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Friday, January 10, 2014

Historical Fiction or 'His'Story or Gossip?

According to dictionary.com, a historical novel is a novel set among actual events or a specific period of history.  

According to goodreads.com, historical fiction presents a story set in the past, often during a significant time period.
There seem to be a spurt in historical fiction, these days. I was thinking that many stories written nowadays all have the mythological dose these days, but now, I think we have a new wave of history. They have always been written, but now it seems to take on our generation with a new zeal.

There is not one or two, not even ten or twenty, but almost 220 novels, according to goodreads.com, which are set to hit the markets in 2014. 

So, what does make history so very interesting? And, what is it that we call historical fiction? History: how true it is and how genuine are the characters in history?  

Historical fiction is written, to depict important times and events. Authors, probably need to change bits and pieces to write it into a whole story. This is usually known as artistic license, wherein certain new characters could be introduced or history could be modified. Striking a balance is what would define the book. Events, which are probably not so true, could also be added to the story.  

Am reading a historical thriller nowadays, ‘The Tournament’ by Matthew Reilly, in which though most of the characters have lived in the 16th century, there seems to be no actual evidence of the event having taken place.

Also, Alex Rutherford’s stream of stories, known as, ‘Empire of the Moghuls’ are about historical characters but, there are whole new characters too, to help keep the story together and see that the story is finished properly.

There are also books such as John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’, which have stories based on Hitler’s rule in Germany.  Both these books talk about Hitler's rule and the Nazi empire and how its colours affected the characters at that point in time. 

CP Belliappa’s ‘Victoria Gowramma: The Lost Princess of Coorg’ is another case. It is about India, specifically about Coorg and the British rule,  and how their decision impacted the people of Coorg. ‘Gods, Kings and Slaves: The Siege of Madurai’ has certain aspects to do with the Moghul rule and how its south Indian counterpart fared during the entire rigmarole. Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ was a very interesting story. It had everything do with how the English courts in those days ran, how the kings and queens acted, and the amazing plots, which they planned to get ahead.

Also, there are characters in our history, which get written about. For example, Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice’ might not be a historical novel; not in its truest sense, but it was written during a period of time when we had to wonder, how people in certain places were living, and it offers us that.

Gossip seems to be common in all these stories. The gossip is naturally the real storyteller in all these historical fiction books. Secondly, all the characters are seamless, which is essential in these novels. Not only are they from history, but are also so real that they could be one of us, today. Showing us one thing; people never really change.

Having the great story, its environment suitably done up and the characters, which give the entire story its edge are all significant factors of a historical novel. Though some of these characters may not be real, but they would give the story its seamless portrayal.

So seamless would they be that history has a role forever, its character is so well – defined that it would never end, and its stories will always be told.

Into the nights, creeping into the days, our history is always there as a story, probably why it is known as ‘his’ story! :)


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