Children of the Century: For writers of historical fiction, fact fades and feeling persists. by Alexander Chee [New Republic] [more inside]
What my favourite historical fiction has done for me, besides make me happy in the way that good books do, is teach me more about justice, and silence, and perspective. These are the questions I want to spend my time examining and writing about. The limits placed on many women’s lives are the very reason they are conveniently written out of the dominant historical narrative, in a circular argument as old as misogyny itself: “Women do not appear in the record because they didn’t do anything of note, and they didn’t do anything of note because they don’t appear in the record.”
History v Historical Fiction by Jane Smiley [The Guardian] Historical fiction is not a secondary form – I was condescended to by a conservative historian who cannot see that he too constructs stories.
“The condescender was Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian about 15 years younger than me, who wanted to be sure that I understood that the historical novel is all made up, but that historical non-fiction, written by historians is truth. He referred to his research. I referred to my research. He wasn’t convinced. I suggested that the demands of history and fiction are slightly different – that since a novel is a story, it must be complete, and since a history must be accepted by the reader as accurate, it must be incomplete.”
22 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Beach Bag this Summer In response to recently published summer reading lists from The New York Times and NPR that featured mostly White authors, Blavity shares a list of 22 summer reads from Black authors. [more inside]
"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.[more inside]
Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
447 years ago this morning, the Provost's house at Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, was annihilated in an explosion. Lord Darnley, king consort to Mary, Queen of Scots, had been staying in the house to recuperate from a bout of pox; his body was found in a nearby orchard, unburnt but asphyxiated. Rafael Sabatini recounts the possible course of events in his Historical Nights' Entertainment, a two volume anthology of murders, court intrigues, and scandals. [more inside]
"On a particular night in October, you’ve got your nose ahead of J.M. Coetzee." Hilary Mantel writes about winning (and, previously, not winning) the Man Booker prize. Her victory has changed History Today's attitudes to historical fiction, it seems. But not Antony Beevor's.
Damn your eyes, Harry Paget Flashman lived through and thrived in spite of his involvement in almost all of the sticky and and unpleasant incidents involving agents of the British Empire from the late 1830s to the beginning of the last century. Although a fictional creation, his tales seem to ring as true as anything written about any other Victorian Gent, whether he got his V.C., took a jezail bullet, or even knew 'little Vicky' herself.