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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Heroes and Heroines in History

Hi everyone!
I am YA author B. A. Binns. How can it possibly be August already? But then any time is a good time to talk about heroes and heroines, real and fictional.

I began thinking about this post, I realized every book/hero/heroine that came to mind were historical novels I read during my college years and never forgot.


 
I loved Désirée, by Annemarie Selinko. This book made a history hater (myself) actually do independent research on the material it contains. Because most of this unbeleivable story happens to be true. Désirée Clary, a merchants daughter, joins Napoleon's court when her sister marries Napoleon's brother. She is briefly engaged to Napoleon before marrying Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte the son of a tailor who rose throught the army from the rank of private to Marshall of France. Jean-Baptiste eventually became  Charles XIV John, King of Sweden and Norway (no war necessary, he is rich and the country is bankrupt so he buys the throne) then spends years living in fear of a revolution against him (it did happen in France, after all) becoming so paranoid the country does want to force him to abdicate--in favor of his son. Meanwhile Desiree remains in France and they live apart for years before she returns to Sweden to rule at his side.

Seriously, reality is stranger than fiction. 

This book inspired me to do something I never had before, study history of my own free will. The book was filled with real characters,including the title heroine. Maybe it was the idea of real people rising from common society into royalty, fighting real wars and having real loves, successes and sometimes failures, pulled me in.  Where are the Jean-Baptiste's of today?

The French husband and wife team Sergeanne Golon penned the Angelique series, the Harry Potter of my college years. The books followed the fictional Angelique from her childhood to her arranged marriage with Count Joffrey de Peyrac when she was seventeen. They quickly fell deeply in love and had two children before he was unjustly accused of a crime and burned at the stake.  In her twenties, the newly widowed Angelique did whatever it took to protect her children.  From one book to the next we watched her mature, refuse the advances of the king she relt responsible for Joffrey's death, become a diplomat, fight a rebellion, and join forces with a group of religious outcasts.

Then came Book 5, Angelique in Love, where she is reunited with Joffrey.  He had escaped execution, and built a new life as a pirate.  Embittered by his travails,  he wants nothing to do with her or his former life. And yet, once reunited, he can't stay away from her, and in the end love does conquer all. Joffrey is one of my heros because of the way he handled everything life had thrown at him from a childhood that left him with a crippled leg, to his efforts at acquiring knowledge of science and math that served to bring him power and alliances after his excape, to his undying love for Angelique.

The last two books in the series were never translated into English, largely over a disagreement between the author and publisher and the death of Serge Golon, Anne's husband.  I joined a Friends of Angelique fan club, and we kept in contact with Anne, hoping she would complete the series (she has even more adventures inside her head) and arrange for publication in English. A few years ago, after the club president died without ever learning what heppened next, I began learning French.

It was painful, but I completed the series with the now mature Angelique and her two grown sons, settled in Canada and helping Joffrey carve out his own empire with the help of local Indian tribes.  And she now has a set of twins to deal with in her mid-forties. Life goes on. That was the real joy of this hero and heroine, watching them grow up and grow old together, dealing with problems, falling apart and then coming together again, with a love that endured over decades.

Are there any special historical figures (real or fictional) that you have read about? Please comment and share, I'd love to hear ideas for new books.




4 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

My goodness, B.A. - Angelique and Joffrey must have been amazingly amazing to have learned French in order to finish the series.

Fictional heroes? no specific person comes to mind

Real heroes? Abraham Lincoln was a tragic hero to me. Schindler from Schindler's List another. The first responders in times of emergencies who put their lives on the line in order to rescue and protect others. Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson and his wife. Martin Luther King. Most recently Trayvon Martin's parents. I'm in awe of their grace and dignity in times of travail.

I'm having no problems coming up with names on this list...but then Desiree's book was based on real events and real people.

B. A. Binns said...

I still find them amazing. Mostly I liked how the author allowed the characters to mature from book to book. Angelique and Joffrey were so not the same characters in book 5 than they had been in book 1, and yet they were, if you get what I mean. There was also something about watching people that fate had beaten down time and again rise up and keep fighting.

My driving force to learning French (just enough to read, please don't pretend to ask me to speak or write) was the FoA group and the Harvey, the organization president, who died a number of years ago still hoping to live long enough for the translations. Sometimes I can be stubborn and I wanted to know!! Especially after going almost twenty years not knowing the books existed, and now to see that the publisher issue means they may never be translated, or at least not until years after I am gone.

It's not something I would do again, and frankly I have probably lost every bit of French I learned, but now I know what happened.

Sarah Raplee said...

What amazing stories! I see why these characters and books have a special place in your heart, B.A.

ghostslut said...

Hello - there are actually three books that have not yet been translated (not two) and a fourth (14th chronologically) in preparation that will round off the series. In the meantime, for reasons too complex to go into, Anne Golon, is actually revising the existing published books and republishing them under the banner of the Intégrale (complete works). These contain new information and original information edited out by publishers. I hope this clarifies the situation for you.
Best wishes