Darwin, Emma Lucie. 2010. A SECRET ALCHEMY. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Secret Alchemy consists of my novel, A Secret Alchemy, and a critical commentary on the
process and context of writing it.
The novel reimagines the world of Elizabeth Woodville (14377-1492), the mother of
the Princes in the Tower, and her brother Anthony Woodville (1442?-1483). In their voices,
it tells their story from childhood, through Anthony's murder by Richard III and the
disappearance of the Princes, to Elizabeth's old age. These two narrative strands intertwine
with a third: Una Pryor, a modern bibliographer, is researching the Woodvilles' books. As
she tries to save the family printing business, secrets, loves and rivalries from her own past
reawaken, and interact with her experience of the Woodville!story, culminating in her
realisation that to bring the Woodvilles alive she must write them as fiction.
The commentary explores the particular issues which arise in fiction which is based
on real historical figures, starting from the process of writing the novel but also embracing
critical and theoretical issues and the work of other novelists. Following a discussion ofthe
complex relationship of such fiction to the historical record, it examines how parallel
narrative fiction such as A Secret Alchemy embodies that relationship. It then looks at voice,
whose role as both medium and message makes questions of historical authenticity
particularly complex. Finally these questions are brought together in discussing historical
fiction as storytelling, in the context of narrative theory. Atwood states that it is in fiction
that individual and collective memory and experience come together; the commentary
proposes that historical fiction is unique in how it does so, by virtue of its double-duality:
'not only then, but also now,' and 'not only fiction but also history'.
A Secret Alchemy was written under contract to Headline Review and it incorporated
editorial changes, some of which are discussed here. It was published in November 2008,
and in the US by Harper Perennial in June 2009.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Jan 2018 10:17

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:33



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