Geraldine Brooks in Melbourne

Last week I went to see Geraldine Brooks in an event organised by Readers Feast bookstore. I am a big fan of Geraldine Brooks and it was fantastic to see a full house. It was located in the Collins street Baptist church which meant I was able to see the front clearly (at my height this is exciting). I was intrigued by the general demographic – in a full church I could only see 9 men around me, and I was left feeling very young by the end of it. The full house did endear me to the fact that people not only buy historical fiction, but they come out on a freezing Melbourne night to hear about it.

Geraldine herself was eloquent and kept her confidence with the range of microphone issues that occurred throughout the night. I enjoyed hearing about how the characters speak to her, once she finds the initial historical fact that catches her interest. She called it “collecting the string” of the story, imagining the story from the fact.

The one thing I can’t stop thinking about is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. Geraldine used the example that she wanted to use the work foetus but was sure that that word would not have been used in 1600. So she used the thesaurus to identify the correct word for the correct period. Originally published in printed form, the thesaurus has now been incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary Online. According to Wikipedia work began on the collection in 1965 and was completed in 2009. It sounds like such a fantastic resource for writers of historical fiction.

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