Reading historical fiction

Historical fiction has never been a favorite of mine. I’d almost always rather read the actual history than a fictionalized account.

There are exceptions. Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons series comes to mind immediately; her stories take place before, during and after WWI, and star two of my favorite m/m characters, Jonty and Orlando. There are others. But generally, it’s not a genre that I seek out.

I’ve made an exception for Hilary Mantel’s books about the reign of Henry VIII. Wolf Hall made such a splash when it came out, I felt like I needed to read it. I finally found it at the library, and enjoyed it, for the most part. Now I’m reading the second book, Bring Up the Bodies, about Henry’s efforts to rid himself of Anne Boleyn in order to marry Jane Seymour.

The story is entertaining. I have no idea how historically accurate it is. The author’s note says that she left some people out. I wouldn’t know; I don’t know a lot about that era. So I can enjoy the book without thinking every other page, “oh, that’s wrong.” I worked in hospitals for years before I became a librarian, and I can’t watch medical shows on TV because the medical details are so wrong. (Two exceptions: M*A*S*H and St. Elsewhere.) I expect that cops feel the same way about cop shows and CSI.

There is one odd thing; Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are written in third person, present tense. Present tense is weird, and it’s weirder because of the third person, I think. The main character of the book is actually Thomas Cromwell, and he refers to himself as “he.” So, when there’s a sentence that might refer to two or three different men, Mantel writes something like, He – Cromwell – thinks this and that and the other. (Not a direct quote.) It’s very odd, and throws me out of the story every time it happens.

I wonder why she didn’t write it in first person? Seems like it would have been easier to keep the “he-s” straight.

And isn’t that a bit of arrogance on my part, an amateur writer of cosy m/m mysteries, thinking I’d have written a winner of the Man Booker Prize differently?? 🙂

(But I would have.)



Filed under Books, Writing

2 responses to “Reading historical fiction

  1. Wolf Hall is in my current reading stack. I am not far enough yet to have an opinion. Although I have found the dialogue to be very convincing, I have a feeling that I will agree with your pronoun confusion. Cheers.

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