  But since I am, I feel I should say something, even if it's here on my quietly ignorable little blog.

It is possible that I am wrong, but if the author is counting on little-known exclusions to general rules, he should include them in the text.  For example, he could have mentioned the day's attitudes toward bathing and how Katey differed and was lucky enough to live in a newly-renovated building with modern conveniences.