Robin Adair: The Ghost of Waterloo

The etymology of everything

Kate McFadyen


The Ghost of Waterloo
by Robin Adair
Michael Joseph
$29.95 pb, 338 pp, 9781921518485


In the afterword to The Ghost of Waterloo, Robin Adair reveals what attracts him to writing historical fiction: ‘This has been a work of what I call “friction” – facts and real people rubbing along with plausible “what-ifs”.’ The term is apt. Adair does not see historical fiction as a holistic combination of research and creativity, but as a mode in which the imagination competes with the real facts. Any melding of the two is the rubbing together of opposed elements. The result is chafing. The impressive volume of research that Adair has poured into the novel is not integrated into its dramatic structure, because the farcical aspects of the plot and the colourful characters are frequently crushed by the weight of the real, and vice versa.

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Published in April 2011 no. 330
Kate McFadyen

Kate McFadyen

Kate McFadyen lives in Melbourne where she works as a bookseller. She has been a contributor to Australian Book Review since 2007.

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