A writing friend of mine pointed out a couple of days ago that historical fiction is not a genre and that got me thinking. Just what is this category of books I’ve spent most of my life loving to read? My own definition goes like this: historical fiction books are about actual historical events and people brought to life through fictional characters and events set against the backdrop of history. Some of my favorite historical writers over the years have found their way into my posts before today. Check out Favorite Historical Fiction Authors which elicited a lot more excellent suggestions for HF books in the comments section.
Wikipedia defines the category this way: Historical fiction tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the main characters tend to be fictional. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, attempt to capture the manners and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity. I like the addition of what HF writers try to do in their novels. (My writing friend will not like that Wikipedia refers to HF as a genre!)
For a comprehensive and compelling Telegraph article about HF by David Mitchell, try this link. I especially like his comments on the burden of research.
Want to know something about a historical you’ve heard about before you buy it? The Historical Novels site lists over 5000 novels and many have been reviewed. I wonder how long it will take me to read them all?
Another useful site I’ve just found is at Bookmarks Magazine. Sarah Johnson says “Fans of historical fiction know that there are other ways of categorizing the world of books, but they are forced to sort through tales of modern suburban angst, lurid contemporary thrillers, or generic bodice rippers to find the works that match a compelling story with an informed view of the past.” In the tail end of that is her simple definition of HF and the article lists many excellent HF books. Readers, have at it!
I joined the Historical Novel Society this year and am glad I did. Go to their website and look for all the advantages to being a member, not the least of which is actual entry into this world of writers and readers. Yes, I said readers. The society is just as interesting for readers as for writers.
Finally I mention Goodreads where a lengthy list of HF books awaits. Some sifting through may be necessary as the categories seem very broad to me. One of Goodreads’ advantages for authors is that you can put your own book on the site with a review. One of these days I’ll have to get more active in this site.
Consider leaving a comment with your favorite sites, historical fiction or not.