Archive for September 24th, 2010

Top five: historical fiction

24 September 2010

Contributed by Patrick Walsh

That’s wrong! Oh God she was not like that! That dress is so anachronistic! Grr they wouldn’t have had that then! Oh my God it was so more complex than that! How many times have we as historians made these or similar exclamations while watching “historical” films or reading “historical” fiction? It probably runs into the hundreds each; historians are after all prematurely cranky old men and women. However, we are usually rather harsh critics; for every Alexander there is a Lives of Others, for every The Tudors there is a Wolf Hall. The latter novel; by Hilary Mantel, which I am currently immersed in, is every bit as good as its legions of fans claim, both an excellent read and also a reasonably accurate portrayal of a very complex period in English history. It has given me a new appreciation and insight into Henry VIII’s England, and the most famous divorce in history. It has also got me thinking about historical fiction, both the good and the bad, just as there is some very good…there is some very bad! What follows is very much a personal selection, including some of the books that have stuck with me, and indeed have introduced me to histories and cultures I would never have found otherwise. Read More