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The letters: a novel

Healy, L. (2022) The letters: a novel. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00113750


This work is in two parts: a historical fiction novel, The Letters, and a supporting essay, Fictionalising History. The novel tells the story of Sister Patricia, an Irish nun and missionary, as she arrives back in Ireland. Upon her return, Sister Patricia is confronted by a box of letters and through them she must face her past, in particular the events of November 1920, when her brothers, Patrick and Harry Loughnane, were murdered during the Irish War of Independence. The Letters explores memory, religion, storytelling and the supernatural, thinking about how our past shapes the people we become and how we process trauma. It is a novel about the aftermath of war, from a female perspective, and it is based on real life events. The essay is divided into four chapters: Research, Writing, Editing and Final Thoughts. It assesses the problems and benefits of too much information and considers what is more important, fact or fiction? To do this it analyses the process of research and writing, establishing setting and voice, as well as creating narrative tension. It explores the themes of the novel and looks at the way we tell stories and how reliable they are when told from memory and how that affects the retelling of history. In summary, it dissects the creative process of writing a historical novel and discusses how historical accuracy sometimes has to change for the sake of fiction. Throughout the essay, ideas are supported by the work of authors, writing about Ireland or Ghana, or in the historical fiction genre, namely, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, Toni Morrisson, Emer Martin and Seamus Deane.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Carville, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of English Literature
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages
ID Code:113750
Date on Title Page:June 2021


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