Blurred Lines: facts between the fiction

Nora Ephron famously said “everything is copy”. Talk to any writers you know, or check your notes if you are one yourself, and you’ll find at least a sliver of truth in that statement. A character trait borrowed here, a funny anecdote embellished there. No matter the genre, inspiration from author’s real lives is bound to creep into their work… but sometimes, fiction cuts a lot closer to home, and all you’d need were a few name changes to change the novel into an autobiography. Here are some of the best memoirs masquerading as straight fiction.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
The plot of Plath’s only novel was so close to her own life and struggles with depression, that even with everyone’s names changed the author decided to publish it under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, in case the story hurt anyone’s feelings… especially her mother’s.
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
Only Ephron could take something as devastating as her husband cheating on her when she was pregnant and turn it into a wickedly funny story, peppered with actual recipes. Seriously – you have to try her ‘linguine alla cecca’ this summer.
How Should A Person Be? A Novel From Life – Sheila Heti
Based on Heti’s life and that of her best friend, painter Margeaux Williamson – this novel is really interesting as it blends fiction not only with real events, but also emails and conversations transcribed on the author’s tape recorder.
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
The author’s mother had an interesting complaint about the autobiographical nature of Tan’s book about four Chinese American daughters and their mothers living in San Francisco… it wasn’t close enough to the truth. So, she based her second book ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife’ on her mother’s life.
Oranges Are Not The only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
Years after her book about growing up gay in 1950s Lancashire was published, Winterson rewrote it as a memoir. In ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?’ She explains her artistic choices and says of her original novel: "I wrote a story I could live with. The other one was too painful. I could not survive it."
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
The tumultuous relationship between Janie and Tea Cake in this Harlem Renaissance classic was based on Hurston’s own affair with Percival Punter. The hurricane at the climax of the story was also inspired by her own experiences living in the Bahamas.