Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Recently I've seen a number of people say things like, "I love historical fiction. My favorite is The Count of Monte Cristo" or "Jane Eyre." And little by little the irking has begun to irritate, this small itch has turned into a rather noticeable rash.
Please forgive my bluntness, but it is time we laid out the difference in plain English.
Historical fiction captures the spirit of a time, often with accurate characters of the period, but with an alternate view of what actually happened. Take, for example, Caleb Carr's The Alienest (a near-perfect plot and a must-read for any mystery writer). Teddy Roosevelt and the city of New York exist as characters in the novel, in place with known characteristics, but changed by the author's chosen view and the facts of the storyline. It is a fantastic glimpse into the late 19th century, psychologically, socially and industrially.
The reason Jane Eyre is not historical fiction is that it was actually written in the time in which it takes place. Author Charlotte Bronte lived from 1816 till 1855, and her masterpiece was published in 1847. To Bronte there was nothing historical about it: it was contemporary. To us, it is a classic.
Please, enjoy them both! I ravaged Tasha Alexander's Only To Deceive and Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl (though not so much her others), and tore through all the Bronte sisters, DuMaurier, and Little Women.
Just know the difference.
For further information here are some sites: HistoricalNovels.Info has era by era listings of novels so you can browse according to interest. Within each century you can even choose, say, between "Napoleonic Era Mysteries" and "Seafaring and Warfare at Sea and on Land." Wikipedia Historical Fiction also has a nice list and range of links. This seems to be a pretty comprehensive list, but feel free to post your own findings: The Ultimate Reading List. Enjoy!
Posted by Michele Emrath at 7:05 AM