Home > Discussion > The Hunting Party – Morag Gornall/Edwards

The Hunting Party – Morag Gornall/Edwards

Our next book is ‘The Hunting Party’ by Morag Gornall/Edwards. You can join the discussion from 8pm UK time by commenting on this post.

Some guidelines here.

Here are the first 100 or so words of the novel:

James II of England and VII of Scotland became king in 1685 after the death of

his brother Charles II. He converted to the Catholic faith in 1669. James had two

daughters with his first wife Anne Hyde, who were brought up as Protestants. Following

his second marriage to the teenage Mary of Modena, the birth of a son James Edward

Stuart in 1688 meant that there was now a Catholic heir to the throne.

James’ inconsistent domestic and foreign policy had resulted in almost everyone

being suspicious of him. Louis XIV of France, who should have been his greatest ally,

was puzzled by his vacillating support for France and had never forgiven James for

agreeing to a marriage between his eldest daughter Mary and William III of Orange,

instead of the dauphin.

See you at 8!

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  1. 15/12/2010 at 7:58 pm

    Hi, I’m online, anyone else?

  2. 15/12/2010 at 7:59 pm

    me too! Hi Sian

  3. 15/12/2010 at 8:00 pm

    While we’re waiting, I’ll get started with the first question – really enjoyed the book Morag. I wondered where you did your research for the factual elements?

  4. 15/12/2010 at 8:03 pm

    Jane do you have nay comments while we’re waiting for Morag – think she has technical probs 🙂

  5. 15/12/2010 at 8:05 pm

    oh dear, bad time to get technical problems! yes – I was really impressed with the way Morag not only clearly did a great deal of research for the book, but most particularly, translated that into such a deep sense of time, place and atmosphere without it being at all dry or overdone.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:07 pm

      I agree, and I went straight to Wiki to look up Winifred after I finished…there wasn’t a great lot about her on there, apart from what related to the incident at the climax of the novel – was intrigued as to how much research Morag did vs invention, and where the research was done

  6. 15/12/2010 at 8:06 pm

    I had a great time visiting all the locations to get the landscape right. I used google a fair bit and bought lots of history books, as well as books on the food dress etc for the era. It was a bit like doing a school project!

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:09 pm

      From what I could tell from the little bit of Wiki research I did, the end of the novel is more ambiguous and maybe even implies something different to what happened in the history (trying not to spoil!). Morag, would you say that was fair and if so what were your intentions in making that change?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:12 pm

      As well as being well-researched, you use wonderfully evocative language Morag, giving a real sense of time and place. For me these were the strongest elements of the book. I did feel getting to “know” Winifred took me a while, though, and the characterisation definately gets stronger as it goes on, so do you think getting the character of someone who actually existed was difficult?

  7. 15/12/2010 at 8:10 pm

    I became fascinated by Winifred and what led her to become the kind of woman who would do such a brave but reckless act. That’s where my Psychology came in. There is a good book on Winifred written by her ancestors who still live at Traquair House and I used that a lot. At TH yoiu can see her original letters.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:12 pm

      You made her into a very layered character I thought – the bravery and recklessness are clear, but there also seemed to be a grey are around whether what she did was morally correct, which was great. She seemed flawed and contradictory which I liked, and I also liked that there was that ambiguity at the end

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:14 pm

      that is fascinating. So did the letters and the place help you create her character or hinder in any way – feeling that you had to get her right rather than “invent” her totally?

      • 15/12/2010 at 8:18 pm

        …..just to throw this in as a general point of discussion too – in case there’s anyone lurking who hasn’t read the book – do people think books about real historical figures need to be accurate down to the last detail? Detail is important to atmosphere etc, but do we care if plot details are not 100% historicaly correct?

        • 15/12/2010 at 8:22 pm

          I don’t think they necessarily need to be accurate, but it’s a difficult one to call as a writer I think – feeling a sense of responsiblity for “getting it right” even while deliberately fictionalising a real person – though even then one person’s interpretation isn’t another’s.

          • 15/12/2010 at 8:26 pm

            There’s been an interesting case of this recently – a novel called ‘Richard’ by Ben Myers, where he fictionalises the movements of missing Manic Street Preachers musician Richey Edwards after his disappearance. His research seems quite painstaking – but obviously no one knows what really happened. I think a novel fictionalising a character who lived centuries ago is less likely to be contentious on the grounds of bad taste as this one was, but more on the grounds of accuracy. (Not my personal view – I don’t think pednatic accuracy maters, though a degree of authenticity is important)

            • 15/12/2010 at 8:28 pm

              ‘authenticity’ as in believing in what you’re reading, not as in correctness

  8. 15/12/2010 at 8:12 pm

    They did separeate in real life and she did go to live in the convent with her sister. Later they were re-united and lived out their lives in poverty and obscurity in Italy. I wanted to finish with the separation because Win had had enough of William’s selfish ways.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:13 pm

      Aaah, I didn’t realise that the separation was real, but glad you did it – seemed like the ungrateful git needed some kind of comeuppance 😉

  9. 15/12/2010 at 8:17 pm

    I tried to convey the uncertainty she felt about rescuing William versus holding onto her family and the estate. In the end, she risked everything for him but he didn’t get it. He even tried to blame her for the death of the other peers.

  10. 15/12/2010 at 8:21 pm

    When I re-read the novel for tonight’s discussion, I felt I had ‘run away’ from key scenes which I described through back story. Did anyone else notice that?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:21 pm

      No 😉

      • 15/12/2010 at 8:22 pm

        Run away as in avoid playing out for some reason?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:28 pm

      I didn’t notice that – perhaps you feel that because you know more about the people and events through your research? Obviously there were time jumps but that was necessary of course, and these worked well I think.

  11. 15/12/2010 at 8:23 pm

    Were the sex scenes toe curling? Or unnecessary?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:30 pm

      I don’t think they were unnecessary – I think it’s intriguing to speculate on how people of another time and another social situation got their rocks off. 😉 I think many readers would be wondering ‘is she a twenty four year old virgin’ and so on, and would be waiting for a scene like the one in the gardens to explain

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:31 pm

      I don’t think they were necessarily out of place, and it was good in particular to show her “independence” before marriage (not wanting to give too much away), though for me I found the quick shifts from passion to “hatred” in their relationship needed something stronger to trigger them as you show them sharing a deep and passionate love which occasionally shifts very quickly to intense dislike.

      • 15/12/2010 at 8:32 pm

        I don’t know if I agree with the last point – I know people whose relationships are very similar! (Unfortunately for the rest of us)

        • 15/12/2010 at 8:35 pm

          maybe I’ve been very lucky then! ;o)

          • 15/12/2010 at 8:35 pm

            haha, think so 😉

            • 15/12/2010 at 8:37 pm

              I do think this type of relationship reads really well too……there’s less romance where everything goes well all the time. And I did believe that they loved each other – or more that she loved him actually. Not sure about his feelings for her now I think about it – anyone else?

              • 15/12/2010 at 8:41 pm

                I think the complexity of the relationship is a definate plus – all romance would be cheesy! – and the conflict for me is probably more interesting. It was just that for me, I felt I needed to know more about what made their relationship tick in terms of the bad side of it. The positives in the relationship seemed clearer. I think that I’d agree with you Sian as it was more his motives I was less clear about.

  12. 15/12/2010 at 8:24 pm

    The novel was written in a very short time to tight deadlines. I think I avoided writing some scenes and instead did too much telling.

  13. 15/12/2010 at 8:36 pm

    Jane’s point has been made by others, that the ‘trajectory’ of their relationship doesn’t work too well. To me it’s quite understandable but if it doesn’t work for most readers, I may have to work on it.

  14. 15/12/2010 at 8:37 pm

    What about her relationship with Grace? Does it make sense?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:38 pm

      For me, yes. Very moving that Grace’s loyalty has the long term effects on her own life that they do

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:46 pm

      yes, for me too – I think her relationship with Grace is really interesting, especially in the shifts they undergo, and Win’s “too late” realisation of everything that Grace has lost/missed out on by virtue of being a servant with no real power to change her own circumstances/access freedom – but the real prize here is the way you still keep Grace as a strong character Morag, not bowing to her circumstances in terms of her strength of character (if that makes sense).

      • 15/12/2010 at 8:48 pm

        I agree – she also seemed to perceptibly ‘grow up’ in the course of the narrative. Both characters did actually, and their distinct personalities remained distinct while bouncing off each other in interesting ways. Excellent

        • 15/12/2010 at 8:52 pm

          I agree, Win’s self-centredness shifted into a strength of character and a sense of the “bigger picture” which carried the historic events through very well, but even more importantly, allowed a sense of her as a person to develop depth through her relationships with others – especially with women I think!

          • 15/12/2010 at 8:53 pm

            I liked her relationship with the Queen too, and chuckled when the Queen got bent out of shape when Winifred married

  15. 15/12/2010 at 8:43 pm

    I think the relationship with Grace is the area where I took the most liberties as she only ever appears as the faithful servant ‘Evans’ in the historical accounts. The fiction/fact debate is where I fell out with my agent who wanted me to write a true romance. But Winifred has living family who are proud of her and she was 44 and a mother of 2 kids when she did the rescue!

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:45 pm

      I found her desire for kids and they way she always had half an eye on getting older believable and drawn in a way that was emotive but not depressing. So, the agent wanted you to change her age or something?

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:49 pm

      Well done then Morag – right decision to avoid too much of the romance genre. It’s so much more interesting and rounded than it would have been without the Win-Grace relationship.

  16. 15/12/2010 at 8:50 pm

    He wanted it to be a romance but I felt her motivations were more complex.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:51 pm

      Yes, it’s definitely more interesting to show more than one facet, sounds like you did the right thing

      • 15/12/2010 at 8:54 pm

        I agree, it has so much more depth and life with the approach you’ve taken Morag.

  17. 15/12/2010 at 8:53 pm

    I felt her early childhood experiences shaped much of her behaviour and actions (as they do for all of us) and I tried to get this across to the reader. The agent didn’t like it though, so we parted company.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:55 pm

      This worked – how stroppy would any of us be after being left behind without warning aged 16? The way the dad just wasn’t there one day was very good too.

  18. 15/12/2010 at 8:55 pm

    Do the historical sections intrude? I couldn’t convey the complexity of the period and the big jumps in time any other way.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:56 pm

      I think they were needed – I would have been lost without them as I don’t know anything about the Jacobite uprising etc. I di find myself scanning the last one for clues / spoilers on who ended up you-know-what, but didn’t find any, so was very well done in that respect

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:57 pm

      no, they don’t intrude at all, and I think the narrative links you use to bring the reader through a jump in time work smoothly.

  19. 15/12/2010 at 8:58 pm

    Any final comments? It’s been a really helpful discussion.

    • 15/12/2010 at 8:59 pm

      Only that I really enjoyed it! Very impressive plotting too. There’s a couple of people who couldn’t make it and have promised comments, so keep checking back here. 🙂

      • 15/12/2010 at 9:01 pm

        I have to go for now, but ill try and approve any more comments later on, and first thing tomorrow. Thanks everyone and well done on the shortlisting again Morag!

    • 15/12/2010 at 9:02 pm

      Really enjoyable book Morag, particularly in your use of language to create a strong sense of time, place and atmosphere.

  20. 15/12/2010 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks to you both for reading the novel and your perceptive comments. I’ll let you know wht happens with the competition. Goodnight!

    • 15/12/2010 at 9:03 pm

      goodnight – and Good Luck!

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