Not having much time to do much reading of historical fiction at the moment due to writing my dissertation, although I have read a lot of histories of Mary Tudor and books on history and film, I have actually just read Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies. Unlike Wolf Hall, I really enjoyed this, although there are some valid questions about how much actual ‘history’ is in the novel, considering we know little personal information about Cromwell. Anyway, the last paragraph of this concerning historical fiction being terrifying to academic historians is exactly the kind of comment I have been reading when it comes to researching historical film. Am yet to decide how far I agree with it, but an interesting point, I completely disagree about the Interpretaion of Murder though, I hated it!
The historical novel is one of the most significant literary trends of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I am an avid reader of historical fiction, particularly those set usually in Victorian British or American contexts, which revolve around a mysterious murder. History as a source of literature has been around as long history has; one needs only to remember that Homer’s Iliad, as well as being literary, is historical; or think of Shakespeare’s great historical plays from Julius Caesar to Henry V. In the case of a historian like Edward Gibbon, writing before the novel as a form had really taken hold, to write history was to entertain as well as enlighten.
The historical novel is a rather new phenomenon; its proliferation is driven largely by the success of female authors like Philippa Gregory, who has been writing historical novels since the late 1980s, but more particularly…
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