How do they do this?
Here's what John Lawton does in A Little White Death, third of his novels about Frederick Troy. A physician has come to the United States to treat John F. Kennedy for Addison's disease and has met up with a fellow Brit just before returning to England. Here's how the doctor who has just treated Kennedy ends the meeting with his friend:
"`Fine. I understand. Now why don't you hop in a cab. We can have one last drinkie before I dash to Idlewild.'"That's a powerful little chapter-ender. The speaker of that line carries the weight of the history that the reader already knows about. And he does this without ever ruining the illusion that he exists in a world innocent of that history, which had not yet occurred at the time Lawton portrays. At the very least, that's a neat bit of fun on Lawton's part.
He does something similar in Black Out, the first novel in the series. I won't give that example because it's a bit spoilerish, coming as it does near the end of the book. I will reveal, for those who have not read the novel, that it reinforces the series' status as a social history of mid-twentieth-century England, critical, personal and unsparing.
In other words, you should read the book. Until you do, ponder this question: How do historical novelists get around the annoying fact that the reader knows how the history turns out?
© Peter Rozovsky 2010