Title: Making History
Author: Stephen Fry
Page Count/Review Word Count: 389
You’d expect Stephen Fry, the eccentrically British comedy star and host of ecclectic general knowledge show Q.I., to know quite a bit about literature, and Making History, his third novel, is no disappointment.
Loosely speaking, the story is about a young student called Michael Young, who teams up with an elderly physicist to re-write history. The mismatched pair attempt to stop Hitler‘s birth, creating a more effective Führer in the process.
And as you’d expect with Stephen Fry, the whole thing is meticulously researched – apart from Rudolf Gloder, Hitler’s replacement, all of the historical characters are real. Many other events in the novel are based on historical fact, and even Fry’s depiction of Princeton is based on personal experience, though he argues that if he did make a geographical or technical error in describing it, he has the “somewhat slippery excuse that the Princeton described in Making History is a Princeton that dwells in an alternate reality.”
But sadly, and quite surprisingly, the novel contains a small number of basic grammatical errors, of which I spent twenty fruitless minutes trying to rediscover. My copy was a third edition, too – I get the feeling they were introduced by an overzealous editor, as Fry isn’t the type to butcher the English language.
Interestingly, certain sections of the novel are written as a screenplay – at first, I thought it was just a gimmick, an attempt at differentiation by mixing different genres together. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that it’s actually a plot device intended to convey a lot of action in a short space of time. It also has the added advantage of making you feel like a strong reader as you get through twenty pages in five minutes.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, ’cause I don’t want to ruin it for you when you get around to reading it. Suffice to say that it’s a strong novel, filled with particles of Fry’s signature wit. Writing about Hitler has become somewhat of a cliche for modern writers, but Fry does it well and avoids the common pitfall of having an elderly Jew save young Adolf’s live as a junior.
Quite the opposite, in fact. In a way…