The post claims that by writing a book more closely aligned with the facts would have been more respectful to the Jewish victims of Auschwitz and of more value for modern readers in 2018, Morrison writes.
However, not all believe that historical fiction must have this role, particularly when the author has so clearly stated that the book is a work of fiction inspired by the life of a prisoner, she adds.
One commenter claimed that the book served a valuable purpose in highlighting the suffering of Jewish inmates in Auschwitz and in encouraging young readers born long after the war to find out more about what actually happened, Morrison says.
“Personally, I think any book that gets people thinking about the impacts of genocide … and perhaps sparks people to want to dig deeper is a good thing,” one reader wrote online.
One website writer in Ireland called Lali not ''an inmate'' of Auschwitz but a Jewish "a prisoner of war." Prisoner of war? For crying out loud, Molly Reynolds, the Jews were not prisoners of war in the Nazi concentration camps of Germany and Poland, they were inmates of of a brutal an ruthless system of of evil beyond words. ''Inmates,'' Molly, not ''prisoners of war''!
The big question that Morrison hits us with is this: ''So, what do authors think about their responsibility to the truth when they are writing historical fiction?''
She cites British author Hilary Mantel who when was asked about the importance of accuracy in writing historical fiction such as ''Wolf Hall'' and ''Bring Up the Bodies,'' Mantel replied:
“I can’t see the point of doing it otherwise. Of course nobody can guarantee 100 per cent accuracy – you are never going to be completely free of mistakes. But I think you have to take your research seriously, otherwise there is no point in it at all. You can’t speculate emptily about the personal reality of people’s lives. It has to be grounded in time, place and context. If you don’t like research and don’t consider it important then it’s better, in my view, to leave the historical novel alone.”
Mantel said that this approach could make writing this form of fiction more difficult.
“You have to know that history isn’t tidy and that it doesn’t do what you as a novelist want it to. It doesn’t conform to your dramatic instincts. It often has a really awkward shape and so you have to make your fiction flexible to bend around it,” Mantel said.
Author of many bestsellers, including ''The Handmaid’s Tale,'' Margaret Atwood is less clear on the role of fact in historical fiction, saying:
“Individual memory, history, and the novel, are all selective; no one remembers everything, each historian picks out the facts he or she chooses to find significant, and every novel, whether historical or not, must limit its own scope. No one can tell all the stories there are.” (quoted from ''In Search of Alias Grace: Writing Canadian Historical Fiction'')
Australian novelist Hannah Kent carried out extensive research before writing her works of historical fiction, ''Burial Rites'' and ''The Good People,'' but then gave her imagination space to write the story, according to Morrison.
''The Good People'' was based on two newspaper articles and little or no biographical information, but Miss Kent visited Flesk River (where events central to the story occurred), explored Irish museums, read academic articles about 19th century midwifery and books on fairy lore, herbal medicine and the power of plants to poison or heal. (quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper)
This research and her own imagination come together in the story. Kent described her method in writing historical fiction in ''Burial Rites'' this way:
“I undertook a rigorous approach to the mixing of fact and fiction, deciding to research as widely and and thoroughly as possible. If facts were solid, I would not alter them. If facts were questionable, or contradictory, or openly prejudiced, I would use my wider research to select the most likely scenario. And finally, if there were gaps left unfilled, I was at liberty to invent, although such invention would need to fall within the parameters of the reasonable; parameters set, again, by wider research into the times Agnes lived in.” (from LitHub.com)
Each form of writing has its own challenges, and in a genre like historical fiction, writers must tussle with their own ideas about their responsibility to truth.
"While I might be tempted to support any claims that the story is most important, above all, it is hard to ignore those who represent the Auschwitz Museum as they comment on the impact of fiction on the reality of those whose stories are being told," Morrison concluded in her blog post.