All Women's Talk

7 Reasons to Read Historical Fiction ...

By Ellie

I think a lot of people are put off the idea of reading historical fiction, but, as a big fan of the genre, I really think there are so many reasons to read historical fiction. Often, I find that men are put off because they think it's all bodice-ripping, dairymaids-ravaged-by-lords fluff (wrong) and women can be put off because they think it's all battle strategies and warfare (wrong). Of course, these kinds of books can be enjoyed by everyone but the point is, both are very clearly marketed towards either men or women - and that will put people off. There's so much more to it though, and these are some of the reasons to read historical fiction.

1 Re-imagining History

One of the very best reasons to read historical fiction is that it brings history to life in a way that non-fiction never can. Obviously, historical accuracy will vary and the writers don't know how these people we recognise from our textbooks thought, or felt, or what they said. What they can do, however, is make an educated guess; they make them human again. Writers bring people who have been dead for hundreds of years back to life, for us.

2 Literary Fiction

I've found that there can be a snobby reaction when you say you read historical fiction - I'm not sure how 'serious' this kind of fiction is considered to be (sideline; that's all rubbish: read what you want, don't let anyone make you feel bad about your choices). But, for those readers who prefer literary fiction, there's still something for you here. Take Hilary Mantel, for example. Mantel won the Man Booker prize twice in a row for her brilliant novels on Thomas Cromwell - try them; they're amazing.


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3 Commercial Fiction

Switching over to the opposite end of the spectrum now - if you want a light read, then historical fiction is perfect. If you think of it as being dusty, politics-filled tomes, it isn't. It's fun, it's exciting, the jewels will probably be fabulous and there's always a great love story. Try Philippa Gregory, she of The Other Boleyn Girl, or Alison Weir, who also writes about the Tudor period, and more. Perfect holiday reading.

4 Heroines

The problem with history is the people who had little power are often, sadly, written out of it - women, our earlier counterparts, are an example of this. We're recovering as much information as we can, but historical fiction gives these women a voice they may not have otherwise, and that's invaluable.

5 Learning

Did you like history at school, or did you find it really dull? Would you have found it so boring if it was less like a lesson, and more like a story? Historical fiction is a brilliant way to get kids enthusiastic about history. It might not be 100% accurate but there aren't going to be any glaring mistakes in a decently edited book. Get them excited about what they're learning about - stories turn it into something fun.

6 Variety

This is why I never understand when people say they don't like historical fiction. The variety of books under this heading is HUGE. Of course it is - it's our entire history. Whichever era, event or person you're interested, there'll probably be a book about it.

7 Making Kings More like People

This, above all, is what fascinates me about historical fiction. History can seem so separate to us, like a whole other world - and in a way, it is. But what we forget is that the people we read about in textbooks were human; they existed, like we do. They loved, cried, walked, lived and died like we do. Historical fiction bridges the gap between the abstract and the reality; it's a way, perhaps the only way, that we can feel truly close to the people of the past.

Those are some of the reasons why I love historical fiction, and I hope it encourages you to read some, too. If you ever need any recommendations, let me know! Do you have any book recommendations for me?

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