I saw a nestbaggin and a reticule at the birdfeeder in my back garden today. Ok, be truthful. Did you really swallow that? Show of hands – how many of you really thought they were birds? Well honestly, they’re not birds, they’re bags. Or at least one of them is.
A friend of mine is reading a Regency romance novel and every time I see her, she says (read exasperation here) ‘Why does she have to keep calling it a ‘reticule’? It’s a purse. Why can’t she just call it a purse?’
I, on the other hand, am reading a Norse Viking novel where nestbaggins abound. What are they? I think the author may have mentioned early in the book what they are, but if he did that was long ago and in a galaxy so far away I no longer remember. Perhaps a long lost relative of Frodo? It could be a bag – sometimes I think it’s the equivalent of a Viking backpack. But who knows?
This is the question we all face as historical novelists. How much ‘history’ do we put into our novels? It’s a real balancing act, isn’t it? We have to put enough in to give it some authenticity, but too much may turn off our readership. So what should we do? Sometimes I think the answer is to just put a nestbaggin over my head and press the send button.
I myself like a little authenticity. I don’t even mind the fact that I don’t know what a nestbaggin is. But my friend? I hope for the author’s sake that she makes it through the novel without throwing it out the window. Or perhaps she just tell the author to put it in her reticule and shut it. Something we all have to worry about as writers of historical fiction.