Initial Thoughts on The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun reading the next book in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors, which is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This book is translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, an award-winning translator. The setting is Madrid, Spain and the original book was published in 1990; the edition I’m reading was published in 2004. I’m about 40% through the digital book via Hoopla. I haven’t had as much time to read over the last week because of some travel to two cities over the last week. But I’m back home and will get back to my normal rhythm and routine for the next month at least.

In trying to determine whether this story is actually historical fiction, I considered the premise of the fact that it involves a “five-hundred-year-old murder,” one which is alluded to in a 1471 painting, The Chess Game, created a few years after the actual killing. So, 500 years after 1471 would be 1971, and the book was first published in 1990. The “definition” of historical settings is anything at least 50 years before the time of writing and/or publication. So while the story is all about solving an historical murder mystery, I’m hesitant to call the story itself historical fiction.

The main female character, Julia, is apparently living in contemporary times and is an art restorer working on restoring The Chess Game. Even if we assume she is living in 1971, the book was published in 1990 which is 19 years after the time in which the character is living. It’s also only 32 years earlier than our present time. See, I just can’t make the historical fiction claim work. That said, it’s a fascinating story and a murder mystery too boot!

I’m thoroughly enjoying the vividly unique characters as well as the sleuthing into the mystery encapsulated in the painting. I feel like I’m being educated on art analysis at the same time as learning how to determine previous chess moves based on the current placement of the pieces. I didn’t even know that was possible, so it’s intriguing to me. I’ve played chess in the past but I would not call myself a chess player. I prefer checkers…

The tone of the story enhances the rather dark atmosphere of the art world, too. I think Pérez-Reverte has a great story going and I’m anxious to find out more about what’s going to happen and to whom.

Until next time, happy reading!


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