Truth and Historical Fiction by C J Barker – Guest Post

Truth and Historical Fiction by C J Barker – Guest Post

Today we welcome author C J Barker to Whispering Stories with his guest post – ‘Truth and Historical Fiction‘. Read his post below and find out about his new book, ‘Hungry Ghosts’ which will be released on 28th March 2024. This post contains affiliate links.

c j barker

Born in England, resident in Australia, Chris Barker boasts a rich history as an educator in schools and universities in the UK and Australia. He has published several non-fiction books including Cultural Studies: Theory and Practise and The Hearts of Men. When he is not engrossed in writing fiction, he can be found in his garden. He has published short stories in the UK, Australia and the USA.

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Truth and Historical Fiction

What does it mean to write an historical novel in a post-truth world? I suggest that it is not to establish ‘facts’ but to tell stories that help us make ourselves and our world better, as measured against our values.

The modern idea of a post-truth world is not new. Unmediated Truth, understood as a correspondence between ‘fact’ and representation, has never been available to us because there is no Archimedean vantage point from which to verify any such correspondence. All truth is culture-bound and specific to times and places. Truth is a social commendation.

This does not mean that anything goes. Firstly, because in ‘our’ culture we value evidence as a support to truth claims, and secondly because we say something is ‘true’ if it works for a specific purpose. It is for that reason that I, from within western Anglo culture, would value medicine over witchcraft to fix my broken leg.

My novel, Hungry Ghosts, is set during WWII and the late 1960s. The story is fiction. The characters are invented and the action springs from my imagination. And yet the times and places are understood by most of us to be ‘real’. We agree that the bombing of Dresden and the Summer of Love, both of which feature in Hungry Ghosts, were actual events. Historians have supplied supporting evidence, though of course that evidence is subject to challenge and change. Thus, to claim that the RAF only dropped leaflets on Dresden would run counter to socially accepted and evidenced truth.

However, in Hungry Ghosts I am concerned not much with facts as with feelings and consequences. My purpose is to establish a kind of ‘emotional truth’ that furthers our understanding of the consequences of war and lends support to movements for peace. Set against the backdrop of World War II and the social upheaval of the late 1960s, Hungry Ghosts explores the intergenerational impact of war, particularly the intricate relationships between fathers and sons. It is an exploration of the indelible scars left by war on families that endure beyond the lives of the participants.

My father watched his friend killed in front of him on Day 2 of the D-day landings and later suffered what we would now call PTSD. And having lost her father at the age of ten, my mother then experienced the death of her RAF pilot fiancé. A family of hungry ghosts was born.

My parents’ experiences impacted me in ways that illustrate the intergenerational passage of trauma, which is both learned/cultural and epigenetic (the way the environment influences the functioning of genes). I have experienced anxiety and depression in my life which modern psychology explains as rooted in a state of childhood hypervigilance. Hungry Ghosts is a letter of understanding and forgiveness to my (now deceased) parents. Meanwhile, wars continue to rage across the globe, and with each one, the trauma goes on. Hungry Ghosts by C J Barker will be published by The Book Guild on 28th March 2024.

hungry ghosts by c j barker

Hungry Ghosts

Author – C J Barker
Publisher – The Book Guild
Pages – 360
Release Date – 28th March 2024
ISBN 13 – 978-1916668447
Format – Paperback

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The lives of Vic Woods and Ruth Wolfe, working-class teenagers from Liverpool and London, are profoundly disrupted by the arrival of World War II. Ruth’s journey leads her to aerial photographic interpretation, though her aspirations for advancement are denied, while Vic’s wartime experiences with bomber command haunt him long after the war is over. Their post-war marriage and tumultuous relationship with their son, James, make for a gripping narrative of trauma, conflict and, ultimately, love.

Set against the backdrop of World War II and the social upheaval of the late 1960s, Hungry Ghosts transports readers into the drama of two pivotal eras in history, exploring the intergenerational impact of war, particularly on the intricate relationships between fathers and sons.

Hungry Ghosts is not just a war story; it’s a timeless exploration of family bonds and the indelible scars left by war.

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