Willing Suspension of Disbelief
All fiction demands that its readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and accept whatever goes on in its pages for as long as they are reading it. Even the grittiest of gritty realistic fiction still deviates from reality in some ways. Romance novels happily inhabit their own world which is different from the real one in a LOT of ways. There are always enough billionaires to go round, for a start.
I think I’m generally very willing to suspend my disbelief about most things in fiction. I don’t notice the kind of continuity issues that really wind some people up and I’m prepared to let almost anything go, especially if the author has constructed an internally consistent, plausible reality.
So I was quite surprised at the weekend to discover a romance that I just couldn’t believe in. I liked the characters, I liked the idea of the book, I liked the voice and the style. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe one crucial thing about the hero and for me that ruined my pleasure in the whole book.
The book was ‘Mistress on Trial/Strictly Legal’ (US/UK titles) by Kate Hardy. The hero is a criminal barrister who is supposed to be very good at his job. I am not a lawyer, but I have a couple of good friends who are and I think they would laugh this guy out of court. The main sticking point for me was when the lawyer said he wouldn’t defend someone who was guilty, because:
1. Barristers don’t get to decide who is guilty; courts do that.
2. Everyone in the UK is entitled to adequate legal representation in court.
3. The legal system doesn’t work if barristers pick and choose who they are willing to defend. Barristers have to work within the system. If you think the system is wrong, become a politician and change it.
4. Even if your client tells you they did do something, it’s not your job as a barrister to decide what that was. It’s your job in court to present the strongest case for the defence so that the jury can decide what, if anything, they can be proved guilty of beyond reasonable doubt. Maybe it was murder, or maybe it was manslaughter. Maybe there were mitigating circumstances that should be taken into account in the sentencing.
So I can’t bring myself to believe that someone who so fundamentally doesn’t get what the job of a barrister is can be one. I also struggled a lot with the idea that the kind of woman you marry can make any difference whatsoever to a legal career these days.
It was interesting to me how strongly I reacted against this, because as I say I’m normally willing to let most things go. What about you? Do you easily suspend your disbelief? What are the things that you just can’t let go?
Filed under: Not reviews | 6 Comments