I hadn't planned to post here again so soon - one can have too much of a good thing (if it is, indeed, a good thing!) Nor would I normally talk about books here, either my own or other people's. The place for that is the review, which is easy enough to find on, for example, Amazon author pages. But sometimes a book suggests a train of thought which might be interesting to share, and if I have enjoyed the book it does no harm to recommend it. At least one person - the author - is usually pleased.
How far does fiction contain truth at all? It doesn't, if truth is equated with fact, clearly. Fiction is about things that don't exist, although there may be elements of things that do, so for example the characters may go about their business in London or Uzbekistan. I'm not thinking, either, about accurate research, important though that may be as a bedrock for the story. Some solecism, an anachronism perhaps, can destroy a story's credibility, and be sure there are many eagle-eyed readers out there. (Quite right too.)
I'm thinking more of emotional or experiential truth, and this is something that fiction can express as hardly anything else can. Fiction also provides a unique medium through which a reader can gain access to this kind of truth. It doesn't even have to be particularly profound, as long as it resonates authentically with the reader at some level.
The books that have stimulated these thoughts are Penelope Wilcock's trilogy 'The Hawk and the Dove', which has been in print for some years. (Happily Ms Wilcock has recently written four more volumes in this admirable series, and I hope to read them all.) This is Christian fiction, which I write myself in a different way, so I had a prima facie affinity for it. But, as well as authentic spiritual insight, there is so much truth here: human, relational, true-for-all-time. This fiction draws on experiences that are common to people of all kinds,whatever their gender, background, history or geography: relationship, self-image, guilt, suffering, love, death - laced with a sense of the ridiculous. It is uncomfortable, at times raw, it turns you inside out, it takes you back to experiences of your own, you laugh and cry. What can I have in common with a community of monks in the 14th century? As it turns out, pretty much everything.